How to Clean Pacifiers. A Guide for Parents.

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Dr. Sandro Cantoni. Pediatrician.

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Your baby’s pacifier often falls on the floor. You’re worried that it’s contaminated with germs and wonder when and how to clean pacifiers. In this article, I will teach you the best methods. As well as giving you an answer to many questions. 

Cleaning a pacifier is essential for many reasons, one being that it can prevent baby infections like thrush. Thrush is an infection in the mouth and throat caused by yeast. The best way to clean a pacifier is by using water with soap! Discover here this method and much more.

But remember one important thing. After the buy, before giving the pacifier to the baby, it is better to sterilize it. In this article, you will find out how to do it. 

After the first use, you can wash it with soap and water if your baby is older than six months.

Key Points

Why should you clean your baby’s pacifier?

You should clean your baby’s pacifier to keep them from getting sick. Clean your baby’s pacifier after each use. It’s best to have 2 or 3 clean pacifiers, so you always have one ready.

How often to clean pacifiers?

It is advisable to clean and rinse the pacifier every time the child uses it.

How to clean pacifiers?

The best solution is with soap and water. Soak the pacifiers in soapy water, rinse them with clean running water, and allow them to dry.

Do you need to sterilize pacifiers?

It’s best to sterilize the pacifier if your newborn is less than 6 months old. If your baby is more than 6 months old, just wash it with soap and water.

Is it all right to clean the pacifier by sucking on it?

It depends on the situation. If you’re out and about and you don’t have soap and water, it might be okay. But if your toddler is sick, you have to be extra careful.

Why should you clean your baby’s pacifier?

pacifier on the floorPin

Your baby’s pacifier falls on the floor. This happens every day. There’s not that much risk of catching diseases if the pacifier is dirty. But it’s still a good idea to clean it before putting it back in your baby’s mouth.

Suppose the pacifier touches surfaces that are not perfectly clean, such as the floor or the car seat. In that case, it will become contaminated with germs. Such as mushrooms, viruses, or bacteria.

So, you should clean your baby’s pacifier because if not, there is a risk of getting an infection in their mouth. There are many types of conditions; one is called thrush.

Thrush is when the mouth and throat get infected by yeast. People get yeast infections by not keeping stuff clean.

Here are some other reasons why you might want to clean your baby’s pacifier:

  • Pacifiers can carry bacteria and viruses and lead to earache and other illnesses. This is especially the case if your child has a cold or flu.
  • A dirty pacifier can carry germs that can cause tooth decay and gingivitis.

How often to clean pacifiers?

You might wonder how often is too often or how much cleaning is enough.

It is advisable to clean and rinse the pacifier every time the child uses it. For example, you can wash the pacifier after use and then put it in a proper container. Ready for the next time your baby needs it. Or you can clean the pacifier before each use, but if the baby is crying, this method is not very practical. 

It’s best to have 2 or 3 clean pacifiers, so you always have one ready.

How to clean pacifiers?

So how do you clean a pacifier? The best solution is with soap and water. It’s easy! First, you will need:

Your dirty pacifier, a bowl (the one you don’t plan to use ever again but could hold water), and some soap! Any kind of mild antibacterial soap is perfect. You can also use toothpaste, although it isn’t as effective as soap. Baby shampoo works too.

Ensure the water you use is warm (about body temperature) but not too hot; it should be comfortable for adults to hold in their hands. Then follow these steps.

How to clean pacifiers?

  1. Fill the bowl with lukewarm water and add a bit of soap.

  2. Soak pacifiers in the soapy solution for at least 5 minutes.

  3. Rinse them one by one under running water until you don’t see any residue from the soap on them.

    Make sure you get all the way between the little nooks and crannies. You can also use a clean, dry cloth or paper towel to clean any spots that need it.

  4. Let them air dry on a flat surface until all the water has evaporated off.

You can watch a video here:

What to do if water gets inside the pacifier?

You can try different methods.

Try wiping the water off with a dishcloth or a paper towel, then put the pacifier in front of a fan.

