11 Ways to Remove Stains from Plastic

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Plastic is found everywhere in the kitchen, from ubiquitous cutting boards to storage containers to utensils designed for use with nonstick cookware. At some point in its life, each plastic item will inevitably become stained and discolored.

Vertical image of assorted plastic bottles next to lemons and sponges, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

Plastic containers, cutting boards, cups, and utensils are found throughout the modern kitchen. But these things stain very easily. Find out how to make them sparkly clean now. https://foodal.com/knowledge/cleaning/11-ways-remove-stains-plastic/

To keep your containers and other plastic items like cups, mixing bowls, colanders, spoons, spatulas, and even laminate countertops blemish free, apply the products and techniques outlined below, using handy household cleaners and common items that you probably already have on hand in the cabinet or fridge.

Heres a quick roundup of everything we’ll cover up ahead:

Be sure to protect your work surface, hands, and eyes when cleaning with potential irritants or bleaching agents.

Vertical image of lemons and a bowl of baking soda next to sponges on a white surface.

Dilute harsh ingredients as directed and never mix methods unless you can ensure their safety – mixing other ingredients with bleach in particular can be very dangerous, causing a chemical reaction that produces toxic gases which may be extremely harmful to human health.

1. Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol can be used to clean coffee, tea, tomato sauce and tomato paste, juice and soda stains, and discoloration caused by most types of food dyes.

Usually, the discoloration can be removed if you rinse the item immediately after applying the alcohol, or by washing it with water and dish detergent afterwards. If the blemish doesn’t disappear, then pour the rubbing alcohol into the container instead and let it soak for a few minutes.

If the item isn’t a container, you can pour the alcohol into something that can hold whatever needs to be soaked. When the item is stain free, wash it, rinse it thoroughly, and dry.

2. Hand Sanitizer

This is a variation of the technique described above. You can use alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean your plasticware – the active ingredient in these products is the same, and the gel can make it easier to apply.

Squirt some into the container or apply it to the affected area to soak, then rub clean, wash, rinse, and dry.

3. Bleach

Removing blemishes from plastic can also be done by using chlorine bleach. Bleach can be used to remove ink, juice, soda, coffee, tea, tomato sauce and tomato paste stains, and all other types of food dyes.

Make a solution of water and bleach, using one tablespoon of bleach per one cup of water. Let the containers and other items soak in the solution for one to two hours. After the stains are gone, wash the containers thoroughly, rinse, and dry.

4. White Vinegar

This method is similar to using chlorine bleach. In fact, you can use the same ratio of distilled white vinegar as you would for a bleach and water solution, with one tablespoon of vinegar per one cup of water. If you have concerns about using bleach in your containers, vinegar is a great alternative that is food-safe.

Horizontal image of bottles of baking soda, vinegar, and salt on a wooden cutting board next to a lemon and cleaning supplies.
Lemon, vinegar, and baking soda are all natural cleaners that will lift discoloration from plastic.

Vinegar even provides various benefits in foods, such as improved digestion. When used for cleaning purposes, it is an excellent sanitizing agent that spells death for many single-celled organisms like bacteria, and it can kill viruses as well.

For stain removal, follow the same directions as outlined for the chlorine bleach technique. Vinegar is also great for removing hard water spots.

To create a foaming cleaning paste, it can be used in combination with the next item on our list.

5. Baking Soda

Baking soda can also remove all of the stains that have been mentioned above, and it is particularly useful for removing oily residues.

Just make a baking soda paste by mixing a tablespoon or two with a little water and apply it to the discolored container. Let it sit for twenty or thirty minutes, and then use it to clean the container with a moist cloth. The lightly abrasive paste will lift stains away. Wash, rinse, and dry.

6. Lemon Juice

Fresh lemons are easy to come by, and the acidic power of citrus can work wonders.

Image of a bowl of baking soda next to lemons, sponges, and kitchen gloves.
Baking soda and lemons are two natural cleaners that can remove stains from plastic.

Just rub the container or other item with lemon juice and leave it in the sun for one or two days. Acid in the lemon combined with the sun’s UV light will remove discoloration, and it will also kill bacteria.

Read more about cleaning with lemon here.

7. Salt

Everybody has some of this in the cabinet! Use a damp cloth, warm water, and regular table salt to rub the stain away. Creating an abrasive paste can come in handy as well.

Skip the fancy, more expensive varieties of salt for cleaning, and save the fleur de sel for use in cooking instead.

