When I first began pumping, I realized the process of pumping and cleaning pump parts was very time-consuming. I tried several different methods of washing my pump parts to make the process as fast as possible, and I found five tricks which greatly reduced the time I spent cleaning.
So, what is the fastest way to clean breast pump parts?
- Soak the pump parts in hot, soapy water for 5 minutes
- Rinse the pump parts with fresh water
- Place the pump parts in a microwavable steam bag and steam sterilize the parts
- Set them on the counter to air dry
As I tried several different methods of cleaning pump parts, I outlined my exact process for cleaning below, and I also found a few tricks to speed up the process and cut down on my cleaning time.
The fastest method to clean breast pump parts
I found that the fastest way to clean my pump parts was to clean them by hand. I soak the parts in hot, soapy water in a separate bowl or plastic container in my sink, so I didn’t need to worry about germs from the sink contaminating my pump parts.
Next, I run the pump parts under cold water from my faucet in order to rinse off all the soap. Then, I placed the wet pump parts in a microwavable steam sterilizer bag.
Depending on the strength of your microwave and the brand of steam bag you use, it can take anywhere from 1.5 to 3 minutes to steam clean the pump parts.
After sterilizing, I set the pump parts on my counter on top of a clean, dry paper towel to dry completely.
Allowing the pump parts to dry completely before my next pumping session was important because if some of the parts had drops of water remaining on them, the suction from the pump may not be as strong.
I typically rotated through at least three sets of pump parts so I had enough time to air dry my pump parts.
As I moved farther along in my pumping journey, I looked for other ways to speed up the time it takes to air dry my pump parts.
I finally found an amazing sterilizer and dryer that worked for my pump parts as well as baby bottles.
After a few months of pump parts and bottles taking up counter space, I decided to treat myself and invest in this sterilizer and dryer. It was life-changing to finally have the counter space back in my kitchen.
Below are a few more tricks I learned along the way. I wanted to share them and hopefully speed up your cleaning time.
Trick 1 – Rinse pump parts and soak them immediately after pumping
Rinsing as soon as possible after pumping prevents the build-up of milk, so there are fewer tough spots to clean.
Breast milk has a lot of fat and will develop a film on the pump parts and bottles if it is not washed away. I like to use this soap I found on Amazon because it does a great job keeping my pump parts sparkly clean.
Another option is to use a dish soap that is “free and clear”. Several different brands make soaps like this.
I prefer using soap that is free and clear of any dyes or fragrances, especially when pumping for a young baby, just to avoid any potential irritants or allergies. You can also add a small splash of vinegar into the wash basin to help cut through the grease.
Trick 2 – Use a microwavable steam bag to sterilize
The time I spent sterilizing pump parts was cut down from 15 minutes to 3 minutes when I started using microwavable steam bags. Before using the steam bags, I spent almost 10 minutes waiting for water to boil, and then another 5 minutes boiling the pump parts.
When I switched to using a microwavable steam bag, after soaking and rinsing pump parts, I just tossed them in the bag. Then, 3 minutes later, my pump parts had been steam cleaned.
This saved so much time compared to boiling water on the stove and then boiling pump parts.
Another reason why I like microwavable steam bags is because the steam bag left a fine mist on the pump parts.
This allowed them to air dry on my counter more quickly than parts that weren’t steamed. Here is a link to my favorite steam bags for pump parts.
Make sure to double check the instruction manual for your pump parts to see if they can be boiled or sterilized. For example, the tubing on my Medela and spectra pumps could not be boiled or put into the microwavable steam bags.
Trick 3 – Rotate between 3 (or more) sets of pump parts
The third trick is to rotate between several sets of pump parts. I found that I needed at least three sets of pump parts
If I was pumping while at work, I would typically pump three times during my work day. My schedule was to pump at 9 am, 12 pm during my lunch break, and at 3 pm.
These three sets allowed me to have a clean set of pump parts each time I needed to pump
Sometimes my work day was hectic, and I needed to quickly rinse the pump parts off and run to my next meeting.
If I had enough pump parts for every time I pumped at work, I didn’t need to stress about thoroughly cleaning them and allowing enough time for the parts to air dry.
I also exclusively pumped for my daughter because of her time in the NICU. Three sets of pump parts were beneficial so I could maximize the amount of sleep I got.
The first set I used for my last pump before going to sleep. The second set I used during the middle of the night. The third set I used for my first pump when I woke up in the morning.
After each pump, I would rinse the parts off and then wait to soak them until the morning.
Trick 4 – Multitask by cleaning pump parts & preparing bottles or preparing milk to freeze
The fourth trick is to multitask while cleaning pump parts. Most of the cleaning time is spent waiting for the pump parts to soak in hot water, or for the microwave to steam sterilize the pump parts.
During the five minute soak, I would fill up bottles for the next few feedings. I would also spend some time measuring excess milk into freezer bags and labeling them with the date and time.
Sometimes I would also use those small pockets of time to grab a snack.
Trick 5 – Try to not let dirty pump parts pile up
I tried as hard as I could to not let the cleaning task pile up. Finding small pockets of time and cleaning as my day went along helped to not make it a large task at the end of the day.
However, with an infant, sometimes it was inevitable for the cleaning to pile up if she was sick or fussy and just wanted to be held. Pumping is such hard work, I tried to not be too hard on myself. I would just wait until the next nap time to clean the pump parts.
If you are new to pumping, you should check out my post on 17 pumping tips for beginners. In this post, I spill all my best secrets for pumping milk.
Can you use the dishwasher to clean pump parts?
To use the dishwasher, put the pump parts on the top rack, and small items into a mesh laundry bag on the top rack. The membranes and duckbill valves may need to be washed by hand because they are delicate. Look at your instruction manual to make sure the pump parts are dishwasher safe.
Using the dishwasher is a good option if you have several sets of pump parts. The drawback I found to using the dishwasher was that I needed to wait a few hours before my pump parts were clean.
I also had to factor in extra drying time. Using the dishwasher is a better option if you have enough sets of pump parts to get through the entire day, so you do not stress about making sure your pump parts are clean the next time you need to pump.
How often should I sterilize pump parts?
The CDC’s guidelines recommend sterilizing pump parts every day for babies under 3 months old, born prematurely, or who have compromised immune systems. The CDC also states that daily sterilization may not be necessary for older, healthy babies.
I chose to keep sterilizing once my daughter was older because it wasn’t much time out of my day and I wanted to do everything possible to ensure she did not get sick.
Even though sterilizing my parts after every use wasn’t necessary, sometimes I did it anyway because it cut the amount of time I had to wait for my pump parts to dry.
Can you put pump parts in the refrigerator between uses?
Some moms choose to put pump parts in a ziplock bag and then into the refrigerator between uses without washing in between pump sessions.
The thinking behind this method is that the milk goes into the fridge, so if you put your pump parts into the refrigerator, then they stay as clean as the original milk.
I chose not to put my parts in the refrigerator because I had a premature baby and followed the CDC’s guidelines on cleaning pump parts.
I tried this method when my daughter was older, and I found that the build-up from the fat from the milk became very difficult to clean.
The time I saved from not soaking and cleaning between pump sessions was lost because I ended up scrubbing and re-soaking my pump parts to get the milk build-up off the pump parts.