Best Baby Bottle Sterilizers of 2023
We tested bottle sterilizers from Baby Brezza, Hauture, Papablic, and other brands to find the ones that are easiest to use and most effective in getting bottles clean
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As a new or expectant parent, there’s a lot of joy and excitement in welcoming a baby home—but some worry, too. You’ve done everything you know to keep your baby safe: baby-proofed the home, researched the safest car seats, and bought a crib sturdy enough to withstand an earthquake. And when it comes to nursing and feeding, you want to be just as vigilant. That’s why we tested steam-based baby bottle sterilizers and spoke with experts to find the ones that will keep germs—and your worries—at bay.
Do You Need a Bottle Sterilizer? • How to Sanitize Bottles Using a Sterilizer • A Note on Heating Plastic Bottles • How We Test • 4 Best Baby Bottle Sterilizers • One Baby Bottle Sterilizer to Avoid
Steam baby bottle sterilizers are countertop appliances that use heat to kill germs on baby bottles. The process gets them far cleaner than just hand-washing the bottles or using a normal dishwasher cycle, which mostly washes germs away rather than killing them. That’s enough to get rid of the most potentially harmful types of germs, but microscopic organisms still remain. By using a bottle sterilizer, you can actually kill the vast majority of those organisms.
Despite their name, these devices don’t actually sterilize your bottles, but sanitize them. Sterilization is a process that reduces microorganisms to undetectable levels. Steam sterilization in an autoclave, for example, requires steam at 250° F for 30 minutes. Sanitization with steam, on the other hand, uses high-enough heat to kill a minimum of 99.9 percent of bacteria (and, as with sterilizing, most fungi and molds).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says sanitizing baby bottles is important for babies up to 2 months old, and for babies with weak immune systems (for instance, if they’re premature or suffer from an illness or autoimmune disease, or if they undergo medical treatments that weaken the immune system, like chemotherapy).
Most babies older than 2 months will have built a strong enough immune system that will make them less susceptible to getting sick from bacteria and other microbes. At that point, cleaning bottles with the dishwasher set at its standard cycle—or scrubbing by hand with soap and hot water (with a bottle brush or other clean tool) and then air-drying—is fine, says Kelly Reynolds, PhD, director of the Environment, Exposure Science and Risk Assessment Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
These baby bottle sterilizers are certainly a convenient choice, but they’re not the only way to sanitize bottles. A dishwasher with a sanitizing cycle (make sure it’s certified by the NSF, formerly the National Sanitation Foundation) can also adequately sanitize baby bottles.
You can also sanitize baby bottles by submerging them in a big pot of water, boiling for 5 minutes, then air-drying. Or, per the CDC, you can soak bottles for 2 minutes in a gallon of water mixed with 2 teaspoons of bleach, then air-dry.
Products might vary, but generally speaking, start by washing and rinsing your bottles thoroughly in the sink or a regular dishwasher cycle to get rid of all food residue. Then load them into the sterilizer, add water to the sterilizer’s reservoir, and turn it on. The sterilizer heats the water in the reservoir to create the steam that kills germs. Bottle sterilizer cycles are fast, usually taking around 10 minutes or less to sanitize. Some have fans for drying cycles, which can take up to 60 minutes to dry the bottles, though some claim to take considerably less time.
If you want to use a sterilizer, the microwave, or the hot cycle on your dishwasher, these are best paired with bottles that are glass or silicone.
That’s because when plastic is heated to high temperatures, it can leach chemicals and release microplastics. If you do sterilize plastic bottles, rinsing the inside of the bottle with water that has been boiled and cooled after the sterilization step may reduce the level of microplastics, says John Boland, PhD, professor of chemistry at Trinity College Dublin and author of a 2020 research paper (PDF) on the topic.
Read more about how to reduce the risk of potentially harmful chemicals, including BPA and phthalates, in baby bottles.
Most steam sterilizers are tall, boxy receptacles powered by an electric heating system. But there are a few features that vary from model to model. Here’s what to consider:
Trays: All models have at least one tray to hold baby bottles in place (upside-down so that they dry thoroughly). Some have an extra tray for the nipples and other small items, such as pacifiers.