Repeat this process until discoloration no longer remains, then wash with soapy water and dry.

8. Hydrogen Peroxide

Peroxide is another common household item and it can be used to disinfect and remove stains from utensils and containers, and to lighten older plasticware that has taken on a yellow tinge.

Like vinegar, it can be used safely in combination with baking soda, or you can use it as a spray or soak.

Used in the same way as lemon juice and placed in a sunny spot, that yellow color that comes with age for many well-used plastic products will fade away, if you give it enough time.

Be sure to use only a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution, and avoid anything stronger which may not be safe for household use. Wash and dry your cookware and cutlery well after removal.

9. Denture Tablets

Since denture tablets are so good at removing discoloration from dentures, why not try it with your containers and other plastic items? It works very well.

Horizontal image of a person cleaning a plastic container in a sink with a sponge while wearing yellow gloves.
Let cleaning products like denture tablets and Alka-Seltzer soak in a stained plastic container before washing and rinsing.

You might find that various brands get their cleansing power from different active ingredients. While some are made with citric acid and sodium bicarbonate – aka baking soda – others contain peroxides or bleaching agents like sodium hypochlorite and sodium perborate, which can help to keep dentures as well as plasticware clean and gleaming.

Put two tablets in a cup of hot water and allow them to dissolve. Pour the mixture into your stained container. Let it sit until all discoloration is gone. Wash well, rinse, and dry.

10. Alka-Seltzer

This method employs the same concept as using denture tablets with another common household product that you might find in the medicine cabinet. And like lemon juice, with this option you’ll be utilizing the cleaning power of citric acid.

Put 2 tablets and about a cup of warm water in the container, allow the tablets to dissolve, and let the solution sit for one or two hours before washing. If the blemish doesn’t come out in a few hours, let it continue to sit overnight instead before washing with warm soapy water and drying with a clean dish towel.

(Hint: You can also often find powdered citric acid available in bulk at the grocery store, and it is often cheaper than branded products or ready-to-spray cleaners with fancy labels.)

11. Dawn Power Dissolver

Dawn Power Dissolver is designed to remove stains, so try it with your plastic items.

If you are not able to find this product at your local store, 32-ounce spray bottles are available in packs of two on Amazon.

Dawn Power Dissolver Spray 2-Pack, available from Amazon

Just spray it on and allow it to soak in for at least 30 minutes to dissolve grease and lift stains. Be sure to wear rubber gloves when applying this product, to protect your skin. Rinse and dry, and you’re good to go!

Stuck with Tomato Stains?

Another note worth pointing out is that you cannot remove tomato discoloration from plastic that has been microwaved. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. The heat from the temperature of the microwave oven has baked the stain in, and it is now essentially part of the structure of the container.

Bleaches and sun exposure can help, but it will be very difficult if not impossible to truly remove this type of stain once it has set in.

We used to recommend a product called Cascade Plastic Booster for stain removal, and it was touted by its proponents for excelling at removing tomato sauce stains in particular from plastic, as well as extending the life of plasticware.

The active ingredient in this product was benzoyl peroxide, an antibacterial oxidizing agent known for its drying and whitening power that is often used in commercial production of certain products and found in acne face washes. We have not found any comparable products for use on dishware available on the market today.

The best thing to do is not to put anything made with tomato sauce or tomato paste in your plastic containers, and to refrain from using them to reheat food in particular, or you’ll have to live with the results of the blemishes down the line. It’s better not to use plastic at all for storing tomato-based items.

Try glass for storage instead. Glassware often makes much more sense, and has the added benefit of being chemically inert. It will not react with acidic ingredients or leach potentially harmful chemicals into your food.

Pyrex brand food storage containers are a favorite, and though the white plastic lids are prone to staining, darker colored lids in shades of navy, green – or even red! – stand up to the test of time when it comes to storing leftovers.

Pyrex Simply Store 18-Piece Glass Food Storage Container Set, available from Amazon

An assorted set of nine rectangular and round glass Pyrex containers in several sizes with multicolored plastic lids is available from Amazon.

Extending the Life of Plasticware

If you find that your plastic containers and other items age before their time and become unsightly, try some of the cleaning methods outlined above to remove the blemishes rather than disposing of them right away.

Horizontal image of assorted plastic bottles and cleaners next to lemons and sponges.

It’s important to remember that plastic is porous, and will soak up whatever is put on it. Heat can exacerbate the process. Washing containers quickly after use can help to prevent stains in the first place, and avoiding the use of sharp utensils that may scratch plastic can help to extend the lifespan of these products as well.

