How to GET Milk Smell OUT of Baby Bottles – 5 Methods That Work

Balint Horvath, PhD

Writer, parent, and veteran of baby feeding battles.


How can I effectively get rid of that milk smell in my baby bottles? You’re asking that question after you’ve washed them countless times, but the sour or old milky smell still lingers. I’m sharing my methods here so you can freshen up your baby bottles without having to toss them in the bin! Each method below comes with a step-by-step instruction.

Cleaning agents such as vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice can be used to neutralize odors such as old milk in baby bottles. Using dish soap and hot water can help reduce unpleasant odors caused by milk residue while sterilizing baby bottles in the microwave can help as well. 

Table of Contents

Key takeaways

  • Vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice are natural odor-neutralizers.
  • Baby-safe, fragrance-free dish soap can help to eliminate milk residue and odors in baby bottles.
  • Sterilizing baby bottles in the microwave helps to reduce milky smells. 

1. Using the vinegar method to remove milk stains and odors

Vinegar is your go-to if you’re wondering how to get milk stains out of baby bottles (plus the odor!) But, what makes vinegar so good at cleaning? Its acidity level gets rid of stubborn stains and odors while its antimicrobial properties are great for disinfecting bottles. Here’s a separate article I wrote about cleaning baby bottles with vinegar

Step #1 – Dismantle bottle parts 

Dismantling the bottle parts makes it easier to clean the separate bits and pieces. If you’re using anti-colic, regular bottles, make sure to disassemble the venting system according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Step #2 – Rinse the bottle 

Rinse the bottle and parts under the tap with running warm water. This helps to remove any residue left behind. 

Step #3 – Make a vinegar solution 

Fill a bowl or the kitchen sink with a solution made up of half vinegar and half warm water. Use white distilled vinegar as it doesn’t contain any colorants which will cause discoloration of the bottles. 

Step #4 – Leave the baby bottle and parts to soak 

Add the bottles and parts to the vinegar solution and ensure that they’re fully submerged. Soak the bottles and parts in this vinegar solution overnight or for at least four to six hours

Step #5 – Rinse the bottles and let sit for a few minutes 

Rinse the bottles with water and let them sit for a few minutes before handwashing with a dish liquid. Rinse again to ensure the bottles have no soapy residue. Air dry the bottles before using them at the next feed. Failing to rinse out the vinegar solution could result in foul-tasting and curdled milk!

2. Using lemon juice to remove old milk residue and odor

Lemon juice is a natural cleaner with citric acid that neutralizes alkaline odors and breaks down stubborn organic residue. Therefore it can be used for getting old milk smell out of baby bottles. Here are the steps to follow.

Step #1 – Squeeze fresh lemon juice 

Squeeze the juice of one fresh lemon. I find using a handheld juice squeezer works best for this purpose. 

Step #2 – Rinse the baby bottles first 

Dismantle the bottle parts. Rinse the baby bottles under running warm water to get rid of greasy residue.

Step #3 – Pour lemon juice and warm water into the bottle

Pour the freshly squeezed lemon juice into the bottle and top up with warm water. Place the bottle lid on before giving it a good shake. 

Step #4 – Let the bottles soak 

Let the bottle sit in the lemon juice solution for a few hours. Soaking the bottles allows the lemon’s natural cleaning agent to work on odors and lift stubborn grease in the bottle. 

Step #5 – Rinse the bottles 

Rinse the bottles and give them a gentle scrub with a bottle brush to get rid of any lemon juice left behind. This is a good method to use when your baby bottle feels greasy as well. 

Step #6 – Repeat if necessary

You may need to rinse the bottle with warm water a couple of times to ensure it’s completely clean. Otherwise, the lemon juice could alter the flavor and texture of the formula or breast milk. 

3. Using dish liquid safe for baby bottles

If you’re figuring out how to get milk residue out of baby bottles as well it’s safe to use Dawn dish soap for both odors and stubborn milk fats. 

Step #1 – Pour hot water into the baby bottle

After you dismantle the bottle parts, pour hot (but not boiling) water into the baby bottle.  

