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Do you have to sterilize pacifiers after every use?

When it comes to caring for your baby’s pacifier, most parents wonder how often they really need to sterilize it. Sterilizing pacifiers kills germs and bacteria that can accumulate on the nipple and cause illness if ingested by your baby. However, constantly sterilizing pacifiers after every use can be time-consuming and inconvenient. So what’s the right balance? Here is a quick overview of whether sterilization is necessary after every use or just occasionally:

Quick Answer: No, you do not need to fully sterilize pacifiers after every single use. However, you should wash pacifiers at least once daily with soap and hot water to remove buildup and prevent bacterial growth. Full sterilization is only required before first use and then periodically, about once weekly.

Now let’s dive deeper into the details on pacifier cleaning and sterilization best practices.

When to Fully Sterilize Pacifiers

While full sterilization after every use is overkill, there are some instances where full sterilization is recommended:

  • Before first use – Brand new pacifiers should always be sterilized before allowing your baby to use them for the first time.
  • Weekly – Sterilizing pacifiers fully on a weekly basis helps to eliminate any germs that might accumulate even with daily washing.
  • After illness – If your baby has been sick, sterilize all their pacifiers to prevent reinfection.
  • After dropping – If a pacifier falls on the floor, especially in public places, sterilize before reusing.

Other than these situations, regular soap and water cleaning between uses is sufficient.

How to Sterilize Pacifiers

There are several effective methods you can choose from to sterilize your baby’s pacifiers:


Boiling pacifiers in water for 5 minutes is a popular and effective sterilization method. Ensure pacifiers are fully submerged. After boiling, use clean tongs to remove pacifiers and allow to fully air dry before giving back to baby.

Steam sterilizer

Electric steam sterilizer units are readily available and provide an easy sterilization option. Simply place pacifiers in the chamber, add water, and turn on the sterilizer. Follow manufacturer instructions for optimal sterilization time, usually around 5-10 minutes.

Microwave steam bags

Microwavable steam sterilizer bags provide another shortcut for sterilization. Add pacifiers to bag with recommended amount of water, then microwave for 1-2 minutes per package directions. Open carefully to avoid steam burns.


Running pacifiers through the dishwasher on the highest heat drying cycle will also sterilize them. Place pacifiers on top rack securely. Remove any excess food debris first.

Chemical solutions

There are also chemical sterilizing solutions you can soak pacifiers in for 5-15 minutes to disinfect. Make sure to rinse pacifiers thoroughly afterwards.

Always allow pacifiers to air dry fully after sterilizing before giving back to baby to prevent mold growth.

How to Clean Pacifiers Between Uses

For cleaning pacifiers after ordinary use, washing by hand with soap and hot water is sufficient. Here is a step-by-step process:

  1. Rinse pacifier under hot running water to remove any visible debris.
  2. Wash pacifier thoroughly with hot, soapy water using a clean brush or sponge and removing all surfaces.
  3. Rinse all soap off the pacifier.
  4. Allow to air dry completely before next use.

Ideally, pacifiers should be cleaned this way after every use. At a minimum, aim to wash each pacifier at least once per day.

You can also clean pacifiers in the dishwasher, placing them on the top rack for best results. Run the dishwasher at the hottest temperature setting.

How Often to Replace Pacifiers

Over time with repeated use and cleaning, pacifiers will begin to show signs of wear. Here are some signs it’s time to replace your baby’s pacifier:

  • Nipple is cracked, torn, or perforated
  • Plastic is cracked or melted
  • Pacifier is sticky or coated with debris that won’t come off
  • Parts have come loose and are detached
  • Nipple is worn flat or deformed
  • Pacifier is older than 3 months

You should also replace pacifiers immediately if the nipple becomes lodged in baby’s mouth. To prevent choking hazards, inspect pacifiers regularly and throw away damaged ones.

As a general rule, pacifiers should be replaced about every 1-2 months with normal frequent use.

Storing Pacifiers Safely

Proper storage between uses is also important for pacifier hygiene and safety:

– Keep pacifiers in a clean container or bag when not in use. Choose a hard container that allows airflow and is easy to sanitize regularly.

– Don’t store multiple used pacifiers together where they can touch. Keep each in separate compartment or bag.

– Don’t store pacifier in a soiled or dirty state between uses. Always wash before putting away.