But when stains have already set in, the methods outlined above can come to the rescue!

What’s your favorite household tip for cleaning unsightly stains from plastic cookware? Which of these items worked for you? Let us know in the comments!

And for more easy tips that can help to keep your kitchen clean, we suggest reading the following guides next:

© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on June 12, 2012. Last updated November 30, 2022.

About Allison Sidhu

Allison M. Sidhu is a culinary enthusiast from southeastern Pennsylvania who has returned to Philly after a seven-year sojourn to sunny LA. She loves exploring the local restaurant and bar scene with her best buds. She holds a BA in English literature from Swarthmore College and an MA in gastronomy from Boston University. When she’s not in the kitchen whipping up something tasty (or listening to the latest food podcasts while she does the dishes!) you’ll probably find Allison tapping away at her keyboard, chilling in the garden, curled up with a good book (or ready to dominate with controller in hand in front of the latest video game) on the couch, or devouring a dollar dog and crab fries at the Phillies game.

91 thoughts on “11 Ways to Remove Stains from Plastic”

  1. I guess, besides tomato discoloration, I’ve never had issues with stains on my plasticware, with the exception of wear and tear from the dishwasher. Still, most of the cleaning methods listed are great general-purpose cleaners for just about any kitchen item. The bonus is that most of them are pretty inexpensive! When cleaning with lemon, try using half of a fresh-cut lemon with a handful of salt to scour away stubborn stains. If you’re afraid the salt might be too harsh, baking soda works well.

  2. I love to make Iced Tea but one of the problems I’ve noticed is that all of my pitchers have become stained. I wouldn’t really mind this so much if I only made Iced Tea in them but occasionally we want to make Kool-Aid or Lemonade and then the mixing of the colors just looks yick. We’ve tried lemon, salt, and baking powder but never thought to try white vinegar or rubbing alcohol. Thanks for the Tips!

    • Yep, I’ve switched to making tea in only one pitcher now, but I still hate the way it looks. I also have a couple of tea stained travel cups that I’d like to get looking better. I’m always trying new stuff out for cleaning them.

      I just saw the Dawn stuff for the first time a day or two ago at the dollar store. I’m guessing it’s kind of new, or at least new in this area, since all I could find was the trial size. I have tried bleach, but I really don’t like using bleach on dishes. Vinegar, I tend to use more for glass dishes.

      But, wow, lots of great ideas here! I’ll be trying these out for tea stains as well as for the bowl my husband uses for homemade salsa.

      • This is how I get stains out of my teacups:
        Put in some baking soda, add hot water, let sit overnight.
        Tea stains wash away easily after that.

    • Cream of tartar is good to clean stained glass pictures coffee decanters I’ve used on the bottom of copper pans cream of tarter is expensive does a good job. On containers I use hot water you can heat add cream of tarter set a few minutes and clean with a dish cloth or brush. This is for coffee or tea stains. Cleaning bottom of copper pans takes a little more elbow grease.

    • I found this on the internet and it works wonderful. I am a tea maker too. Fill container with HOT water, put in 2 tablespoons dishwasher detergent, not gel or any liquid types, just the powder. Dissolve it and let it set for about 30 minutes, tea comes right off with a regular wash.

    • Mr Clean Magic Eraser!! I discovered by accident – my husband makes iced tea in clear/frosted plastic pitchers all the time!!

  3. My mother in law uses denture cleaner to remove brown staining caused by tea, on her teaspoons. Personally I’m a huge fan of using vinegar or bicarb. When I have any staining on plastic items, I let it sit with warm water and bicarb and it does the trick. I also run a warm water and bicarb solution through my washing machine once a week; it keeps everything clean, and neutralizes any smells than sometimes occur.

    I don’t like the idea of bleach and I never use it on anything. Good idea to water it down if you’re a user. And good advice about using glass over plastic if you can too.

    Great article; I’m really keen on finding ways of cleaning things without using harsh commercial products.

    • This is one of my bug bears, stains on plastic. I try to wash things as soon as possible or soak them, especially the tomato plastic bowl stains. I now keep one or two just for that and find also it can stain with some curry or spices, so I soak them as soon as possible.

      I’ve never thought of using hand sanitizer, but will try it next time and using Alka Seltzer tablets seems like another good idea that can’t harm to try.

      • I just recently read about using Alka Seltzer tbalets to remove stains from plastic. I have a bowl that has red sauce stains that I will be using the tablets on very soon.

