When you shop through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. This educational content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

How to Sterilize Pacifiers (5 Simple Steps)

Medically Reviewed by Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC
Pro tips to keep that binky clean, not stinky.

Are you concerned that your baby’s pacifier is a germ trap? Do you feel like your attempts to let your baby self-soothe by sucking is going to result in some hard-to-treat illness?

As much as I loved my baby’s pacifier, I also feared it. We definitely had a love-hate relationship. I didn’t always feel comfortable that her pacifier was clean enough for her to be putting in her mouth, but when she started one of her ear-splitting crying fits, I couldn’t wait to pop that thing in.

If you can’t imagine either of you getting through a day without that trusty binky at your side, this article will help you keep it clean so you’ll feel confident when you hand it over.

Different Ways to Clean Pacifier

There are many different ways to clean a pacifier, but some are better than others. Let’s look at some of the methods and the good, bad, and ugly about them.

Sticking It in Your Mouth

Sometimes you’ll see a mom bend over to pick up a pacifier that has dropped onto the ground.

If there’s no running water around, they’ll take matters into their own hands to clean it. They’ll put it in their own mouths and give it a tongue bath, proving once again that there’s nothing moms won’t do for their babies. We’d rather ingest germs ourselves than let them touch our babies’ lips.

I have to admit, seeing moms do this always grossed me out, even when I had my own kids. It seemed like the least sanitary thing you could do for your child.

But while cleaning your child’s pacifier with your own mouth doesn’t seem like a great idea, it’s not as bad as your knee-jerk reaction might have you thinking.

One study showed that the children of parents who cleaned pacifiers with their own mouths might have less asthma and eczema symptoms (1). The microorganisms in their parents’ mouths might offer babies some protection. But the jury is still out on this one.

If you happen to drop a pacifier and you’re desperate, there’s no harm in trying this, unless you are sick at the time. Then you should skip giving that binky a tongue bath.

You Might Also Like
Baby sleeping while using pacifierBaby Bottle Tooth Decay: How to Prevent It

The Running Water Method

Putting a pacifier under a running faucet is enough to get surface dirt removed from it, but it won’t do much for any of the stubborn bacteria and germs that cling to it. And, believe me, bacteria can be found on pacifiers. When you view their surfaces with a microscope, you can find all kinds of undesirables on them (2).

While running water is better than nothing, you shouldn’t assume that just because something looks clean that it is clean.

You Can Boil It

Lots of parents opt to boil their baby’s pacifiers for a few minutes to ensure than any bacteria are killed. This is a great method as long as you feel comfortable that no harmful chemicals are leaching out of the pacifier during the heating process.

Take Note

If you do this method, you have to make sure you let it thoroughly cool down before you give it to your baby. That might take longer than you imagine it will. Instead of squeezing the nipple to see how hot it is, try to shake any trapped water out onto your wrist. Then you’ll be able to see if it’s cool enough.

Sterilize It In a Machine, Microwave, or Dishwasher

You can buy machines to sterilize a pacifier. The downside to this method is that they will cost money to purchase. Plus, those clunky sterilizers will take up counter space, which is a hot commodity in every mom’s kitchen.

You can also toss them in the microwave if you have the proper sterilizer, like the Philips AVENT sterilizer, and let the heat zap any bacteria.

If you’d rather, you can put them in the dishwasher on the top rack to sterilize them. The bad thing about doing this is it takes a lot longer than other sterilizing methods so you’ll need a back-up pacifier to use in the meantime. Babies aren’t known for their patience.

Similar Articles
Crying baby using pacifierAre Pacifiers Good or Bad?

What You’ll Need

Depending upon which method you choose, you won’t need much, if any, special equipment for cleaning your baby’s pacifier.

Here are the few things you might want to consider having on hand.

  • Dish soap.
  • Dish rag or fresh sponge.
  • Pan.
  • Electric sterilizer.
  • Microwave sterilizer.
  • Plastic baggies.

How to Clean and Sterilize Baby’s Pacifier

Are you feeling tired and overwhelmed at your crazy schedule since you became a mom? If so, you’re not alone. That’s how most of us feel on a day-to-day basis. Welcome to our club.

The good news is that it won’t take much brain power, time, or concentration to fully clean and sterilize a pacifier. Once you learn a few basic steps, you’ll be able to do it even when your brain is on autopilot mode.

Here is what you have to do.

1. Wash Them First

Before you put them in a sterilizer, you first need to make sure your baby’s pacifier has been washed well. Fill up a clean sink with hot, soapy water. If your kitchen sink hasn’t been cleaned for a while, get out a clean bowl and fill that with the soapy water instead. You don’t want to risk introducing more germs than you’re getting rid of.

When you’re washing the pacifier off, make sure you’re using a clean dish rag. If you use a sponge to wash dishes with, make sure the sponge you’re using is clean. Kitchen sponges are bacteria traps (3).

2. Inspect Them

Once those pacifiers are sparkling clean, check them over to make sure they’re still in good shape. If you see any cracks, tears or compromised parts, you need to toss it out right away. You don’t want your baby to end up choking on a chunk of pacifier nipple.

If the nipple of the pacifier is sticky after you have already washed it, it’s time to pitch it as well. That means the material is no longer in good condition and you don’t want your baby sucking on it.

3. Sterilize

If you decide to boil a pacifier to clean it, you should heat the water until it is up to a full boil. Then put the pacifier in and continue to boil it for five minutes.

If you’re using an electric sterilizer, read the instructions fully first because they are all slightly different when you’re using them.

When using a microwave sterilizer, it’s also important to follow the instructions so you don’t keep the pacifier in the microwave for too long. You don’t want to let them go longer than the instructions tell you to.

When using the dishwasher as a sterilizing method, make sure you only put the pacifier on the top shelf of the dishwasher. It’s not made to go on the bottom rack because the heat can be too intense.

Before using the dishwasher though, make sure on the package of your pacifier that it says it’s okay to put in the dishwasher. Most do well in the dishwasher, but latex pacifiers may not be as dishwasher safe.

4. Let It Dry

Let the pacifier dry out before putting it away. It should air dry fairly quickly. To speed things along, you can take it by the handle and shake any excess water off or out of it. Some sterilizers have a drying feature that takes care of this step for you, but it does take extra time.

While it’s drying, put it on a clean dish towel so you aren’t contaminating it by putting it on a dirty kitchen counter.

5. Put It Away

To keep the pacifier clean between uses, you should put it away until you need it. A good place to keep it is in a plastic Ziplock bag. They fit easily into purses or diaper bags and will keep all the junk in your purse or in your bag off the pacifier.

You don’t want to do all that work just to have them get gunked up again before your child has had a chance to use it.

Headshot of Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC

Medically Reviewed by

Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC

Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC is a writer, editor, and board-certified lactation consultant for two busy pediatric practices. She is a former La Leche League Leader, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and Certified Infant Massage Instructor.

Leave a Comment