Locations:
Search IconSearch

How to Clean Your Baby’s Pacifier

What to know about keeping your baby's pacifier germ-free

cleaning pacifiers

Pacifiers can be a blessing (something to soothe your wailing baby) and a curse (cue that middle-of-the-night search). And then there’s the question of how to clean the thing, considering your baby spends as much time chucking it as sucking it.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Should you sterilize it every time it leaves baby’s mouth? Live by the 5-second rule and pretend it never hit the ground? Something in between? Pediatrician Jason Sherman, DO, shares his tips for keeping pacifiers clean — and babies healthy.

Cleaning pacifiers

It’s unlikely your baby will get seriously ill from a dirty pacifier, Dr. Sherman says. But you should still make an effort to keep it clean.

A pacifier that hits the floor — or a tabletop, car seat or any other less-than-pristine surface — can pick up germs. Those germs might be viruses or bacteria that can cause illness. Dirty pacifiers can also spread thrush, a common fungal infection that causes white patches and uncomfortable sores in the baby’s mouth.

“Whenever a pacifier lands on the ground or another surface, clean it before putting it back in the baby’s mouth,” Dr. Sherman recommends. “You don’t want to risk the baby getting sick.”

Should you be sanitizing pacifiers?

Cleaning a pacifier doesn’t have to be complicated, though. You don’t have to go to the trouble of boiling them or using special sanitizers. A simple suds-up with hot water and dish soap will do the trick, Dr. Sherman says.

Wondering about pre-packaged pacifier wipes? They may be helpful in a pinch if you’re far from a sink. But they probably don’t work any better than plain old soap and water, Dr. Sherman notes. “They aren’t necessary if you have the use a sink or soap and water readily available.”

Is it OK to suck on baby’s pacifier to clean it?

What about the age-old technique of popping your baby’s pacifier into your mouth to clean it? The spit-clean method may be common, but it isn’t one Dr. Sherman recommends.

“You might feel healthy, but you never know if you’re carrying germs,” he says. “Sucking on your baby’s pacifier could spread microorganisms that put the baby at risk.”

Some studies have suggested that, as long as the pacifier isn’t identifiably dirty, a parent sucking on a pacifier could lead to a reduced risk of allergy development for the child.

And some past research suggested that exposing babies to germs via your saliva might strengthen their immune systems. But the evidence is far from solid, Dr. Sherman says. And kids hardly need help getting dirty. “Trust me, kids will get plenty of exposure to microorganisms that will help build up their immune systems all on their own,” he says.

Advertisement

For infants, though, your goal should be to help them avoid germs as long as possible. “You don’t have to keep them in a bubble,” Dr. Sherman says. “But you should do your best to prevent them from getting sick — especially babies under 2 months old who don’t yet have much of an immune system and haven’t had their two-month-old vaccines.”

There’s no need to panic if your baby grabs her pacifier and pops it back into her mouth before you can clean it. Just praise her new reaching-and-grasping skills and move on.

“Odds are, it won’t be a problem for most healthy babies,” Dr. Sherman says. “But whenever you can, give pacifiers a quick rinse with soap and water just to be safe.”

Advertisement

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Rainbow-colored heart hovering above healthcare provider's hand, with child sitting in exam chair
June 12, 2024/Parenting
How To Find an LGBTQIA-Friendly Pediatrician for Your Child

Local LGBT centers, online directories, visual cues and gender-affirming care or non-discrimination policies can all be helpful resources and cues

Mother post birth in medical bed, with partner holding new baby, and caregiver nearby
Baby on the Way? Here’s What You May Not Know About Labor and Delivery

The birthing process can take longer than you might expect, and plans can always change

Female breast feeding baby
Can You Drink Alcohol While Breastfeeding?

An occasional drink is OK, and you can safely nurse your baby after the alcohol has left your breast milk

Child in pjs sleeping in bed moving legs
May 22, 2024/Children's Health
How To Help Children With Restless Legs Syndrome

Regular exercise, an iron-rich diet, adequate sleep and bedtime routines that include a warm bath or massage may help with your kid’s RLS

Baby sleeping on their side
May 17, 2024/Children's Health
What To Know About Baby’s Fontanelles (aka Soft Spots)

A sunken soft spot may be a sign of dehydration, while a bulging soft spot may be a sign of head trauma

Young child in bed reading at night
May 2, 2024/Children's Health
Nighty-Night: Tips To Get Your Kid To Stay In Bed

A consistent, structured routine, which may include incentives, can help children learn to stay in bed and get the ZZZs they need

Two caregivers, with one holding a child on shoulders, walking happily outside
May 1, 2024/Parenting
Our Safe and Responsible Guide To Co-Parenting

Keeping open lines of communication and working together as a team for your children are key to co-parenting

Kids running a race at the finish line ribbon
April 30, 2024/Children's Health
Is Your Child Old Enough To Run a 5K?

Let your little one’s enthusiasm and motivation fuel their interest in running, but don’t pile on miles too early

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims

Ad