  4. Some really useful tips here. I am always staining plastic containers, especially with tomato-based sauces and soups so it’s good to know that I can actually revive these items and save them from going to landfill. Plus, they are non-toxic and surprisingly cheap/.

  5. I prefer using vinegar when am doing my cleaning and that also applies to cleaning my plastics, and your are completely right on the money, vinegar spells doom and gloom for all germs, you got to love vinegar. Glad to know about the cautionary sentence there, about putting tomato paste or sauce in my plastic containers, does more harm than good and am not so keen on ‘slaving away’ at the kitchen sink trying to outdo the misery of my own doing 🙁

    • Diane, we are slowly moving away from chemical cleaners and moving towards more natural solutions with vinegar being the leading disinfectant and floor cleaner (diluted with water of course).

      • I tried a very ‘queer’ experiment last night…adding vinegar to detergent whilst washing my dishes…biggest disaster of the century… 🙁 I’m never trying out thought-out theories and experiments like that ever again. I must say that was very dumb!
        Let’s just say, I had to re-do all my dishes again..Word of advice, If you are using vinegar to clean up, use it alone, same case for the detergent.

  6. Vinegar and water are an awesome cleaner. My mom doesn’t buy Windex she uses that. I didn’t know that hand sanitizer could be used that way so that is cool to know. I know I have a few plastics that have stains that never came out so I will def be trying some of these methods to see how it works.

  7. I use vinegar more for cleaning than in my cooking or recipes. Its great on windows and those stubborn stains on plastic containers. I do like all the other useful suggestions, especially the denture tablets. I have quite a supply of them after my mom passed away and didn’t know why I kept them. Now I do 🙂

    • Denture tablets are wonderful for a multitude of things! You can drop a couple in the toilet bowl, or in a flower vase to remove the mineral deposits. They will help remove tea or coffee stains in cups and glasses. Right now I have a couple in a plastic bowl of warm water to see if they will remove tomato-based stains!

  8. I have several plastic containers I can’t get clean. They have been stained by pasta well actually the tomato sauce in pasta. I have soaked and scrubbed nothing has worked. Maybe I’ll give these tricks a whirl, and see what happens.

  9. These suggestions are great but how about a few to stop the behaviour that helps destroy plastic? The microwave! I know some bowls & cups swear they are microwave safe but any plastic that has spent a second in a microwave that I have owned has warped or stained eventually with ease. It’s really stopped my purchasing plastic for anything but storage at this point. My guy LOVES the microwave. Me? Not so much.

    • Joan,

      I really hadn’t noticed the effect of the microwave on plastics. Hmmm….now you have me curious. I may try to do some A B testing.

    • I agree with this, Joan. I don’t like using plastic in the microwave.

      Another helpful post, Lynne. I’ve tried the baking soda thing before, but there are some other really great options here. I’ll be trying out several of these.

      Plastic can stain so easily, especially after storing leftover spaghetti sauce or my husband’s homemade salsa. Now, I have some more options to try to take care of it. Thanks.

    • I read somewhere that when you microwave plastic, the chemicals seep into your food. I also read that same thing happens when you put shot food into styrofoam containers–like when you get takeout food it usually is placed in a styrofoam box, just like coffee in styrofoam containers. Don’t ever use styrofoam plates in the microwave! Also, it’s best to use glass when heating things in the microwave. I would not cook anything in the microwave as a general rule. Only use microwave to to reheat or warm something. Not to cook or bake. I think it causes cancer.

  10. The only plastic that usually stains is the tupperware that holds tomato-based sauces. A little elbow grease and some baking soda does the trick. Afterwards I like to add some lemon to get rid of any residual smells. Occasionally raw meat will stain my cutting boards also but I wash them quickly enough that it comes off with a little scrubbing.

    • I had tons of plastic things of different kinds staining because of turmeric intense dishes.
      Actually, I had all sorts of things stain from turmeric — including my rice cooker and my kitchen counter and a few clothes.

      I guess along with tomato sauce, turmeric takes the cake when it comes to making messes.

      It’s a bit disheartening to read the bit about how heat makes it set in forever, that means I cannot really try those tricks on my pre-stained plastic equipment (tupperware, picnic plates and cutting board alike!). I guess I’ll have to wait that something new stains. Though at this point, I’d rather… just avoid that.

      • Try using the magic eraser by Mr Clean (works better than the generic for the more difficult stains) with or without the above suggestions. I have taken old plastics and even old cookware and made them look much better.