Another method is this. First, you need to take a paper towel and fold it in the shape of a square. Be careful to wash your hand first. Then take the pacifier and put it inside the enclosure formed by the paper towel. Next, take one hand and hold onto either side of the paper towel as if creating an open zip lock bag. While holding on, squeeze so that all the water comes out from the pacifier. Repeat this process until there is no more water left in your pacifier!

Or you can simply press the teat as you see in this video.

Or, submerge it in water and allow it to stand for 5-10 seconds until excess moisture has evaporated from the silicone. Let dry before use.

Is it all right to clean the pacifier by sucking on it?

It depends on the situation. If you’re out and about and you don’t have soap and water, it might be okay. But if your toddler is sick, you have to be extra careful.

Sucking on a pacifier is not hygienic because saliva from teeth and gums contains germs and viruses (like COVID 19) as well as dirt particles.

For example, parents can send bacteria responsible for tooth decay. For this reason, the American Dental Association does not recommend cleaning the pacifier using this method. 

But some pediatricians take the opposite view. In fact, some research indicates that the risk of food allergies and asthma is reduced if the parent cleans the pacifier by putting it in the mouth. The reason is the sharing of bacteria, which would reduce the risk of allergic sensitization.

Do you need to sterilize pacifiers?

Many parents wonder if they need to sterilize pacifiers because of the thought that they might spread bacteria. But there is no good evidence that using a sterilized pacifier over an unsterilized one will lessen the risk of infections.

But, it is best to sterilize the pacifier if your newborn is less than 6 months old. If your baby is more than 6 months old, just wash it with soap and water. 

The reason is that he is constantly putting his hands in his mouth anyway, and they are not sterile. So then he starts picking up toys and exploring them with his mouth.  Clearly, you can’t continually sterilize all his toys.

But you should sterilize them when he is sick, or it’s been a while since you have washed the pacifier.

Another tip to decrease the risk of bacteria is to replace your baby’s pacifier often. The more he uses it, the more germs settle in it, and it is more complicated to sterilize later.

Baby pacifier and Covid 19. What should I be concerned about?

During Covid 19 outbreaks, you need to be very careful, even if you are vaccinated. You know that the virus is transmitted also by hand. So always wash your hands, or use an alcohol solution before touching your baby’s pacifier. 

Do not clean the pacifier by putting it in your mouth. You may be carrying the virus and transmitting it. If you have any symptoms of Covid 19, such as a cough or cold, wear a mask.  You should also try to sterilize the pacifier often, even if your baby is more than 6 months old.

Conclusion

If you still have questions about whether to clean your baby’s pacifier, here are a few things to keep in mind. First, it is best to wash the pacifier with soap and water every time your little one uses it. And let it air dry on a flat surface until all the water has evaporated off. Second, you can use mild soap for an adult’s hands if necessary (such as antibacterial soap).

FAQ

Where to keep clean pacifiers? Where to store a pacifier when not in use?

The best place to store your baby’s pacifier is in a clean, dry cloth or bib. You can keep it in a safe, easy-to-access location like on top of your changing table If you plan to give it to the baby right away. Or in an enclosed container like a drawer where the pacifier won’t get contaminated by other household germs.
Of course, you can put the clean pacifier in a plastic container specifically for this purpose.

How to clean a pacifier with running water?

If you’re outside and don’t have soap, you can wash your baby pacifier with running water. All you need to do is place the pacifier in a container and pour some cold water until it covers the whole surface of the pacifier. Let it sit there for about five minutes, and then take it out and rinse with clean water. Let them dry on their own, or pat dry with a paper towel.
Running water eliminates dirt but not the bacteria that are on the surface of the pacifier.

How to clean the inside of a pacifier?

The older a pacifier gets, the more difficult it is to clean. This is because it becomes embedded with bacteria and dirt that are invisible to the naked eye. To combat this, you can boil it in water for 5 minutes.
There are other solutions. You can clean a pacifier by rubbing it with a wet cloth. For example, in a silicone pacifier, use a small stick that fits into the hollow of the pacifier. You can also use a steam sterilizer.
In any case, it is better to change the pacifier after one or two months of use.

