How To Clean And Whiten Yellowed Plastic: 7 Easy Methods
Plastic containers are a part of any household, whether you take your lunch to work, maybe your kids play with plastic toys or in your shower curtains, there’s bound to be some plastic in your home.
The tricky part is when this plastic gets those inevitable yellow stains that are so common in plastics.
They can be really tricky to get out and cause a lot of frustration, especially if the staining is in areas that are really prominent in your home!
You might be thinking to yourself that the best plan of action is to simply throw away any stained items and replace them with brand new ones, right?
But this is exactly what we want to try and avoid!
Not only is this very costly, as you will spend more and more money on items that will inevitably become stained again but landfills are filled with tons of plastics each year and the only way to stop this waste is to reuse what we already have.
So, instead of throwing out that yellowed tupperware, let’s salvage it and make it look good as new!
In this article, we’ve got 7 really easy methods to help remove any yellowing or staining from your plastics!
Luckily, most of these tips will only require items you already have in your kitchen cupboards.
Remember, if one method doesn’t work, you can always try another as what works on one type of plastic, may not on another.
What Is Causing My Plastic To Turn Yellow?
Over a period of time, white plastic will turn yellow or take on a yellow tinge for a number of reasons.
The change is caused by a chemical reaction to a substance called Bromine in the plastics.
The factors that cause this reaction with Bromine can be things like sunlight, oils, food staining and other chemicals.
There are a few handy methods you can use to get rid of this annoying discoloration.
The best method for you will depend on the size of your yellowing problem and the tools at your disposal.
Some of the following methods may be a little more expensive or have a better pay off than others.
The Soaking Methods
If your plastic has yellowing stains on it, you can try out rubbing alcohol.
Simply pour the rubbing alcohol into your container and let it soak for a few minutes before pouring out and checking the results.
If you find that your container can’t hold liquid, you can always pour the rubbing alcohol into a seperate, bigger container and place the original inside.
After poring the alcohol away, ensure that you thoroughly rinse and clean the container so that no traces of the rubbing alcohol are left behind!
If you haven’t got any rubbing alcohol to hand you can always try the same method with bleach, coat the container in some undiluted bleach and again, let sit for a few minutes.
When working with bleach it is important to remember to follow safety precautions, such as using bleach in a well ventilated area, wearing gloves and other protective clothing and making sure you do not get any in your eyes or on your skin!
Bleach is a much stronger chemical and is usually more effective.
If you prefer using a chemical that is not as harsh, you can try vinegar instead.
Pour 1 part distilled white vinegar and 2 parts water into the container and let it soak, ideally for a few hours as the mixture is not as strong.
Afterwards, make sure to thoroughly clean and rinse your container with water/soap.
If you’re looking for a much stronger chemical method, you can use hydrogen peroxide to whiten any yellowing.
To use this method, fill a strong plastic bag with enough hydrogen peroxide to cover your container and place the container inside.
Make sure that it is tightly sealed as you don’t want any leaking! Now leave the container and mixture in direct sunlight for 3-4 hours, this is to activate the peroxide and bleach the stains out.
Make sure the peroxide solution is completely rinsed off afterwards and you should have a container that looks brand new!
A simpler way to reduce the discoloration of your plastic containers is by using alka seltzer tablets or denture tablets!
To do this you will need to first dissolve your denture tablet in a bowl of hot water.
Once fully dissolved, pour the mixture into your stained container and allow it to soak for around half an hour.
Finally, rinse the container out and check the results.
The Scrubbing Methods
To achieve the best results using salt, you will need to place a good amount of salt on your stain with a damp cloth and begin rubbing vigorously.
Make sure that you soak up plenty of water and use a healthy amount of salt as you will need a rough texture to really scrub the stain away.
Keep rubbing at the stain until it has completely disappeared.
It is worth noting that the coarse texture of the salt can leave scratch marks on some plastics so it might be wise to do a test patch before proceeding.
One of the best methods to use is a simple paste using baking soda.
You can create this paste by mixing baking soda and a little water in a cup until the mixture has a thick, paste consistency.
Once you have your paste, apply it to any stained areas on your container and allow it to sit for several hours.
Once it has sat, you can scrub the paste off with a cloth or rag and rinse well.
This method will require a fresh lemon and a sunny day! Take a fresh lemon and cut it in half, rub and squeeze both halves on the affected areas of plastic, letting the acidic juice do its work.
Once sufficiently coated, leave the container outside in direct sunlight for several hours or ideally, all day.
During this time, the mixture of lemon juice and sunlight should bleach any stains from the plastic.
Always note that while sunlight is necessary for this method, extreme heat conditions may warp or damage plastic if left for long periods of time, so keep an eye on your container while it sits outside!
How To Prevent Yellow Staining
There are a few things you can do to prevent yellowing from happening in the first place.
For example, Keeping your plastic containers in a cupboard, away from sunlight.
The main cause of yellowing is exposure to sunlight, so this is your best chance of preventing that from happening!
Regularly cleaning your tupperware with a thin mixture of bleach and water can help to prevent build up and stop yellow stains from forming.
Finally, making sure you clean containers straight after use, letting food sit in a container means the plastic may absorb the oils and colourings from certain foods and can cause staining!
Some Final Thoughts
There are many methods to help clean and whiten yellowed plastic and remove stubborn yellow stains but it’s important that with the methods that require harsh chemicals, like bleach, hydrogen peroxide or lemon juice, that you’re making sure you follow any safety advice regarding that specific chemical.
Be especially careful not to get any chemical in your eyes, on your skin and make sure that it is not ingested! If any of these occur, please seek medical attention.
It is also a good idea to do a test patch of the chemical or mixture you are using on a smaller area of the container before applying all over.
This will help to prevent harsh chemicals from reacting with the plastic and damaging your container rather than removing stains!
Reno addict, keen gardener, and baker. I started blogging in 2012 and have been hooked ever since!