      • Hey! Thanks for all the tips, but nothing has worked on my $400 Vitamix. Made some shots of turmeric, ginger, lemon, and cayenne pepper. The plastic blender is ruined. Have tried most of these suggestions to no avail. Help. Debbie

        • When you say the plastic is ruined, is it scratched or stained? Clear plastic Vitamix canisters can scratch and cloud up easily. The best solution for stains, however, is to rinse out the blender immediately after use each time, and clean it with a solution of soap and warm water. You can run the blade on the cleaning cycle, or use a dish sponge. Rinse thoroughly and air dry.

  11. As someone who used to work in a restaurant cleaning dishes, I wish I could have used this advice! It was a pain trying to get the stains out of common things such as plates and bowls. If I had this knowledge, I would have gotten done way quicker!

  12. This is great information because once my plastic gets stained too bad I toss it in the trash. Needless to say I’m spending money to replace it. Thanks for the information.

  13. It’s helpful to know that tomato stains will not come out of plastic that has been microwaved. I had never heard that before. I try not to use plastic in the microwave, anyway. Vinegar is such a healthy and versatile product, and I think I’ll try that for my plastic pitchers that I keep my tea in. I brew a variety of different flavors of tea, and they have a variety of colors to stain my pitchers. These ideas will be helpful to try.

  14. I think that the baking soda paste is the best way to remove stains from plastic, especially curry. I think curry has to be the worst food to stain and is sometimes very hard to get out. We usually cook more food than we need, so that we can put the extra in plastic food containers for freezing, but cleaning after can be a pain. I tend to use the baking soda with a drop of lemon juice, they smell great after too!

  15. Maybe I have just been lazy but I always thought that once plastic was stained it was impossible to clear it up. I never would have guessed that it would be as easy as using things that I already have around the house. I have a number of plastic storage dishes with orange curry stains, so I am excited to see that all I need to fix that is some baking soda. Great tip.

  16. I don’t really cook with plastic ustensils anymore but when I used to they were so hard to clean, I almost gave up. I never knew that stains could come out so easily, I thought that once a plastic ustensil it’s stained forever.
    Thanks for the tips, will definitely remember them in the future!

  17. Ha, tomato, the bane of plastic containers and utensils everywhere. I’ve been avoiding using plastic with tomato-based sauces for quite some time now, but I briefly forgot when I took a serving of spaghetti to work one day. Got lucky with that one, but I’ll have to keep all of these tips in mind in case I forget again. I’ve used some of these solutions for other stains but hadn’t tried them on plastics for some reason.

  18. I had such high hopes until I got to the end. I hate glassware so I always use plastic bowls and I am glad that I found something that will get out most stains that I have. although not the tomato paste stains, which is my biggest problem. But I will take what I can get.

  19. I wasn’t aware of the rubbing alcohol or salt use, and haven’t tried many of the other products you’ve mentioned. I do often use lemon, vinegar and baking soda as cleaners, and because I drink quite a bit of tea, even though I clean them, my mugs and cups become stained from the tannin in the tea. When that happens, I leave them soaking for a while with a mixture of water and vinegar, and the stains come right out. I’ve learned about the tomato stains in plastic containers the hard way, and usually have ended up throwing them out, and now use glass, as you recommended.

    • Probably the best thing for coffee and tea stains is Oxy Clean. I put a big scoop in the sink, add my stained glasses/mugs, and fill with hot water. by the time the water is cool enough to put my hands in, the stains are gone! As a nice bonus, the sink is clean, too. Just re-fill with warm water and dish soap, and wash as usual.

  20. My son loves finding the juice of the day ready in the refrigerator. But I hate it when the smell of the previous flavor sticks in the container. Assigning a juice flavor for each container is so expensive that I opted for glass pitchers. But now my son finds it too heavy to carry. So i guess I will be using several plastic pitchers.

  21. It’s amazing the things we have around the house, and don’t even realize the various purposes they serve outside of its primary use. Had I known this earlier I wouldn’t have thrown away some of my best plastic ware. Now if only you could write one on metals. Can I request that? My husband has a thing with burning all the pots and pans. Then when its time to clean them the bottom starts to scrap off. How do I preserve them? Sorry if this is a little off topic.

  22. Nice tips here. I have used a few of them myself before reading this. I had always suspected that microwaved tomato stains were a permanent situation. It was nice seeing confirmation of it. I avoid heating tomato based items in plastic whenever I can.

