baby bottles

How to Get the Stink Out of Baby Bottles

We absolutely adore our Dr. Brown’s bottles. Seriously, they are crazy great. And I swear that we wash them regularly, but occasionally one of us will get lazy and forget to clean the bottles for an extended period of time and… eventually the bottles start to smell a bit.

I think it happens to everyone. If you do any bottle-feeding at all, you have likely encountered a smelly baby bottle. It's just part of bottle-feeding unfortunately.

But that doesn’t mean I want to put up with the smell! And surely my baby doesn’t either. I can’t help but think that the milk tastes different when the stinky bottles are used. (To be clear, I have not been brave enough to test this; it’s just a gut feeling.) Smelly bottles are just not something I want.

Washing Out Bottle Stench

Start with a good wash. Scrub the bottles, nipples, and vents (if applicable) with a quality bottle brush and some dish soap. Rinse each bottle part thoroughly.

Once the bottles are rinsed off, sterilize them. If you don’t already sterilize your bottles, you should seriously think about starting! Sterilizing bottles is so easy to do, and it can literally save your baby’s life.

Let the bottles air dry once they have been thoroughly washed, rinsed, and sterilized.

Now, check to see if the smell is gone. If so, great! But if not, that’s okay. There’s still another step you can take.

The Home Remedy for Bottle Stink

The key to eliminating your bottle odor is baking soda. Bottle odor is most often caused by spoiled milk (either breast milk or formula). And baking soda is a fantastic deodorizer.

Just fill up each stinky bottle half way with hot water. Then add a single teaspoon of baking soda to each bottle. Now, shake the bottles (with a cap on to contain the hot water) and rinse out the baking soda with regular tap water.

That’s enough for most bottles. But if you have some really stinky plastic bottles, you might want to let the bottles sit in the baking soda water over night. You can use a big mixing bowl to contain all the bottles and parts. Then just rinse and sterilize in the morning.

Important Clarification: I am talking here about an odor caused by bad milk. If you are dealing with an odor caused by leaving juice in the bottle, you should let the bottles soak in vinegar overnight instead!

Preventing Foul Bottle Odors

To keep the smells from taking hold in the first place, remember to rinse your baby bottles out immediately after using them. Remember that the smell is caused by milk going bad. So if you rinse the milk out, you eliminate the cause of the stench.

Alternatively, you can refrigerate a bottle if your little one doesn’t finish. Just be sure to use the bottle again quickly to keep the milk from going bad.

How to Properly Sterilize Baby Bottles

We go through a lot of baby bottles in our house. And baby bottles need to be sterilized. Because of potential bacterial growth, without the occasional sterilization, you risk harming your infant. And that is just not acceptable. So let’s look at what you need to know in order to properly sterilize baby bottles and nipples.


Before anything else, we need to talk about Bisphenol A (BPA).  BPA is an industrial chemical that’s found in some plastics (sometimes including baby bottles). Unfortunately, there is research to show that if your baby ingests BPA, it could harm your baby. And BPA can be released from the plastic when the plastic is heated; this can even happen in a simple kitchen dishwasher. We find this to be terrifying, and we follow the advice of some researchers who suggest parents use baby bottles without BPA.

So, if you have not already, check to see if your bottles are BPA-free. Or if you are looking for baby bottles, consider getting bottles that contain no BPA. We highly recommend Dr. Brown’s.

Just to be clear, we are not stating that all baby products that have BPA will harm your child. We cannot yet conclude that from the research. But we do know that some studies point to BPA being potentially harmful, and that is enough for many parents (including us) to buy BPA-free products (especially since they often aren’t even expensive). BPA just isn’t worth the risk, especially when it comes to vulnerable infants. 

When to Sterilize Baby Bottles

The general rule is to sterilize bottles (both plastic and glass) for the first year of your baby’s life. After the first year, your baby will likely have developed an immune system equipped to handle germs at a high enough level that sterilization is no longer necessary.

You do not, however, need to sterilize after every use. Sterilizing after each use will probably wear out your bottle nipples. Instead, just wash after each use and sterilize one or two times per week.

You should always sterilize new baby bottles. Baby bottles do not come clean; both the bottles and nipples need to be washed and sterilized before your baby ever uses the bottles.

If your infant is sick, you should especially make an effort to sterilize the bottles. You really don’t want your baby’s illness hanging around in your baby bottles or bottle parts.

Electric Bottle Sterilizer

Using an electric bottle sterilizer is by far the most convenient way to sterilize baby bottles. With a good electric sterilizer, all you have to do load up the bottles and the rest is handled for you. You don’t have to worry about a thing.

We are big fans of The First Years Power of Steam Electric Steam Sterilizer. You can use this steam sterilizer on bottles, nipples, pacifiers, small baby toys, and even some parts of breast pumps. The Power of Steam Electric Steam Sterilizer directs steam into each item being sterilized—including baby bottles—destroying potentially harmful bacteria. And once the sterilization is done, you can easily remove the trays to let the items air dry.

The First Years Power of Steam Electric Steam Sterilizer is large enough to fit multiple bottles at once, which is nice. The sterilizer is also completely BPA-free, which matters a lot with heated products. We recommend this as our preferred electric bottle sterilizer.

Microwave Sterilizer

Another option for sterilization is to use a microwave sterilizer. A quality microwave sterilizer is not difficult to use; you put in some water, add the items to be sterilized, place the sterilizer in the microwave for a few minutes, and let the items dry.

We like the Munchkin Steam Guard Microwave Sterilizer a lot. This sterilizer is so easy to use, and it works with the overwhelming majority of household microwaves. The sterilizer is designed with a single latch, making it easy to face the sterilizer away from you when you open it, allowing you to keep the steam from getting in your face.

The Munchkin Steam Guard Microwave Sterilizer is BPA-free, which is a must. And to make things even better, the microwave sterilizer is really inexpensive. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Sterilize by Boiling

If you do not have an electric sterilizer or microwave sterilizer, you can always boil your baby bottles and nipples to sterilize them. This is not the easiest way to sterilize your baby products, but it works.

After you finishing washing the bottles and nipples, place in them in a clean pot with water. Bring the water to boiling, then cover the pot. Make sure that each item being sterilized is submerged in the water (not floating) once the pot is covered. Then leave the pot alone for 5-10 minutes before letting the items air dry.