Have you ever forgotten a baby bottle in the bottom of the diaper bag or back of the car and now reeks of sour milk? Does it not matter how many times you clean it that funky odor continues to linger? What can you do to salvage this smelly bottle and avoid going out to buy yet another baby bottle?
Foul smelling baby bottles don’t usually pose a health threat, but can often create an unpleasant taste and requires extra steps to return the bottle back to normal. But how are you supposed to get that awful smell out of your baby’s bottles without using a bunch of harsh chemicals?
In this post, we will discuss how you can prevent those funky smells from developing and what steps you should take if your baby’s bottles smell like soap, sour milk, burnt plastic, bleach, plastic, and formula.
How Can I Prevent Bottle Odors?
Your baby’s bottles go through a lot, so they’re bound to start to stink at some point, especially if you’re using plastic.
Here are some precautionary tips you can follow to minimize the need to deodorize your bottles.
- Rinse immediately: Rinse your baby bottles immediately after each feeding, so that there will be no residue left over to sour or grow bacteria.
- Proper cleaning: Proper cleaning will prevent the formation of bacteria in your baby’s bottles, so be sure to use hot, soapy water and get all of those nooks and crannies with a bottle brush.
- Store bottles in the fridge: Bacteria may be the culprit of that funky smell in your baby bottles, so store your bottles in the fridge to slower and weaken bacteria growth. Bottles that are left out to sit at room temperatures, especially if they are damp or unwashed, are more likely to develop bacteria.
- Prepare bottles right before feeding: Prepare a fresh bottle for your baby right before each feeding time to prevent harmful bacteria growth.
- Follow manufacturer’s instructions: Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and sterilizing. Be sure your bottles are dishwasher safe before throwing them in, and if they are dishwasher safe, it’s best to use the top rack only.
- Proper storage: Be sure you are following safe formula or breastmilk storage guidelines. Freshly expressed breast milk should be discarded after 4 hours of sitting out at room temperature, and formula and re-heated breastmilk should be discarded after one hour at room temperature.
- Try glass bottles: Plastic is known to absorb odors, so it might not be a bad idea to give glass a try.
Related Reading: Which are Better – Glass or Plastic Bottles?
What Do I Do If My Baby Bottles Smell Like…?
1. Bottles Smell Like Soap
If your baby bottles smell like soap follow these cleaning tips and consider if the smell might actually be your breastmilk.
- Try a different dish soap: Look for dish soaps that are free & clear, 100% food grade, or specifically made for washing baby bottles.
- Handwash: Try hand-washing if you have been using the dishwasher.
- Rinse thoroughly: Rinse thoroughly after washing using HOT water.
- Boil/sanitize: Boil your baby’s bottles for 10 minutes after washing or follow another approved sanitization method.
If you are breastfeeding, the soapy smell you’re experiencing may actually not be soap at all. Some breastfeeding moms can have excess lipase in their pumped milk that can give off that soap smell, especially after refrigerating or freezing. If the smell is from excess lipase and not soap, your milk is perfectly safe to feed to your baby. However, some babies don’t like the taste and will refuse the bottle.
You can scald newly expressed breast milk before freezing it to inactivate the lipase, but this process is time-consuming and will destroy some of the anti-infective properties of the milk and may also lower some nutrient levels. However, this is not likely to be an issue unless all of the milk that your baby is receiving has been scalded (source).
2. Bottles Smell Like Sour Milk
If your bottle is plagued with the smell of sour milk, try these tips:
- Clean with baking soda: After you have washed your bottles and removed all milk residue, place 2 TBSP of baking soda in each bottle and fill the rest with hot water. Shake for 2 minutes. Let sit for 4-6 hours, then rinse thoroughly with warm water.
- Do a vinegar soak: Vinegar is a natural deodorizer that is strong enough to cut through the fats in formula and breastmilk. To do a vinegar soak, place a small tub or dishpan inside of your sink and fill it with 50% hot water and 50% white vinegar. Take apart all your baby’s sour smelling bottles and let them soak for at least 4-6 hours, preferably overnight. After the soak, wash with hot water and dish soap and then rinse thoroughly. I recommend doing the soak in a separate container other than your sink because most sinks are loaded with bacteria.
