Steam vs UV Bottle Sterilizers – Differences Matter?!

Balint Horvath, PhD

Writer, parent, and veteran of baby feeding battles.


Are you looking for a comparison between steam vs UV bottle sterilizers so you can understand their differences? There are key features of each sterilizer and it’s important to know what they are so you know that they’re safe to use on your baby’s bottles. Rest assured that I know the differences between these two as I got my PhD in laser physics, having worked mostly with UV light.

Steam and UV bottle sterilizers are designed to remove germs and bacteria from baby bottles. One uses a UV light while the other uses hot steam to kill microorganisms on the inside and outside of bottles. Knowing their differences will help you choose the best sterilizer for your bottles.

Key takeaways

  • UV sterilizers work faster compared to steam-operated units
  • Steam sterilizers can scorch skin if you’re not careful 
  • UV sterilizers can cause skin and eye irritation
  • Steam sterilizers can be used to steam baby food
  • You can’t use bottles immediately after steaming them

 UV vs steam sterilizer for baby bottles comparison table

Steam baby bottle sterilizer UV baby bottle sterilizer 
Type of operation Uses steam to sterilize bottlesUses a UV light to sterilize bottles 
Water usage Uses water to generate steamDoesn’t use water to generate steam
Number of bottles Can sterilize up to 5 bottlesCan sterilize up to 2 bottles 
Sterilization time Long sterilization process between 8 and 10 minutesCan sterilize bottles between 3 and 4 minutes 
Size Larger in size Smaller design 
Sterilization of nipples?YesYes
Sterilization efficacy 99.9%99.9%

Time of Sterilization

UV sterilizers typically work faster when it comes to sterilizing bottles because it doesn’t need to heat water to create steam. It may take around 3 minutes to sterilize your baby’s bottles using a UV product. 

On the other hand, steam sterilizers may take longer to sterilize your baby’s bottles because water has to heat up first to create the steam. The process may take around 8 minutes depending on the unit you’re using. 

Safety Ratings

Both UV and steam sterilizers have their safety risks. For example, steam sterilizers produce hot steam that can scald your skin and cause blistering. The light from UV sterilizers can produce UV-C rays that can be harmful to your skin and eyes. Here’s an article I wrote about whether UV sterilizers are safe for baby bottles.

That’s why it’s important to read the safety precautions on the pamphlet you get with your sterilizer to ensure you don’t sustain any injuries. 

Efficacy of the sterilization 

Generally speaking, both sterilizers remove 99.9% of germs and bacteria on any surface. However, with a UV sterilizer items can only be fully sterilized where the light shines. That’s why you must be careful how you position the bottles inside the unit. 

Steam works better as it can reach all the crevices of each bottle and its parts. Here is a YouTube video on how to properly clean and sterilize baby bottles using a steamer. 

How does a UV sterilizer work?

A UV bottle sterilizer works by using ultraviolet (UV) light to kill bacteria, viruses, and other harmful microorganisms that may be present on the surface of bottles or other items.

The sterilizer is equipped with one or more UV lamps that emit UV-C light. The UV-C light has a short wavelength (wavelengths between 200 and 300 nm) and is highly effective in killing microorganisms. 

How does a steam sterilizer work?

A steam bottle sterilizer works by using hot steam to kill bacteria, viruses, and other harmful microorganisms that may be present on these items. 

The process starts by adding a specific amount of water to the sterilizer’s reservoir. The water is then heated, usually by an electric heating element, which produces steam. The steam is then released into the sterilizing chamber.

Pros and cons of a UV sterilizer


  • Works faster than other types of sterilizers  
  • You don’t have to add water to the unit
  • Bottles can be taken out and used immediately 
  • They are versatile so you can sterilize a wide variety of items 
  • No chemicals are needed during the process


  • These units tend to be expensive 
  • They usually are smaller than steam sterilizers 
  • Light needs to reach all surfaces for it to be fully sterilized 

Pros and cons of steam sterilizer


  • Steam sterilizers have other uses like steaming baby food
  • Units are inexpensive 
  • Steam kills bacteria and germs on all surfaces no matter how the bottles are positioned  
  • A steam sterilizer is easy to maintain 
  • The units are bigger so you can fit more bottles inside 


  • Slower sterilization time 
  • You can’t use the bottles immediately after sterilization as they’ll be hot 

Can you use a steam sterilizer to clean nipples?

You can steam sterilize your baby bottle nipples but it will depend on what the manufacturer says. Some materials may get damaged during the steaming process. Make sure that the material of the nipples can withstand high-temperature steam. 

Baby bottle nipples are a major source of germ contamination so it’s important to clean and sterilize them after every use. 

Can you use a UV sterilizer to clean nipples?

You can UV sterilize almost any baby item including pacifiers and nipples. The UV light won’t damage the materials of the nipples no matter what they’re made from. You can also use the unit to sterilize toys, feeding spoons, and small baby plates. 

Which bottle sterilizer should you choose?

Both UV and steam bottle sterilizers work well to remove germs and bacteria. However, the unit you choose will depend on your personal preference. 

Choose a UV sterilizer if you want faster sterilization time or if you’re going to sterilize other items like toys.

On the other hand, you can choose a steam sterilizer if you want a bigger unit to fit more bottles or if you want to steam baby food or items like jewelry. 

If you want to save on costs, consider also buying a safe-to-use second-hand sterilizer


UV and steam sterilizers are versatile units that can remove all germs and bacteria from bottles, nipples, pacifiers, toys, and more. I recommend getting a steam sterilizer to warm baby bottles so you don’t have to buy an extra warmer. However, the choice between a UV and steam unit is entirely up to you based on your preferences.

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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