How to Clean Infant Feeding Items During Emergencies

At a glance

Germs can grow in and on baby bottles, sippy or trainer cups, and other food containers. It can be hard to clean these items if you do not have access to clean, safe water. Follow these steps to clean infant and toddler feeding items in emergencies.

A container full of cleaning supplies and infant feeding items.

Clean all items after every use

Items to clean include:

  • Baby bottles, nipples, sippy cups, and all parts.
  • Cups, bowls, spoons, and forks.
  • Tools and containers for preparing and storing baby food, infant formula, and breast milk.
Handout on how to clean infant feeding items during emergencies
How to clean infant feeding items during an emergency

Download handout in English and Spanish.

Always clean with safe water

  • Use water that has not been used for anything else.
  • In most emergencies, bottled water is safest for cleaning.
  • If bottled water is not available, water contaminated with germs can be made safe by boiling, adding bleach, or filtering.
  • Do not use water contaminated with harmful chemicals, toxins, or radioactive material. It cannot be made safe by boiling or adding bleach.
  • Always follow instructions from local public health officials for specific advice about water safety.
  • When safe water and soap are not available for cleaning feeding items, use disposable supplies for feeding your infant.


Throw away bottle nipples, pacifiers, and other items that are hard to clean if they have been touched by floodwater. Tiny cuts or breaks in these items can let in germs that can't be removed by cleaning.

Make a cleaning kit

To safely clean and store everything you need to feed your baby, make a kit with:

  • Wash basin* or storage bin with lid.
  • Scrub brush.*
  • Dish soap.
  • Paper towels.
  • Mesh bag for drying items.

*Don't use the wash basin or scrub brush to clean anything else. Use them only for your feeding items.

Follow these steps to protect your baby

Person washing their hands.
1. Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Discarding leftover milk from bottle into the sink.
2. Discard leftover liquids or foods from bottles, cups, and containers.
A person washing a bottle with a scrub brush.
3a. Scrub and wash items. Take apart all items and put them into your wash basin. NEVER put items directly in a sink. Germs in the sink can make your baby sick.
A person cleaning bottle cap with scrub brush.
3b. Fill wash basin with safe water and add dish soap. Use a scrub brush to clean all surfaces.
A person squeezing soapy water through a bottle nipple.
3c. Pour or squeeze soapy water through bottle nipples, straws, valves, and sippy cup spouts.
A person rinsing a bottle with safe water.
4. Rinse with safe water.
Infant feeding items air drying on an unused paper towel.
5a. Air dry on an unused paper towel or clean drying rack, or hang to dry in a clean mesh bag. If air drying is not an option, dry with a clean paper towel. Do NOT dry with a dish towel. Germs on dish towels can make your baby sick.
Drying rack with items placed upside down.
5b. If you use a drying rack, put all items upside down to drain out the water.
A person cleaning a wash basin.
6. Clean the wash basin, scrub brush, and drying rack with soap and safe water. Rinse and air dry.
Items stored inside a clean place.
7. Store completely dry items in a clean place, such as inside your wash basin or storage bin.

Do not clean infant feeding items near diapering areas!

Sanitize items as needed

If your baby is younger than 2 months or if your baby is sick, you will need to do one more step after washing and rinsing your feeding items. Sanitize all items at least once every day for extra protection.

Use one of these methods to sanitize your feeding items:

Method 1:

  1. Put items in a pot and fill with safe water.
  2. Boil for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove items carefully.
  4. Air dry sanitized items.
  5. Do NOT rinse sanitized items.

Method 2:

  1. Put items in a wash basin and fill with safe water.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of bleach per 1/2 gallon or 8 cups of water.
    1. Soak for 2 minutes.
  3. Remove items carefully.
  4. Air dry sanitized items.
  5. Do NOT rinse sanitized items.

Note: Any bleach that remains on feeding items after sanitizing will break down quickly as it dries and will not hurt your baby.