How To Easily Clean Plastic Around Your Home

5 ways to get your plastic squeaky clean again.

Plastic is everywhere you look, especially in your kitchen. From tupperware to cutting boards, plastic generally has a long life span. It doesn’t corrode very quickly, it’s lightweight and inexpensive—and it helps preserve our food, keeping it fresh for days in the refrigerator. While plastic has many advantages, it does also have a tendency to absorb strong odors and stains. Remember that leftover curry you stored overnight last year? Yeah, you bet that container is still turmeric colored.

We’ve compiled a handy list of 5 plastic cleaning techniques to get your plastic back to its original transparent self.

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How to clean plastic

In the dishwasher

If you have a dishwasher, you’re in luck. Dishwashers are a fine way to clean plastic tupperware containers and cutting boards.

  • Use a detergent, like Cascade Platinum ActionPacs, that banishes food particles and odors without a prerinse.
  • Make sure you’re loading all the plastic items on the top rack of the dishwasher so they don’t get too hot and melt.
  • Plastic typically won’t dry completely in the dishwasher, so when you’re unloading, toss plastic items in the drying rack to air dry before putting away.

Baking soda

Oh, baking soda—what would we do without you? Baking soda is especially great for cleaning plastic because it absorbs any funky odors that the plastic may have soaked up.

  • Rinse the plastic item with hot water to get all the food out.
  • Sprinkle on baking soda with a bit of water to make a paste.
  • Scrub the paste with a sponge or scrubber.
  • Rinse.
  • Wash with Dawn and warm water.
  • Rinse with clean water.
  • Air dry in the dish drying rack.

Hand sanitizer

So this one’s a little weird, but hear us out. Hand sanitizer works great against stubborn stains. And you’ve definitely got spare hand sanitizer around these days, so why not give it a try?

  • Pour hand sanitizer over the parts of the tupperware or cutting board with stains. Rub it in to evenly coat.
  • Let hand sanitizer sit for 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Dump the sanitizer down the drain.
  • Wash with Dawn Dish Soap and warm water.
  • Rinse with clean, warm water.
  • Air dry.

Hands-off suds

Dawn Platinum Powerwash Dish Spray is awesome for hands-off stain-fighting power. It majorly cuts grease and grime, and you barely have to do anything aside from spray it on and walk away.

  • Spray Dawn Powerwash onto your plastic tupperware or cutting boards.

  • Let it sit for a few minutes.

  • Rinse with clean, warm water.

  • Air dry.

  • Move the container to a surface that gets direct light from the sun (like a windowsill). Over time, the sunlight will bleach out the stain!

Denture tablets

These are designed to remove discoloration, so they’re perfect for taking that weird stain off your plastic. We’re not sure this is the type of item you’ll just have on hand, but you can find denture tablets at any regular drug store or grocery store pharmacy section.

  • Add a couple denture tablets to hot water in a larger pot, and submerge your plastic tupperware in the solution.
  • Soak overnight, or until the stains are gone.
  • Wash with Dawn Dish Soap and warm water.
  • Rinse with clean, warm water.
  • Air dry.

How to clean popular plastic items

To clean plastic baby toys, bottles and reusable plastic toiletry bottles, a gentle soap like Dawn Free & Clear is a great option.

  • Wash these items in the sink once a week (or more often if someone is sick).
  • Make sure they air dry all the way before returning them to their bins or baskets to avoid bacteria or mildew growth.

To clean plastic parts inside your refrigerator, we recommend going with the baking soda paste technique, which will fight against both stains and unsavory fridge smells. (Note: Be sure to empty out your fridge first to make this job easier. Pull out all the condiment bottles and expired leftovers from the way back to ensure you get all the crevices and corners.)

  • Wipe out your refrigerator with a damp sponge or clean, wet rag to remove loose crumbs and major spills. If it’s really gross in there, soak your sponge or rag in a solution of dish soap and hot water to better remove the gunk.
  • Make a baking soda + water paste using a 3:1 ratio of baking soda to water.
  • Generously apply paste to yucky stained areas, and let sit for 30 minutes.
  • While the paste is setting and working its magic, you can mix a drop of dish soap with warm water in a spray bottle to clean out the rest of the refrigerator. It will break down grease and grime, plus it’s food safe.
  • Soak the removable sections in the same dish soap solution. (Or toss them in the dishwasher, if they fit.)
    • Then scrub, rinse and dry removable bits.
  • Rinse the dish soap mixture and baking soda paste out of the fridge with a clean, damp cloth.
  • Dry thoroughly with a clean rag or towel. You might even leave the fridge door open for a few minutes after cleaning to air it out.
  • Reassemble fridge parts, and don’t forget to stick everything back where it belongs.

To clean plastic reusable water bottles, you can usually just stick them on the top rack of the dishwasher (but double check with the manufacturer’s instructions).

  • For a more thorough cleaning, fill your plastic water bottle about 2/3 full with hot water and a couple drops of bleach.
  • Put the cap on, and shake well.
  • Let it sit for an hour.
  • Using a bottle scrubber, scrub both the cap and bottle.
  • Rinse well with clean, warm water.
  • Let air dry with the cap open.

To clean plastic television remote controls, it’s okay to use a dab of rubbing alcohol (which is also the main ingredient in hand sanitizer). Don’t oversaturate the remote or let liquid seep in between the buttons. Alcohol dries really quickly, so this shouldn’t be a problem. Don’t just put the solution directly onto the remote—apply it with a rag or cotton ball.

  • Remove the batteries from the remote.
  • Dip a cotton ball or cloth into rubbing alcohol. Squeeze out any excess liquid.
  • Wipe down the entire surface of the remote.
  • Use an alcohol-soaked cotton swab to carefully clean around the buttons.
  • Let air dry.

Plastic safety

Plastic is fantastic and all, but it does contain some potentially harmful chemical compounds that can break down and get into your food and your body if not handled properly. There are some pretty basic guidelines for using plastic responsibly to avoid unleashing any toxins.

  • Don’t microwave plastic. Not only is the microwave likely to melt your plastic containers, but in doing so, it can release chemicals into your food. Check the bottom of your plastic container to see if it’s microwave safe.
  • Go ahead and recycle scratched or worn plastic containers and cutting boards, since dings and scratches can lead to deterioration and let bits of plastic get into your food. Scratched plastic can also harbor bacteria and grime.
  • Transfer your food to a glass container or dish when warming up your leftovers.
  • Let your food cool before putting it away in a plastic container.
  • Check the label to make sure your plastic is phthalate-free or BPA-free, especially when buying children’s toys and water bottles. When purchasing plastic food containers or water bottles, look at plastic recycling codes.
    • Codes 1, 2, 4 and 5 refer to plastics that do not usually contain BPA or phthalate plasticizers.
    • Code 1 PETE, used for one-use water bottles, does not leach but should not be refilled and reused.
    • Codes 3 and 6 identify plastics that do contain BPA.
    • Code 7 includes polycarbonate, a BPA-containing plastic to avoid, as well as other plastics that may be safe.

That should cover your basic and more obvious plastic items that require cleaning, but we’ve also got some more tips and suggestions for how to clean other fixtures and appliances that contain plastic bits, such as your microwave or coffee maker.

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