Before your baby reaches about a year old, it’s necessary to sterilize all bottles, breastfeeding equipment and teething products before every use in order to kill bacteria and avoid stomach upsets. This may sound daunting and time-consuming but, fortunately, most sterilizers currently on the market are speedy and effective, working in just five minutes.
There are two main types of sterilizers, the first are steam. These are either electric or microwaveable and work by heating a small amount of water to steam clean bottles of bacteria. The other variety is cold water sterilizers that use anti-bacterial fluid combined with cold water to clean the equipment.
There are pluses and minuses to each variety. Electric steam cleaners need to be cleaned and treated for limescale every month or so. This can be done by soaking with white vinegar and water, running a cycle and then rinsing well and sponging down. Microwaveable and cold water sterilizers, on the other hand, can usually just be placed in the dishwasher or washed in the sink after use.
Many parents are keen to avoid chemicals and prefer the steam methods. It’s worth noting that the cold-water method can be very handy as a back-up when travelling. All of the sterilizers we tested are made with BPA (an industrial chemical called bisphenol that can seep into food and beverages)-free plastic, which is becoming the norm among conscientious manufacturers.
We’ve reviewed a range of designs that work well for various needs including small portable models for travel and larger electric styles with the flexibility to fit a variety of objects in both steam and cold water varieties.
While some sterilisers will only work with the same brand of bottles, the majority of those we tested will accept any of similar proportions. However, sizes can be surprisingly variable, so it’s always worth double-checking the dimensions if the bottles you use differ from the brand of the sterilizer.
This one is the largest of all the sterilizers we tested, with three different size settings. Small – to fit soothers and teethers; medium – for sterilizing breast pumps, plastic toddler plates and utensils; and large, with a capacity to fit up to six bottles. Simple to use, just fill the base with the specified amount of water and switch on. It takes six minutes to complete a steam-clean cycle. Our testers really liked the adaptability of this steamer, though it is worth noting that on the largest setting not only is it huge, it also obviously produces a lot of steam.
We are big fans of this sleek and simple electric steam sterilizer. It was extremely easy to use: you just fill with 2.7oz of water, load up and switch on. Not only does it conveniently fit up to five bottles, it only takes five minutes to kill off 99.9 per cent of household bacteria. If kept closed, it also keeps bottles sterile for up to 24 hours making it a great time and space saver – it measures in at around the same size as a regular toaster, so it’s easy to store and won’t dominate your kitchen counter.
Although it’s the priciest sterilizer we reviewed, we were impressed with the design of the Babymoov Turbo Steam. The unusual internal prongs ensure that the core of the bottle, where milk can build up and bacteria can develop, are thoroughly sterilized as well as the mouthpiece and outer areas. It fits six bottles and accessories in, although we liked that the arms are removable to fit larger items such as teething toys and breast pumps too. It comes with a useful measuring cup to pour the right quantity of water and a lifetime warranty. Air-drying items is also made easy thanks to the simple to remove central tree-prong unit and attached tray.
For those looking for a transportable steam sterilizer, smaller lightweight microwavable versions are a great alternative to electric models. MAM’s double-level sterilizer works in five minutes and fits up to six bottles of any brand, which can be kept sterile for up to 24 hours. We really liked the spacious design, and that it can also be used for cold-water sterilizing. However, as it is on the larger side for this sort of design (27cm x 27cm), it’s worth checking the dimensions of your microwave before buying. Two bottles designed to help with trapped wind and colic are included.
These handy microwave steam sterilizer bags are incredibly convenient if you’re on the move. Each bag can be used up to 20 times, making them cost-effective and great when staying away from home. Up to three bottles, or one breast pump, can be sterilized by filling the bag with 2oz of water and microwaving for 90 seconds. We loved the practicality and lightweight nature of these bags, and the thoughtful attention to detail. They include a sneak-peek window to check bottles are positioned correctly and a “safe zone” area for holding the bags to avoid burns.
This compact little steam sterilizer is simple to use with a fast five- to eight-minute cleaning cycle, depending on the microwave setting. It fits four Dr Brown bottles, and although it will fit those of other brands too, they also need to be short-necked bottles. Dr Brown is predominantly known for its anti-colic bottles, which are clinically proven to relieve colicky symptoms thanks to a unique vent system. We like the compact size and easy, dishwasher-safe, cleaning options, which made this very practical when travelling. The tongs, cleaning brush and bottle covers were also handy additions for ensuring bottles remained reassuringly germ-free.
If you want to sterilize dummies, nipple shields or other small objects rather than bottles, this miniature microwave steam sterilizer from Clevamama is ideal. Small enough to carry in your changing bag, it can sterilize up to six soothers in a super-speedy 60 seconds. Our testers loved the compact size and the water measure included in the lid that made filling it to the correct level very simple. We also found it very handy for safely storing items until needed. The pack includes two soothers.
This cold-water sterilizer takes a little longer than the steam varieties (about 15 minutes compared to five) but the benefit is that the spacious unit is big enough to fit a variety of other items in too, including teething rings, soothers and weaning bowls. To use, fill the unit with a little over a gallon of water and a Milton’s sterilizing tablet or solution (sold separately), add the items you wish to sterilize, close the lid for 15 minutes and you’re ready to go. As it doesn’t require plugging in, it’s great for when you’re on the go. We liked the flexibility this gave, and that items could be kept safely sterile in the solution for up to 24 hours. Items do need a quick wash beforehand but there is no need to rinse them afterwards.
The Verdict: Best baby bottle sterilizer
We love the design of the Philips Avent 3 in 1 electric steam steriliser for its flexibility and ability to clean a whole variety of products, from breast pumps to bottles to toys. A brilliant do-it-all buy for using at home. It fits bottles from a number of brands and was very easy to use. We are also big fans of the practicality of the Milton Sterilising Unit and Avent Microwave Steam Bags when on the move.