  23. Back when I used to use plastic tupperware for my leftovers, I would always hate to have spaghetti; I knew that I had to either use up all the sauce (which was quite difficult in one sitting), or I would have to risk staining my plastic. And, of course, even after just 24 hours my wares would be all red and, truth be told, it would look terrible!

    No matter what I tried to get the stains out (even some of the tips and tricks mentioned here) I would still be left with a faint orange smudge. Eventually it got so tiring, I just recycled the containers.

    Now I primarily use glass wares (and I occasionally use plastic for fruits and veggies) so I don’t run into this problem anymore, but boy do I wish I could’ve tried other techniques mentioned here before I recycled all my products!

    Note to self: tuck this away for future reference 🙂

  24. I constantly have problems with lines left in cups when I don’t wash them in time, and so I can truly appreciate the rubbing alcohol tip. I commend this article; it is certainly highly relateable for me as I have problems with my dishwasher leaving stains on plastic occasionally. I find, however, that if I take preventive measures and soak the dishes that I do not plan on washing immediately, I can avoid this dilemma for the most part. Thank you for all the helpful advice!

  25. No kidding about not putting anything with tomato sauce in anything plastic! I learned that lesson several years back and it has saved me some trouble. I often use bleach and vinegar for my hard cleaning plastics. Hot water is also a must. I can’t seem to get my kids to understand the hot water need. They complain that they can’t handle the hot water. Are my hands that worn and tough?

    The vinegar is not really working as well as I’d like in my coffee pot water portion. It usually gets most of the junk out, but not all of it. I’m still searching for the answer to this dilemma.

  26. I can vouch for the baking soda paste method, it works wonders. We’re a big pasta household, so we have plenty of plastic bowls that have been stained with that infamous tomato sauce. Plenty of tinted-orange bowls in the cupboards.

  27. My mix of herbs has discolored my plastics and this will help. Baking soda seems to have various uses in my kitchen as I often keep it in a corner of my fridge to absorb any bad smell. Thanks for sharing this.

  28. I think the cheapest option for me is vinegar. I really need to keep my plastic containers clean because the husband has a habit of throwing them away just because they’re plastic. Too bad about the tomato-based stains, that’s what I have the most problems with.

  29. So many great tips! Seriously I have struggled with finding a solution to this problem SO much, it has always really bothered me. I am going to try all of them! I thought the denture cleaner was especially ingenious 🙂

  30. I had never heard the tip about using Alka-Seltzer for removing stains from plastic, although I know it works great on toilet bowls. Also the one about vinegar is news to me. That’s funny because I tend to use vinegar for so many things. I’m going to try both of those. I know bleach works, almost instantly, but it is really hard to remove the taste and smell of it from plastics.

  31. Thank you for posting this! I am a sucker for nice plastic containers, anything that looks even vaguely useful quickly ends up in my shopping basket and comes home with me… We use plastic lunchboxes every day for work and taking in leftovers they do get discouloured fast. I’ll try out some of your methods and see if I can give them a longer lifespan. We also have some cute plastic kitchen accessories and I actually get paranoid about using them too much in case they get stained, so now I can make proper use of them and know it can be put right!

    On a similar note, do you have any tips for stopping hard water damaging appliances like kettles?

  32. This is very useful and helpful -especially for our tupperwares , since they’re very prone to stains << And hot water does not even work for them (for those with "severe" stains) any more! 🙁 . I'll probably just use the "food-friendly" methods, though (like the vinegar, and lemon methods) rather than the "food-unfriendly" methods (like the alcohol and bleach methods) because I'm kind of a paranoid -I'm afraid I might not be able to wash them well.

    Thank you very much for these tips!

  33. Bookmarking this page for sure! I get so sick of bleaching all my tupperware anytime I make spaghetti sauce. With little ones I really hate to use bleach on anything, so these alternatives are just what I needed.

  34. I need to print this article out and paste it on my fridge. ALL my plastic is stained. They all have that reddish pasta sauce eternal tint to them, and god forbid if I used turmeric in one of the containers. That yellow coloring never fades out. I was actually about to give up and just go with glass and metal containers(even though it would have killed my wallet) but now I can re-achieve that clear non-tinted color. I don’t trust adding hand sanitizer (I feel like some residue will be left over in it and make me sick) but I will use the alcohol method and see how it works. For some reason bleach has never worked for my containers but I haven’t tried white vinegar yet. I hate the way it smells but if it gets my Rubbermaids clean again I’ll have to crack open a battle and gag later. I should probably get some yellow gloves first though; I wouldn’t want the scent to seep into my hands.