Can you clean pacifier with baby wipe?

There are many benefits to using baby wipes, but there are also drawbacks. One of the key benefits is that they are very convenient and easy to use. They can be stored anywhere in your house or car, which is really important when you have a baby. The drawbacks are that they are not suitable for cleaning certain surfaces, they can get expensive because you’ll need to buy them often. Also, they may contain toxins that could be harmful to babies if ingested.
So, don’t use a generic baby wipe to clean the pacifier.
But you can use pacifier wipes, approved by the FDA. They are handy if you are outside and don’t have another pacifier.
The best solution is to wash a pacifier with water or any mild soap before putting it back in your baby’s mouth if you are at home. Or you can also soak it in boiling water for five minutes.

How to clean pacifier before first use?

If you have a new pacifier, it is best to sterilize it before first use. 
First, you want to wash your hands with soap and water. Then, you want to rinse out the pacifier with water. Next, dry it off with a clean cloth. Finally, put the pacifier in boiling water for 5 minutes. Or you can use a microwave (with a specific container) or sterilizer.

How long do germs live on pacifiers?

It depends on the type of germs. Like colds and flu, some viruses will live for two hours or more, long enough to make someone sick.
Some viruses can survive up to six days on a hard surface like a table or countertop, maybe even longer. Instead, Covid 19 virus appears to be present for approximately 72 hours on surfaces.pacifier with germPin

How to clean pacifiers in dishwasher?

The dishwasher can damage some types of pacifiers (for example, those in latex). So as a first step, check to make sure your pacifier is dishwasher safe.
Some precautions must be taken. Always put pacifiers in the dishwasher’s top in a container to prevent them from falling to the bottom. Use a high temperature (at least 55 degrees) wash and dry program.

What happens if you don’t clean a pacifier?

The longer a pacifier is not cleaned, the more bacteria will grow on it. So, dirty pacifiers can be a source of germs.
You should make sure that your child uses a clean pacifier every day. Dirty ones can have germs on them, which can affect their health. This is especially important if your baby uses the same pacifier every day without cleaning it. There is a risk of getting an infection, like thrush, caused by a yeast called candida.
I recommend cleaning a pacifier at least every use with soap and water. Or sterilization if the baby is less than 6 months old.

How do I clean a pacifier on the run?

It depends on what you find or have. The best option is to clean the pacifier with water and a few drops of soap.
If you don’t find soap, you can clean it with running clean water. (see above)
Another better alternative is to use specific pacifier wipes. Do not use generic baby wipes because they may contain toxins harmful to babies if ingested.
If you cannot find water and don’t have pacifier wipes, the only solution is to remove the dirt with a tissue, then suck on it to clean it with your saliva. Not an ideal method, but better than nothing.

Can you put pacifiers in the microwave?

Objects are microwaved at high frequencies that cause most plastics to release potentially toxic chemicals. A microwave will typically not melt the plastic itself, but the temperature change could cause secondary chemical reactions.
For this reason, pacifiers should never be put in a microwave oven without a specific microwave-safe container. Cleaning them in this way can kill 99.9% of bacteria, but it’s essential to follow the instructions on the box.
You must remember that you can sterilize in the microwave only silicon pacifiers. Do not use this method for latex pacifiers.

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About the author

Hi. My name is Sandro Cantoni. I’m a Pediatrician. I work in the General Pediatric Clinic. Hospital of Neuchatel, Switzerland.

References

Hesselmar B., Sjoberg F., Saalman R., Aberg N., Adlerberth I., Wold A.E.: Pacifier cleaning practices and risk of allergy development. Pediatrics 2013; 131: pp. e1829-e1837.

Victoria X. Soriano BSc e al. Infant pacifier sanitization and risk of challenge-proven food allergy: A cohort study. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, The, 2021-05-01, Volume 147, Numéro 5, Pages 1823-1829.e11

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