– Store pacifiers in a safe location out of baby’s reach.

– Consider a pacifier clip to avoid losing pacifiers and prevent contamination.

– Never dip pacifier in sugar, honey or other foods. The nipple can harbor bacteria.

– Don’t clean or moisten pacifier with your own saliva.Your mouth bacteria can spread to baby.

With safe practices, pacifiers can offer comfort to baby without posing health risks. Follow these tips for cleaning and sterilizing to keep your baby happy and healthy!

Pacifier Cleaning Frequency Recommendations

Here is a quick summary of recommended pacifier cleaning frequency:

Cleaning Method Frequency
Wash with soap & water At minimum, daily
Full sterilization Before first use, weekly, after illness/dropping
Replace pacifier Every 1-2 months or if damaged

Pros and Cons of Pacifier Use

While pacifiers can be very useful for soothing babies, they also come with some potential drawbacks. Here is an overview of the key pros and cons:


  • Soothes and calms fussy or crying babies
  • Provides non-nutritive sucking to satisfy baby’s instincts
  • Distraction during medical procedures to reduce pain
  • Satisfies need to suck without overfeeding
  • May reduce risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)


  • Potential interference with breastfeeding
  • Increased risk of middle ear infections
  • Possibility of dental misalignment if overused
  • Choking hazard if broken and ingested
  • Greater need for cleaning and sterilization

The potential benefits of using pacifiers generally outweigh the potential drawbacks for most babies when used in moderation. Be aware of both sides and discuss options with your pediatrician.

Common Pacifier Myths

There are also some common myths and misconceptions about pacifiers. Here is the truth behind some pacifier myths:

Myth: Pacifiers interfere with breastfeeding.

Fact: Some evidence suggests pacifiers may slightly reduce breastfeeding duration if introduced before 3-4 weeks of age. However, pacifiers do not need to disrupt breastfeeding if not offered until breastfeeding is well established.

Myth: Babies can become addicted to pacifiers.

Fact: Babies may have a strong desire to suck, but they do not become physically or psychologically addicted to pacifiers. This desire eventually diminishes with age.

Myth: Pacifiers cause dental problems.

Fact: Extensive long-term pacifier use beyond age 2-4 may increase risk of dental misalignment or changes in roof of mouth. However, temporary moderate use does not cause dental issues.

Myth: Wait until breastfeeding is established before introducing a pacifier.

Fact: Unless there are specific medical concerns, pacifiers can generally be introduced within the first several weeks as needed without interfering with breastfeeding.

Understanding truths vs. myths can help parents make informed decisions about pacifier use for their babies.


Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about cleaning and sterilizing pacifiers:

How do I clean dried-on pacifier gunk?

Soak the pacifier in warm water to soften any stubborn debris before washing. Use a soft-bristle brush and dish soap to gently scrub away residue. Avoid hard scrubbing that can damage the nipple.

What is the gray film that appears on pacifiers?

This is likely a buildup of milk or mineral deposits from saliva and water. It is harmless but can have an unpleasant taste. Remove buildup by soaking or boiling pacifiers before thorough washing.

How do I remove pacifier odor?

Funky pacifier smells are usually caused by bacteria or leftover milk residue. Disinfect pacifiers by boiling, steaming, or soaking in a vinegar/water solution to eliminate odors.

Can I just rinse pacifiers with water between uses?

No, rinsing alone does not remove bacteria buildup. Always use soap and hot water for cleaning between uses to prevent germ transfer to your baby’s mouth.

How can I sterilize pacifiers while traveling?

Portable sterilization options include microwavable steam bags, chemical disinfection with bleach or alcohol wipes, and boiling with a portable electric kettle or pot.

Proper cleaning and sterilization is key for keeping your baby healthy. Follow these pacifier hygiene guidelines and don’t hesitate to reach out with any other questions!


While constant sterilization of your baby’s pacifiers after every use is overkill, proper hygiene is still essential. Washing pacifiers at least daily using soap, water, and an occasional sterilization can help reduce germ transmission and prevent illness. Focus on sterilizing pacifiers before first use, weekly, after sickness, and after dropping. With a safe cleaning routine, pacifiers can offer comfort to your little one without health risks. Don’t hesitate to discuss any concerns with your pediatrician.