  35. Being somebody who prefers to buy plastic cooking utensils as I’m very clumsy, I’ve found this article to be a Godsend! The amount of plastic cooking items that I’ve been forced to dispose of just because there’s some encrusted stain on them is immense. Bookmark!

    I’ve felt myself becoming more utilitarian while reading this blog, as there’s almost a myriad of uses on this blog just for a mundane Lemon! I’m going to need to stock up on more vinegar in the future as I read this blog as the uses I’ve found for it are incredible considering how cheap it is to buy.

    To be honest, though, I wouldn’t really feel comfortable using bleach on my kitchen items. That’s probably just a personal thing.

  36. I’m definitely adding ‘clean plastic Tupperware’ to my spring cleaning list 😛 It’s incredible how quickly certain foods will stain plastic…chicken stock, tomato sauce, and carrots steamed in the microwave are the biggest culprits in my kitchen.

    I like how there are lots of natural options on this list. I don’t mind resorting to bleach or conventional cleaning products if I have to, but it’s nice to use something a little more gentle and organic wherever possible.

  37. These are great tips! My plastic tends to stain just from tomatoes or curry and I use the same containers for food that stains so I have never worried too much. I actually came across this article trying to find a way to clean a stain made by finger paint on my daughter’s plastic highchair. I have lots of ideas to try.

  38. So many many great tips written here! Well done on a great article. I am constantly amazed at the power of vinegar. Curry stain on your container? Rainy day blues makes your hanging clothes smelly? Sports Clothes getting smelly? Water stained tap in the bathroom? Pen ink stains on shirt pockets? All of these are solved with it. My best friend swears that downing a small amount of vinegar each morning helps her metabolism. No proof there but its what she believes.

    As for the Alka Seltzer and the Denture tablets, I shall try those, since I have been meaning to find a use for them. I have had a box of denture tablets from an elderly grandmother who passed recently.

  39. Thank you so much for these tips! You have no idea how many plastic bowls, spoons, etc. I’ve thrown away because of spaghetti or tomato sauce stains. I was afraid to use just bleach, and didn’t realize how many alternatives there were! I will try the baking soda paste and/or the vinegar. Seems a lot safer.

  40. I had no idea that this was even possible, it’s really annoying to see how a plastic container that you love is slowly getting (almost permanently) stained. I have tried just letting some water in them and leaving them that way during the night, but it obviousl have never worked. I’m going to try the alka seltzer method tonight, I have some bags resting on my house, and it’s a pretty good way to give it a use.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  41. I can’t stand plastic stains. These are all tips I have tried that do work with varying degrees of success.

    Honestly, though, I try not to use plastic at all whenever it is possible. Plastic is not good for you or the environment. Plus, I try to never microwave plastic ever because it seems to alter the composition of the material. It is proven that plastic leeches chemicals into your food, so I’d rather just avoid it altogether whenever possible.

  42. Thanks for giving us so many ideas to try. I never really knew why my plastic containers always got stains from curries and chicken stock and the likes. I just assumed they weren’t top quality, but now thanks to your article, I know better.

    Thank you for giving us all those natural options. I use a lot of bleach in my kitched, but I see what you mean about plastic being porous so now I’ll be more careful how I clean my tupperware.

  43. Most of my plastic equipment tends to break before it discolours, but I have to agree with you that spirit Vinegar is really good for cleaning off stains. If it is a really tough stain. combining the vinegar and bicarb methods can work better: soak the item in vinegar, then get a sponge with some bicarb on and rub the stain while it fizzes. Just watch for the smell and foam!

    • This can be a tough one, and it may depend on how much time the stain has had to set. Is this vinyl that we’re talking about? Try applying some vegetable oil, letting it sit for about 20 minutes, then rub it off. Wash after that with dish soap- this might do the trick! Some tablecloths of this type can also be put in the washing machine (but not all). Good luck!

  44. Friend of mine puts her leftover sauce in a ziploc bag, defrosts and throws it out! Going to try this so I can save my plastic containers!

    • Ha, that will definitely save your containers from stains! A waste-free solution that you might want to try would be to switch to glass containers with lids instead of plastic – no bags to throw away, and the glass won’t stain like plastic often does!

