Baby Bottle Smells of Soap? (How to Get Rid of It)

Balint Horvath, PhD

Writer, parent, and veteran of baby feeding battles.


You’re always making sure they’re clean after each feed but they still smell soapy. Does this mean your baby is drinking residues of dish soap? After hearing other parents battling with this problem, I thought I would explore the topic more. Here’s the short answer and a detailed discussion follows.

Baby bottles, especially plastic ones, can start to smell soapy. Certain dish soap brands can make your baby bottles smell. Rinsing with cold water after each wash can also make bottles smell like soap. A soapy smell could also be the result of using too much soap or detergent.

Should You Really Wash Baby Bottles Using Soap?

Baby bottles can be washed with soap. However, the type of dish soap or detergent you use could be the reason your bottles are starting to smell soapy after a few washes. It’s recommended to use dish soaps free of any fragrance and are 100% food-grade quality. The best dish soap to use would be those made specifically for cleaning baby bottles. 

Common Reasons for Baby Bottles Smelling Like Soap

Too Much Soap or Detergent Used

One of the biggest mistakes most people make when using dish soap or detergent is using too much. It’s tempting to add more than less simply because you believe it will do a better job at cleaning your baby bottles. However, too much dish soap or detergent can make your bottles stink especially if you haven’t rinsed all the soap residue out. 

Inappropriate Soap Used

Not all dish soap or detergents are suited for washing baby bottles. A natural or plant-based dish soap designed for baby bottle cleaning will keep most bottles odor-free. And, avoid detergents with fragrances as they often add to the (unpleasant) smell of baby bottles rather than getting rid of it. 

Bottles Washed Using the Wrong Technique

If you’re not following the right technique when washing baby bottles they’re going to start smelling and not only of soap! The bottle needs to be taken apart completely before you either hand wash it or put it into the dishwasher. A bottle brush will help to clean each part thoroughly and to remove excess soap. 

Take a look at these popular brushes from Munchkin that you might want to use.

Munchkin® Sponge™ Bottle Brush, Grey, 2 Count (Pack of 1)

Bottles Have Not Been Rinsed Properly

Before washing bottles, all parts should be rinsed to remove milk or food residue. After washing the baby bottles with soap, they need to be rinsed again, thoroughly. It’s vital to use warm to hot water during the rinsing process to ensure all the soap is removed. 

Plastic Bottles Have Deteriorated

If you’re using plastic baby bottles and they’ve started to age, their quality may deteriorate. This makes it easier for the material to absorb odors including dish soap. When this starts to happen, it’s not easy to get rid of the soapy smell and you may need to replace them with new bottles. Glass baby bottles are less likely to retain soap odors. 

Do You Need Special Soap for Baby Bottles?

If you want to ensure your baby bottles are hygienic after each wash while being clear of any soap residue, using special soap for this purpose can make your life easier. Baby bottle dishwashing soap is specifically designed to keep the bottles safe and free of odors. However, there are regular detergent brands that can also be safely used for baby bottles.  

Type of Soap to Use

Chemical Free Soap

Most baby bottle soaps are free of chemicals, using natural ingredients instead. These soaps are fragrance-free and contain no dyes, phthalates, or phosphates. Babyganics Foaming Dish & Bottle Soap works well for cleaning bottles thoroughly without leaving any residue or odors. 

Babyganics Foaming Dish & Bottle Soap, Pump Bottle, Fragrance Free, Plant-Derived Cleaning Power, Removes Dried Milk, 16 Fl Oz, (Pack of 3), Packaging May Vary

Organic Dish Soap

Organic baby bottle soaps also only consist of natural ingredients. It contains baking soda, ensuring no odors are retained. Plus, these soaps are also fragrance-free. Dapple Baby Bottle Dish Soap uses only plant-based ingredients and is strong enough to remove milk residue without leaving behind a soapy smell. 

Free & Clear Soap

Any dish soap that is free and clear is good enough to use for baby bottles without leaving them smelling soapy. Make sure the soap is fragrance-free and contains no dyes, phosphates, or triclosan. Seventh Generation Dish Liquid Soap is made with plant-based ingredients with enough power to get through milk residue. This soap is also USDA certified. Another great brand for washing baby bottles is Dawn Dish Soap.

Seventh Generation Dish Liquid Soap, Free & Clear, 25 Oz, Pack of 6

Dishwasher Soap

If you’re using Dr. Brown or Tommee Tippee baby bottles they’re generally dishwasher-safe. Make sure you use free and clear detergent pods. The Puracy Platinum Dishwasher Detergent Pods use plant-derived enzymes, giving your bottles a safe and thorough clean every time. It’s the best plant-based dishwasher detergent for baby bottles in a separate article I wrote about this topic.

Read my article to find out what are the top dishwashers for your baby bottles especially if you’re looking for a countertop model. 

This video shows you how to wash baby bottles in the dishwasher.

How to Get Rid of Soap Smell in Baby Bottles

Washing Bottles Using a Dishwasher

  1. Disassemble the bottle, taking apart all the different parts completely.
  2. Rinse all the parts under running cold or warm water.
  3. Place the bottle parts into a dishwasher basket which is designed to contain all the small parts without them getting lost during a wash cycle. 
  4. If you don’t have a basket, place all the parts on the top rack of the dishwasher.
  5. Set to hot water and heated air drying cycle. If the dishwasher comes with a baby cleaning care program, select this option.
  6. Remove from the dishwasher when completely dry and store away. 

Washing Bottles by Hand

  1. Take apart the bottle completely and rinse all the parts under cold or warm running water.
  2. Add the right quantity of dish soap to hot water. Use a clean basin to wash baby bottles as the kitchen sink may contain germs.
  3. Use a (regularly replaced) baby bottle brush to scrub all parts thoroughly. Make sure you get into all the corners to remove milk residue. 
  4. Rinse thoroughly with fresh, clean hot water to remove all soap residue.
  5. Leave on a draining rack to air-dry. Don’t use a dishcloth as this could transfer germs to the bottle. 
  6. Sanitize all bottles once a day for babies under 3 months old. 


Whether you’re using baby bottles from the hospital or your own, they need to be cleaned properly for hygienic feeding from newborn onwards. Washing with dish soap or detergent is recommended and when done properly, you don’t need to worry about soapy smells. How to get rid of soap smells in baby bottles is simple once you know how!

Did you know that a smelly bottle can be also one of the causes of your formula smelling bad?

And if your bottle smells of milk, there are ways to get rid of it – see my separate article about it.

Last update on 2024-03-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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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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