- Sterilize: After washing, try sterilizing your baby bottles and all accompanying parts to remove any leftover odors and bacteria.
- Put the washed bottle in the freezer: Place your baby’s bottle in the freezer overnight, and the cold temperatures will freeze the bacteria and remove odors.
- Test your breast milk: Smell and/or taste your breast milk before placing in the bottle to be sure that it isn’t the culprit. If it’s distinctly sour or rancid, it’s best to pour it out and re-evaluate your storage procedures.
Related Reading: What are the Best Bottles for Breastfed Babies?
3. Bottles Smell Like Burnt Plastic
Act on the following steps if your bottles smell like burnt plastic:
- Check for melts: Check all bottles and parts for any melted plastic. It’s best to dispose of any with melts, as many substances found in burnt plastic have been shown to be carcinogenic and negatively affect the lungs, skin, and immune system (source).
- Soak in vinegar: Soak any burnt smelling bottles and parts in a tub/bowl filled with half vinegar and half warm water. Let soak for 4-6 hours or overnight.
- Re-wash: Re-wash and rinse thoroughly after completing a vinegar soak.
- Boil: Boil clean bottles and parts on the stovetop to sterilize and reduce odors.
- Toss them: If the smell of plastic persists, it’s best to toss your bottles and buy new ones.
4. Bottles Smell Like Bleach
Was your baby sick recently and so you sterilized everything with bleach, but now you can’t seem to get the smell out of your baby’s bottles? Follow these tips to get that strong bleach smell out.
- Cold water soak: Soak your bottles and parts in cold water for a few hours.
- Wash Thoroughly: Re-wash all your bottles with hot, soapy water or run them through the dishwasher again.
- Extra rinse: Lots of extra rinses will help get all of the bleach out of your baby bottles.
- Boil: Sterilize all of your bottles and parts by boiling them for 10 minutes or by following another recommended sanitization method.
Related Reading: What are the Best Bottles for Colic?
5. Bottles Smell Like Plastic
Did you just get new baby bottles and have washed and sterilized them, but they still reek of plastic? Here’s what you should do:
- Baking soda soak: Add 4 tbsp. and a quart of hot water to a container and let your bottles and all of their parts soak overnight. Wash with hot soapy water following the soak and let air dry.
- Call the Manufacturer: If your bottles still smell like chemical plastic after washing, sterilizing, and soaking in baking soda, contact the manufacturer and make them aware of your concern and possibly even get a replacement or a refund.
6. Bottles Smell Like Formula
Try these tips if you can’t get the formula smell out of your bottles:
- Baking soda: After you have washed your bottles and removed all milk residue, place 2 TBSP of baking soda in each bottle and fill the rest with hot water. Shake for 2 minutes. Let sit for 4-6 hours then rinse thoroughly with warm water. You can also soak your bottles in a container using 4 tbsp. of baking soda and a quart of hot water.
- Vinegar soak: Fill a container using equal parts white vinegar and hot water and let your bottles and all of its parts soak for at least 4-6 hours, preferably overnight. Wash and dry as you normally would following the soak.
- Activated charcoal: Take an activated charcoal briquette and crush it into a fine powder. Pour the powder into the bottle and fill the remainder up with hot water. Seal the bottle shut and let sit for 3-4 days before pouring it out and washing like normal.
- Boil/sterilize: Sterilize all of your bottles and parts by boiling them for 10 minutes or by following another recommended sanitization method.
Go Get that Funk Out
Foul smelling bottles are no fun to deal with, but most are able to be salvaged. The deodorizing tips mentioned in this article will help you remove soap, sour milk, burnt plastic, bleach, plastic, and formula smells for your baby bottles.
Avoid having to deodorize your bottles by taking precautionary steps, such as cleaning and storing properly, rinsing immediately, storing bottles in the fridge, and even using glass bottles instead of plastic.
Have you had to deal with some funky bottle smells? Share your experiences with us in the comments and let us know what deodorizing methods worked for you. Share this post with all of your bottle feeding friends.