  45. I found your tip to use baking soda paste to clean out stains from your plasticware very interesting; I did not know that before. I have a few plastic containers that have some stains that are hard to come off. I will be sure to try using baking soda paste to get it off.

  46. Ok ladies, step aside. Let a man explain how to remove essential oil stains from plastic or such bathroom sinks. Plain and simple: any heavy duty rubbing compound cleaner. We had three, very stubborn cinnamon essential oil rings in the sink top. I used Turtle Wax Rubbing Compound and Heavy Duty Cleaner and a Dobie scrubbing pad and some elbow grease. Then rinsed with bleach and water mixture. Wala. circles gone!

    • Interesting suggestion, Gaylord. Unfortunately, the product that you suggest is intended for use on clear-coated auto body paint, and is not meant for use on plastic (or ceramic). Please keep in mind that this is not a food-safe compound, and should never be used to plastic containers, or other items used in the kitchen. As a less harsh alternative, I would suggest vinegar to scrub your sink. Voila! No more stains.

      • That’s what YOU think. Vinegar will NOT remove essential oil stains from acrylic sinks! I’ve tried everything but gasoline to get rid of the stains, and nothing has worked, including vinegar! Thanks, Gaylord, for the suggestion.

    • Even better idea for stainless sink renewal is wet sanding with descending grits of paper starting with 400 grit and ending with 2000 grit, then hand buffing with medium grit compoung, fine compound, and then glaze. then thouroughly wash sink with dishwashing detergent to remove all of the petroleum distillates of the compounds. But be forewarned: This is an all day intensive task but your sink will shine like chrome.

  47. To Remove Stains caused by Red foods ie, TOMATO STAINS:
    1) Add Dawn Dish Wash Soap to the container, if it has a lid even better.
    2) Add Salt, about 1 Tbs.
    3) Add 1/4 cup of water, or add enough to cover 1/2 the bottom of container.
    4) Close with lid, then shake hard.
    5) ALL CLEAN!!

  48. I just watched someone clean tomato stains out of plastic ware (not microwaved) simply by using COLD WATER and Dawn dishwashing liquid (someone said it doesn’t matter what kind of dish liquid you use-but I’m not sure that’s true). I feel really silly for using bleach and lemons and everything else over the past 30+ years now.

  49. I am trying to get old coffee drip stains from my car’s plastic panel. I have tried everything, but nothing works.

  50. I have these two clear plastic water bottles I love. They were looking gross, kind of brownish; I use BCAA’s in my water. I tried the bleach solution in one and the vinegar in the other. The bleach one worked if not better, at least faster (I dumped out the vingear/water and reused the bleach solution). I washed them out with soapy water and ran though the dishwasher and now they are as clear as the day they were new! YAY!

  51. Instead of spending money to replace a new one for the Yellowed plastic, this is a wise choice. And what about:
    Dish soap (a few drops)
    Regular 3% hydrogen peroxide (1 gallon)
    Oxy laundry booster (1/4 teaspoon)
    Bowl of water
    Many thanks!

    • Cleaning yellowed plastic solar lights is an important part of its maintenance and because I want my own set of lights to last a long time, I make sure to keep up with its cleaning to avoid excessive oxygenation once more.

  52. I’ve accidentally cleaned my coffee machine which is a shiny grey plastic with a cloth that had vinegar on it and it has discoloured the plastic..
    How can I get the shine back. ?

  53. Thank You Lynn!!!. For years i have been throwing out good plastic rubbermaid etc because of tomato stains from spaghetti etc. from now on I will use Glass. You have just saved us a few dollars thanx again.
    Gary… the male chef in the house.

  54. Don’t use bleach on plastics, it will eat at it and eventually ruin them. I would recommend using glass microwave dishes for leftovers to reheat in as the chemicals in plastic does apparently get into the food.

    • If they’re stained yellow due to buildup on the surface, soaking in a solution of vinegar and water before washing with soap and warm water should help! I’d give this a try, if you haven’t already.

  55. Great article! However, and I’m not being preachy or anything, but the very last tip should have been the #1 tip: Microwaved tomato sauce can NOT be removed. Except by dynamite or hydrochloric acid. If you buy those store bought plastic storage containers that say “microwave safe”, rest assured thet are not.

  56. I swear, everything I own has become stained one way or another by my kids! It makes me chuckle at this point. I just got a nice furniture cleaning last week to take care of all the stains that have built up over the years, and as soon as I moved into the kitchen, I noticed that all my plastic wear looks horrible! Thank you for the tips, you are a lifesaver!


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