Step #2 – Squeeze a drop of dish liquid into the bottle 

Squeeze a drop of dish liquid into the bottle. When picking the right dish soap for cleaning baby bottles make sure it doesn’t contain harsh or toxic cleaning agents. Choose fragrance-free dish liquids to prevent leaving other odors behind.  

Step #3 – Use a scrubbing brush to clean the baby bottle

Use a clean, soft-bristle bottle brush to scrub the baby bottle. Make sure you get into the difficult-to-reach areas of the bottle to remove stubborn fats clinging to plastic surface layers.  

This video demonstrates how to clean a baby bottle with a sponge bottle brush and dish soap, whereas in this article of mine I discuss how frequently you should consider replacing your baby bottle brush.

Step #4 – Rinse the bottle with cold water 

Rinse the bottle under cold running water to remove all traces of soap. Not only does this help remove milky smells but it prevents your baby’s feed from tasting like dish liquid!

Step #5 – Let the bottles dry before using

Air-dry the bottles on a drying rack before using them for the next feed. Don’t use a dishcloth to dry the bottles as you’ll contaminate them with germs. 

4. Using baking soda to remove sour milk odors 

When considering how to get sour milk smell out of baby bottles, baking soda is your answer. Baking soda has many household uses including getting rid of foul smells! This DIY cleaning method is simple and it also works well for getting tomato stains out of baby bottles. Here are the main steps from my article on using baking soda for cleaning your bottle.

Step #1 – Dismantle the baby bottles

Dismantle the baby bottle parts including teats, caps or lids, rings, venting systems, valves, and vented bases. Rinse the bottles and parts under running warm tap water. 

Step #2 – Put all baby bottle parts into a container 

Put the bottles and all parts into a clean container big enough to hold them. The bottles and parts need to have enough space between them to allow for proper cleaning to take place. 

Step #3 – Pour warm water over the bottles

Pour warm water over the bottles and parts, ensuring they’re fully submerged. Give the bottles a swirl to remove any trapped air bubbles.  

Step #4 – Add three tablespoons of baking soda 

Add three tablespoons of baking soda to the water and give it a stir to dissolve it fully. The solution will bubble initially but that’s normal so don’t panic! 

Step #5 – Let everything soak overnight 

Ensuring that the bottles and parts are still fully covered by the baking soda solution, leave them to soak overnight.

Step #6 – Rinse the baby bottles with warm water 

The next day, rinse the baby bottles and parts with warm water before handwashing with dish soap. Rinse again to make sure all the baking soda solution and dish liquid have been removed. 

Step #7 – Let the baby bottles dry

Leave the baby bottles and parts to air-dry on a clean drying rack before packing away or using them for the next feed.  

5. Sterilizing the baby bottles 

You can use a bottle sterilizer or the microwave to remove foul-smelling odors. When I compared bottles similar to MAM’s, remember that this brand is popular for its self-sterilizing feature

Step #1 – Wash the bottles with dish liquid

Before sterilizing the bottles, dismantle them and wash them with dish liquid and warm water. This helps to remove excess residue that can be responsible for milky smells. 

Step #2 – Rinse the baby bottles 

Rinse the baby bottles with running tap water to get rid of any soapy residue. You can use warm or cold water at this stage. 

Step #3 – Fill them up halfway with water 

Fill the bottles halfway with warm or cold water. Place them inside a clean microwave and close the door.

Step #4 – Turn the microwave on for 90 seconds 

Turn the microwave on high for 90 seconds. This acts as a steam sterilizer, not only getting rid of milky odors but hygienically removing germs from the bottle. 

Step #5 – Allow the bottles to cool before removing

Leave the bottles to cool inside the microwave or use oven mitts to carefully take them to the kitchen sink. Empty the hot water out and leave the bottles to air-dry on a drying rack.  


Voilà, hope this has been helpful. You can now increase the lifespan of your baby bottles without discarding them because of foul milky smells!

Regarding method #3, I have another tip for you. You may go for Fairy Liquid, which has a fragrance-free product as you can read about it in my article about washing bottles with Fairy Liquid.

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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