Fit: Most products can accommodate several shapes and sizes of baby bottles, but some work best using shorter bottles. For instance, many models have a tray for nipples and accessories that sits above the bottle tray, but the upper tray won’t fit under the sterilizer lid if you’re using tall baby bottles, so you may need to run additional items in a separate cycle.
Prongs: Some products have long prongs that keep the bottles stable. Others have very short prongs that make the bottles a little more unwieldy, but it makes the bottle tray more flexible in terms of what you can load in it.
Fans: Some models have a fan that draws air through a filter to help dry the bottles faster—typically within an hour. Others don’t have fans, so you’ll need to air-dry, which can take several hours. (The models we tested all have a fan-assisted drying cycle.)
Filters: Some models have HEPA filters, to reduce the possibility of re-contamination by the air that is blown over the bottles during the drying cycle.
Our lead test engineer for bottle sterilizers, Bernie Deitrick, scored the models we tested on three metrics: temperature performance, drying performance, and ease of use.
To test each sterilizer, we added the amount of distilled water specified by the manufacturer’s instructions to the sterilizer’s reservoir and ran its sterilization cycle with a mixed load of plastic and glass baby bottles. Using a thermocouple probe to monitor the temperature inside the sterilizer, we assessed temperature performance based on the amount of time the sterilizer maintained a temperature above 180° F, a temperature capable of heating the interior of the bottles enough to kill most germs, says Deitrick. All the models that exceeded 180° F passed the test, but the sterilizers that reached higher temperatures—and especially those that maintained those high temperatures for longer—received higher scores.
Because all the models we tested had fans, we assessed how dry the bottles were at the end of the drying cycle. Bottles and sterilizers that were completely dry by the end of the cycle received the highest score for that test.
In terms of ease of use, we evaluated how simple the sterilizers were to operate and how easy it was to load and unload bottles and other items in the trays. The best sterilizers were intuitive when it came to both operating and loading, easily accommodated a full load of bottles, and the bottles stayed in place throughout the cycle.
The following baby bottle sterilizers are the ones that performed best in our tests and are recommended by CR’s experts. You can see more models and details on their performance in our bottle sterilizer ratings.
We recommend skipping the Grownsy Baby Bottle Sterilizer and Dryer. The manufacturer says it should run an 8-minute cycle, but when we tested it this summer in our lab, the sterilizer stopped heating the water reservoir after a mere 90 seconds, and the interior of the sterilizer reached only 130° F. We bought a second model to re-test, and this second sample performed as expected based on the product’s claims, providing heat to the water reservoir for 8 minutes and bringing the sterilizer to a maximum temperature of 198° F. But when we purchased a third sterilizer for a third test, the item heated the water reservoir for less than 3 minutes, reaching a maximum temperature of only 150° F. Compared with other brands whose products worked as expected and reached temperatures above 180° F without issue, we believe the Grownsy sterilizer may not provide safe bottles for vulnerable infants.
When we reached out to the company, Grownsy told CR that premature machine shutdown is not a malfunction and that in case of premature shutdown, users can restore normal operation by applying toothpaste to the heating plate, adding 60 milliliters of water, and allowing it to boil dry. The company advises repeating this process three times. CR has not confirmed the effectiveness of this process, though, because we believe products should work as intended out of the box.
Any consumers that experience issues can contact the company through [email protected]. The company also said that it has "conducted comprehensive testing on all unsold products to ensure enhanced user experience."
If you own a Grownsy sterilizer that doesn’t perform well and the steps they provided to fix it don’t work, Grownsy told us you can reach out to the company for a free replacement.
Molly Bradley is a home and appliance writer at Consumer Reports. Before joining CR in 2023, she managed the editorial team at Digg, and has devoted her career to helping readers navigate the world and make their lives a little easier, elucidating topics in technology and culture. Molly earned a master’s degree in writing from Bennington College and lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., with her cat, Saltine. Follow her on Twitter @mollyguinn.Trays: Fit: Prongs:Fans:Filters: