Cleaning Baby Bottles in Vinegar [COMPLETE Guide]

Balint Horvath, PhD

Writer, parent, and veteran of baby feeding battles.


As a parent, you want to ensure your baby’s bottles are clean and safe for use. But have you ever considered cleaning baby bottles in vinegar? Many parents rely on commercial cleaning products that may be harmful to their baby’s health. Vinegar, on the other hand, is a safe alternative. 

Vinegar is a natural and affordable option that can effectively remove residue and odors from baby bottles. This liquid is also an effective mycobactericidal disinfectant that can combat most types of bacteria which makes it ideal for baby bottle cleaning.  

Key takeaways

  • It’s safe to use vinegar to clean baby bottles 
  • Vinegar is a cheap cleaning product
  • You can clean baby bottle nipples in vinegar
  • Vinegar sterilizes bottles 
  • Vinegar removes odors from bottles 
  • Mold and bacteria can be eliminated by vinegar 
  • Vinegar can be used with baking soda
  • White vinegar is the better option 
  • You should always use equal parts vinegar and water to clean baby bottles
  • You can use lemon juice or salt as an alternative to vinegar

Can you clean baby bottles with vinegar (as a natural solution)?

It’s safe to use vinegar to clean baby bottles because it’s an all-natural product that doesn’t contain harmful chemicals like most cleaning products. Additionally, vinegar doesn’t contain artificial fragrances that may be harmful to your baby’s health.

Vinegar has natural antibacterial properties, which can help kill bacteria and germs that may be present in baby bottles. These properties ensure that the bottles are thoroughly cleaned and safe for your baby to use.

What’s more, vinegar is a readily available and affordable cleaning solution. It’s much cheaper than specialized baby bottle cleaning products which makes it a cost-effective option for parents.

Can you clean baby bottle nipples with vinegar? 

Vinegar can be used to clean the nipples of baby bottles. You simply have to use the right ratio of water and vinegar. Submerge your baby bottle nipples in 10 parts water to 1 part vinegar. Leave the nipples to soak for at least 30 to 40 minutes and then rinse them thoroughly. 

Baby bottle nipples can be a breeding ground for bacteria and germs. Additionally, if you don’t wash them thoroughly, nipples and bottles can start to grow mold. This is because it can be difficult to get rid of the milk buildup inside the nipples and bottles. 

The good news is that the high acidity level in vinegar can easily kill off mold spores and bacteria which can make it easier for you to clean nipples and bottles after sterilizing them.  

How does the vinegar work to clean baby bottles?

Although white vinegar is an easy product to find and is relatively cheap, it works in a complex way. In this section, I explain how this liquid works to clean baby bottles. 

Vinegar sterilizes baby bottles 

The acetic acid in vinegar acts as a natural antimicrobial agent. It can effectively kill or inhibit the growth of various microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi. This property makes vinegar an effective disinfectant for sterilizing baby bottles.

The low pH level of vinegar creates an acidic environment that is inhospitable for many bacteria. When baby bottles are soaked or rinsed with vinegar, the acid breaks down the cell walls of bacteria, ultimately killing them. This helps to eliminate harmful bacteria that may be present in the bottles.

Take a look at this YouTube video on how vinegar attacks various types of bacteria: 

Removes Odors 

Baby bottles can accumulate unpleasant smells over time. These odors can be caused by many factors such as: 

  • The use of certain soaps 
  • Milk residue 
  • Bacteria growth 
  • Using unclean water 

Fortunately, vinegar’s high acidity levels and astringent properties can remove milk smells from baby bottles and other odors if you soak them before washing them. It works by neutralizing the odors inside bottles. 

Vinegar can be used in combination with baking soda 

Some parents use their baby bottles for other liquids such as putting cereal in their baby bottle or juice. Deposits from these liquids and foods can stick to the sides of the baby bottle and cause stains. Cleaning baby bottles with baking soda and vinegar is the best solution for removing these stains. You can also try to use just baking soda for bottle cleaning in case stain is not so stubbornly attached.

When baking soda and vinegar are mixed together, a chemical reaction occurs. This reaction is known as an acid-base reaction or neutralization reaction. The bicarbonate ions from the baking soda react with the hydrogen ions from the acetic acid in vinegar. 

It results in the formation of carbonic acid. Carbonic acid then decomposes into water and carbon dioxide gas.

The effervescence or bubbling that occurs during the reaction is due to the release of carbon dioxide gas. This bubbling action helps to dislodge and remove stains from the surface of the baby bottles.

Does vinegar work for glass and plastic bottles?

Vinegar works on all types of materials such as plastic and glass bottles. 

I personally preferred to use a mixture of vinegar and water to clean my daughter’s bottles when she was still using them. Or I would use neat vinegar and then rinse the bottle with water straight after. 

