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Sterilizing vs Sanitizing Baby Bottles, What’s the Difference?

Did you know there is a difference between sterilizing and sanitizing baby bottles, breast pumps, and more? In fact, there are three different levels to baby-product hygiene - cleaning, sanitizing, and sterilizing. The differences between the three are not arbitrary - the CDC recommends that you sterilize baby feeding items at least once a day with babies younger than three months. Knowing the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and sterilizing can ensure that you keep your baby healthy.


Cleaning refers to the process of washing an item with soap and water to remove dirt, dust, allergens, and residue from visible surfaces. Think of this similar to how you clean your home - you don’t want dust to be floating around, but you also don’t need to deep-clean the tops of dressers or the inside of your desk every time you vacuum. Cleaning gets the surface-layer of dirt and grime clean, but leaves small particles of food and bacteria behind. Simply cleaning baby bottles will not sanitize or sterilize them. 


Sanitizing is a step up from the normal cleaning process, as it aims to remove microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and more to a relatively “safe level”. This is often done after cleaning, like how you may rinse off excess tomato sauce from your plate after dinner before putting it into the dishwasher to be sanitized. As adults, we have had years to build up a strong immune system to protect ourselves from what germs and bacteria sanitizing does not reach. However, that “safe level” of remaining microorganisms for adults does not apply to a baby’s immune system. Babies, especially those younger than three months, may not be protected through sanitizing baby bottles alone. If you’re curious how to sanitize baby bottles, we encourage you to take the extra step to sterilize them instead. NOTE: Researching the difference between a bottle sterilizer and a dishwasher?Typically dishwashers only sanitize because the hot water used inside is not as hot as steam.


Wondering the difference between sterilizing vs sanitizing baby bottles? Sterilizing means removing 99.9% of all microorganisms present on an item -- typically using steam. This is the gold standard approach to cleaning your baby's bottles and pump parts to ensure they are clean and safe to use. It's why the CDC recommends this and why maternity wards and NICUs (Neonatal Intensive Care Units) sterilize baby products. 

Curious about how often you should sterilize your baby bottles and pacifiers? The CDC recommends that you sterilize baby feeding items, such as baby bottles, at least once a day with babies younger than three months. We recommend purchasing sterilizing equipment for babies so that you do not miss this crucial step.

Do You Need to Sterilize Baby Bottles, Pacifiers, and Breast Pumps?

In short, YES! Sterilizing baby bottles, pacifiers, breast pumps, and any other material coming into contact with your baby’s mouth or food can protect them from potentially harmful bacteria, one of the dangerous effects of not sanitizing baby bottles. And Baby Brezza makes it easy to do this with our line sterilizers and sterilizer-dryers. Read our blog to find the best approach for step by step sterilizing baby bottles.

Effects of not sterilizing baby bottles

It’s important for parents to keep baby bottles thoroughly sterilized for the entire first 12 months of a baby’s development. While it’s generally encouraged to always keep dishes, equipment, & food away from any potential contamination, the consequences for a baby’s health can be much more serious. Beyond common germs, mold, & mildew that can develop in the wake of not sterilizing, harmful viruses Hepatitis A and Rotavirus both have the potential to cultivate and spread if parents aren’t careful. Where Hepatitis can cause serious liver damage in early stages of growth, Rotavirus causes dehydration and diarrhea. Keeping a keen eye on routines and having the right sterilizer for your baby bottles are both key details to preventing any potential sickness or harm to your baby.

Step by step guide to sterilize baby bottles

The most common steps for baseline sterilization of baby bottles involves disassembling all bottles and boiling them upside down in water for five minutes; always check manufacturer’s notes or instructions to see if bottles should be boiled for more or less time, depending on what temperature each is designed to withstand. However, to ensure the most effective treatment is possible for sterilizing baby bottles, it is highly encouraged for parents to invest in a bottle sterilizer; this guarantees the process is completed correctly every time, from start to finish– putting both you and your baby at ease. Just disassemble, place each piece of equipment in the cleaning chamber, and press start; reassemble afterward and rest assured that your bottles are safe and ready to use.

When to stop sterilizing baby bottles (CDC)

The CDC and just about every blog, including Baby Brezza, encourages parents to continue to sterilize baby bottles all the way to the one year mark, every time– extra cautious parents can extend this to eighteen months or beyond, especially if baby is experiencing health issues or is prone to illness from a weakened immune system. Parents should always be sure to consult a pediatrician if they have more concerns or specific questions about sterilization.


Our featured sterilizers include:

One Step Sterilizer Dryer Advanced

One Step Sterilizer Dryer Advanced

The One Step Baby Bottle Sterilizer and Dryer Advanced is our most advanced way to sterilize and dry baby products. It kills 99.9% of germs with steam, then automatically dries 33% faster. It also has the largest capacity of any sterilizer, holding 8 bottles and 2 full pump part sets. This revolutionary appliance also includes a HEPA filter so it dries with clean air that's 99.99% free of germs. And it's modular so you can use it 4 different ways.

One Step Sterilizer

One Step Baby Bottle Sterilizer

The One Step Baby Bottle Sterilizer is a great option for parents who want a steam sterilizer but do not need an integrated dryer. This appliance has the largest capacity, holding up to 8 baby bottles and 2 pump part sets, and can used 4 different ways because it's modular. 

One Step Baby Bottle Sterilizer Dryer

One Step Baby Bottle Sterilizer Dryer

Our One Step Baby Bottle Sterilizer Dryer automatically sterilizes and dries up to 6 bottles, pump parts and accessories. This is a great option that takes up less counter space than our advanced dryer, but still dries in 45 minutes. The stainless steel heating plate protects against rust and hard water build-up, making maintenance easy for the lifetime of the device.

Superfast Sterilizer Dryer 

superfast sterilizer dryer
Our newest baby bottle sterilizer and dryer is 75% faster than other sterilizer dryers on the market - automatically killing 99% of germs in just 10 minutes using natural steam. Very useful for parents who need a clean bottle fast. The Superfast Sterilizer Dryer works with all bottle parts and breast pump parts, holding up to 6 bottles, pump parts and accessories for one cleaning. Choose from sterilize and dry, sterilize only, dry only or simply use it as a drying rack.

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