What To Do If Your Baby Bottles Smell Like Soap

When you pick up your first set of baby bottles, particularly if they are an expensive set or ones which you have been given as a gift, you want to make sure that not only are you using them but that they are kept in the best condition possible. Getting the most out of them means that you will be washing them quite a lot. If you are a little like me, you\’ve ended up with a collection of bottles that smell more like soap or dishwashing detergent than they do the milk that they have contained, or preferably – nothing.

If your baby bottles smell like soap there is a good chance that you are either using too much soap or detergent to clean them, the soap is not appropriate for the plastic or glass that your bottles are made of (in terms of scent, strength, or intended purpose), you need to more thoroughly rinse your bottles (perhaps with warmer water) or your bottles have been damaged and are therefore more vulnerable to retain scents.

I want to break these down in more detail, because most of these things have happened to me but they are not difficult things to address.

Your baby bottle smell like soap because: you are using too much soap or detergent

Cleaning baby bottles isn\’t any different to cleaning the plates, bowls, cups and cutlery that you use yourself. I\’m not talking about sterilising here, which is a crucial additional step that comes after cleaning for very young babies-you can see more about sterilising baby bottles in my article here. Ultimately the goal of cleaning a baby bottle is to remove the milk products previously contained, and to clean away the majority of any of the other germs and bacteria that are now on your bottles as a result of baby\’s mouth touching them or them falling on the floor, et cetera.

Ultimately apply the same techniques that you would to cleaning your own items; follow the instructions on the back of your detergent bottle and get the ratio of detergent versus water correct. Removing all of the visible signs of residual milk or other beverages is all it takes here-again that additional step of sterilisation comes afterward and will address your very young baby\’s vulnerable immune system for all the things that the human eye can\’t see.

Your baby bottles smell like soap because: your soap is not appropriate for your baby bottles

Fancy a nice smelling detergent to wash your dishes with? It might smell like clean (reminiscent of, more like) but the ingredients used to give your detergent that refreshing lemon scent are not actually part of the cleaning process – they’re just there for…smell!

If you’re happy with your detergent for the bulk of your family’s dishwashing needs, consider picking up an unscented detergent specifically for baby’s bottles. Especially since you’ll want to sterilize them anyway (more on that later!) it could be that a natural or more gentle soap is the best thing for your bottle cleaning routine.

Your baby bottles smell like soap because: you need to more thoroughly rinse your bottles

A lot of the time rinsing your baby bottles more thoroughly is all you need to do to remove the soapy smell. Here are a few things that made my life easier:

Rinse your baby bottles immediately after baby has finished drinking.

The sooner you do this, the less residual milky smell will remain on the bottle, and the less likely it is that you will over wash the bottle to compensate. 

Take the baby bottle completely apart before washing it.

Don\’t try and save time by leaving the bulk of the baby bottle together, particularly leaving the teat seated in the lid. The fact that there are so many separate parts that come together to make one complete bottle mean that there are lots of places which not only milk or water can get into, but that moisture can build up from the warmth of baby, their environment, and the milk that you have prepared itself. Not only for the initial rinse but for the formal cleaning with soap, take those few extra seconds to completely take the bottle apart.

Take your time washing your bottles.

I know it\’s not exactly what you might want to hear, but let\’s face it-babies take a lot of time. In this case though I\’m not asking you to take an extreme amount of time, but rather be more considered with the time that you spend. Make sure that the clean, soapless water reaches every part of the bottle. Swirl the water around, cap the main part of the bottle with your hand or a lid and shake clean water, or let the bottles soak in your sink or a bowl.

Replace the water after washing a few bottles, if you have a big load of them to do.

It\’s like washing your glassware after washing bowls that have had some rich spaghetti bolognese sauce all over them; if your water is already dirty, you can\’t expect the things you wash in that same water later to come up clean. I found that with both breastmilk and formula that baby milk smell is quite a strong one, and I often needed to replace the water I was cleaning the bottles with to make sure that I was getting the most out of the time I spent cleaning them. I got sick of re-washing the later bottles that I had cleaned because they weren\’t as clean as the first lot that I did in that water.

Sterilize your baby bottles once they’re washed.

The cheapest way to get this done is to boil them in a saucepan; no other products or equipment required. Provided the manufacturer of the bottles you have says you can do so, (the most common thing you can’t do is microwave sterilize them, so you should be fine) fill a saucepan with enough water to cover all of the parts you want to sterilize. You’ll want to make sure everything is completely submerged, with no bubbles. Bring it to the boil, then continue to boil rapidly for 5 minutes before turning the stove off and allowing the water to cool. Remove with tongs and place them on a clean surface. Find out whether you should dry baby bottles before use in my other article here.

Your baby bottles smell like soap because: they’re damaged

You know when you have dry skin on your hands (my GP doctor calls this condition ‘mom hands’…thanks doc) and they start cracking, then you head in to the garden and get all dirty? For a little while after those cracks in your skin keep little bits of dirt embedded in them until enough time has passed, or you take to an exfoliant and make that dry skin issue worse. It’s the same with baby bottles – if they’re damaged, they\’ll get things stuck in them.

Check your baby bottles over for damage (like scratches and chips if they’re glass) every time you clean them – there’ll be no opportunity for soap or other germs to make a home in your baby bottles, and they’ll be infinitely cleaner.

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