It may be better to use glass baby bottles instead of plastic ones because they don’t stain as easily and they’re easier to clean. 

Can vinegar remove stains from baby bottles?

Vinegar is an effective acidic solution to remove stains from your baby’s bottles. If your bottles are cloudy or stained you can soak them in equal parts vinegar and equal parts water. Then rinse the bottles with cold water afterward.  

What kind of vinegar should you use to clean baby bottles?

The best vinegar to clean baby bottles is white vinegar. You can also use it to clean and sanitize kitchen counters and appliances. There are various types of vinegar such as:

  • Brown vinegar
  • Red wine vinegar 
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Apple cider vinegar

There are distinct differences between each type of vinegar which makes them less ideal for cleaning. 

For example, brown vinegar is made from malt and has a stronger smell. It may also stain surfaces. Balsamic vinegar has an extremely dark color which can also stain bottles and surfaces and it’s more expensive. 

White vinegar is a clear substance that has a mild odor and it has a low pH level of 2.5 which makes it ideal for cleaning. 

How do you clean baby bottles with vinegar?

Now that you know the benefits of using vinegar to clean your baby’s bottles, here is a step-by-step guide to help you do it right the first time. 

Step 1. Dismantle the bottles 

Begin by dismantling your bottles. Make sure you remove all parts from the bottle such as nipples and caps so that every crevice can be sanitized. 

Step 2. Rinse bottles with cold water 

If you have leftover milk inside the bottle or present inside the nipples, it’s best to rinse it under cold water first. This will make the cleaning process a lot easier. 

Step 3. Mix warm water and vinegar

Pour equal parts of white vinegar and warm water into a bowl or sink. Make sure the bowl or sink is big and deep enough to fit all your bottles and their parts.  

Step 4. Place the bottles and parts in the solution 

Place all your bottles, nipples, and parts into the vinegar and water solution and leave them to soak for at least 30 minutes. You can leave them to soak longer because the solution won’t damage your bottles and nipples. 

Step 5. Remove and wash as normal 

The vinegar solution will remove all germs and bacteria from your bottles. Even though you’ve soaked the baby bottles you can still wash them afterward using a mild soap and a bottle brush. You can then rinse your bottles with cold water and leave them on a rack to dry. 

Troubleshooting common issues when using vinegar

Although vinegar is a product that can easily remove stains and odors, sometimes you’ll experience problems when using it to clean baby bottles. Here’s how to combat common issues when using vinegar to clean baby bottles.

Vinegar odor

Vinegar has a strong odor due to a component in the liquid called acetic acid. This strong odor can leave an unpleasant smell inside your baby bottles. It’s important to dilute your vinegar with water so that the smell isn’t as pungent.

Furthermore, you should rinse your bottles thoroughly after soaking them in vinegar because any leftover residue of the liquid can cause baby milk to curdle.  

Residue or cloudiness

In some situations, the vinegar may cause cloudiness or residue inside baby bottles. This could also happen if the baby bottles are made from plastic. To prevent residue buildup it’s important to use white vinegar instead of brown or apple cider vinegar. 

You can also use a solution of baking soda and vinegar to prevent stains inside the bottles. Again, it’s important to rinse your baby bottles thoroughly after soaking them in vinegar. 

Are there alternatives to vinegar to clean baby bottles?

If you don’t have vinegar in the house or you simply want to try a different method of cleaning baby bottles, there are other natural solutions you can use. Here’s what I found in forums. 

  • Use a mixture of water and lemon juice which works wonders for removing fatty deposits inside the bottles. 
  • Use coarse salt to remove stubborn stains from bottles and it can eliminate odors. Salt is also a good solution to remove milk buildup inside nipples. Simply make sure you rinse the nipples thoroughly if you’re using salt to clean them. 
  • Lastly, you can use Dawn dish soap to wash your baby bottles because it’s a mild detergent and can easily be rinsed from your bottles. Make sure that you sterilize your bottles after washing them with dish soap to remove any remaining bacteria or germs present in the container. 


As you can see vinegar is a safe and effective solution when it comes to cleaning your baby’s bottles. It’s an affordable product that’s easy to find at the shops. What’s more, it’s also an eco-friendly cleaning solution. 

Find out how vinegar can be used for other bottle-cleaning tasks such as removing grease from bottles or getting rid of yellow stains from bottles and nipples.

Photo of author


I’m Balint, founder of this site and a father (and dad) to a baby-turned toddler. I found the world of babies so fascinating that I started a blog dedicated only to that topic. By the way, I studied physics, engineering (PhD, MSc), and therefore I do a thorough research when I write about something. Since it’s a blog, of course I also write about my personal experiences.

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