How to Remove Food Smells And Stains From Plastic Containers?

Plastic containers are great for storing food; however, they tend to get stained easily and store smells from the food that was in them. We have researched ways to get rid of stains and smells that will keep your containers looking like they did the day you bought them.

There are several ways to remove stains and smells from plastic. Some of these ways are as follows: 

  • White Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Lemon
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Alka Seltzer Or Denture Tablets
  • Charcoal
  • Sunlight
  • Coffee Grounds

Now that you have some basic ideas of what to use, continue reading for more details on how to use each method and find out the answers to other questions you might have about cleaning storage containers.

Cropped view of woman holding plastic food container with corn, meat, fried eggs and salad isolated on yellow stock, How to Remove Food Smells And Stains From Plastic Containers?

Step-By-Step Methods For Removing Stains and Odor

Here is an easy to follow guide for each method.

White Vinegar

This method is useful to get rid of stains and strong smells, and hard water stains. To use this method, all you need is vinegar and water.

To use this method, simply soak your dish in equal parts of white vinegar to water. Let it sit for a couple of hours, then wash and dry the dish as normal. It might smell like vinegar for a bit, but this smell goes away after it dries.

Baking Soda

Like white vinegar, baking soda has dual-use, removing both smells and stains. However, you use it differently depending on whether you want to remove stains or smells.

For stain removal, you create a paste by adding water to the baking soda. Then you put the baking soda on the stains and let the container sit for a couple of hours. After it sits, clean the baking soda out with a clean cloth and then wash as normal.

If you want odor removal, you first rinse the container with cold water. This is important because hot water will set the smell. Next, fill the container with warm water and a tablespoon of baking soda. Put the lid on the container and let it sit overnight. The next morning when you wash it, there should be no smell.


This method is a little bit time consuming, but it is very effective. To remove stains, you rub lemon juice onto the stained container. Then you set it outside in the sun for 1-2 days.

To use lemon as a deodorizer, you can rub the container's inside with lemon juice or a slice of lemon. The citric acid in the lemon works to remove the odors.

Vanilla Extract

This one is purely to remove odors. If you rub vanilla extract on the inside of a smelly container, the vanilla's strong smell will make your container smell fresh.

Alka Seltzer Or Denture Tablets

For stubborn stains, you can use Alka Seltzer or denture tablets. These agents have stain removal chemicals that effectively remove even tough stains like tomato sauce.

For this method, all you need is Alka seltzer or denture tablets. You put 2 tablets in a container of water and let it sit overnight. The next day, wash it thoroughly.


For this method, you need to make sure the charcoal you get is natural and made without easy light additives or mesquite, as these additives are unsafe to use in food containers. This method is a deodorizing method only.

All you have to do for this method is put the charcoal in your container, put the lid on, and leave it alone for a day or two. When you open it up, the offending odor should be gone. If it isn't, you can leave the charcoal in there for longer or try one of the other methods.


Believe it or not, sunlight is an effective deodorizer. If you set your lids and containers in direct sunlight for a day, it will remove the odor.

Coffee Grounds

If you are looking for a way to recycle your old coffee grounds, you can use them to eliminate odors. Simply put them into the container, close the lid, and let them sit until the smell is gone. They will work whether they are wet or dry.

Can You Put Bleach In Tupperware?

Woman washing a plastic food storage container with a sponge in kitchen sink.

Bleach is a great deodorizer and cleaner. But is it safe to use in food containers? Yes, you can use bleach in Tupperware containers. However, you need to be careful about using it because incorrect use can make you sick. Plastic containers are very porous and can absorb the bleach if you use too much.

When using bleach in your Tupperware, it is important to only use 1 tablespoon of bleach per 1 cup of water. Only let it soak for an hour or two, and be sure to rinse all the bleach out and then wash your container thoroughly.

How Do You Whiten Yellowed Plastic?

Two methods work to whiten yellowed plastic. One method involves bleaching the container, and the other method involves using hydrogen peroxide.

Bleach Method

First, fill the sink with 8:1 water to bleach ratio. Next, put on some gloves and submerge the plastic in the bleach. Leave it to soak until the plastic is white again. When it is the desired color, remove it from the bleach bath and wash it with soap and water.

Peroxide Method

If you would rather use hydrogen peroxide, here's how to do that method. You will need a separate container that can fit your plastic container as well as hydrogen peroxide.

Simply pour straight peroxide into your container and then submerge your yellowed plastic in the peroxide. Set it in the sunlight until it is no longer yellowed.

Can You Clean Plastic Containers With Sugar?

While this may seem strange, you can actually clean your containers using sugar! This is another method that can be used to remove stains. Here's how it works.

First, you put sugar into your container and pour dish soap on top of the sugar. Then you put ice and water in the container and leave it to sit for a while. When the stain is gone, all you have to do is wash out the container, and it's ready for use.

How Do You Get Spaghetti Sauce Stains Out Of Containers?

One of the most common plastic container stains is a tomato or spaghetti sauce stain. Here are some of the best ways to get rid of these stubborn stains and prevent them in the first place.

The easiest way to get a stain out is to prevent it from happening in the first place. It is best to store tomato-based products in a glass jar or ceramic container. These containers are less porous and won't get stained in the first place.

Some of the methods to get a tomato-based stain out we already talked about in detail above. Baking soda and vinegar work wonders to get these stains out. Some methods we didn't discuss above are rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, salt, and dishwasher soap designed to remove stains.

Please note that if you have microwaved your container, you most likely won't be able to get a tomato stain out of your container. This is because the heat from the microwave has set the stain, and it will have become part of your container's structure.

Rubbing Alcohol and Hand Sanitizer

You can use rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer to get out really tough stains like coffee, tomato, and most types of food dyes.

Usually, the stain comes out quickly after applying the rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer to the container and immediately using water to rinse it out. However, if this process doesn't remove the stain, you can put the alcohol in the container and let it sit for a bit.  Because rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer isn't edible, make sure you always wash and rinse your container thoroughly when using this method.


This method involves a clean rag, salt, and elbow grease. It is extremely simple. First, get a clean cloth wet with warm water and pour salt onto the rag. Then scrub your container until the stain comes out.

Stain Removing Agents

Another easy choice to remove stains is to get a dishwasher detergent that is formulated to remove stains. Some examples of these kinds of soaps are Cascade Plastic Booster and Dawn Power Dissolver.

To use this method, you simply soak your containers in a sink filled with water and soap or put them in the dishwasher for a cycle.

How Do You Get Onion Smell Out Of Your Containers?

Onion is a difficult smell to get rid of. Therefore, it takes a combination of different methods to eliminate.

First, sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of your container, then fill the container half full of white vinegar. Next, fill it the rest of the way with warm water and let it sit for several hours.

While you are soaking the container, you will also need to soak the lid. Make the soaking solution with equal parts of hot water and white vinegar with a tablespoon of baking soda. The lid will also need to sit in the solution for several hours.

Once the lid and container have been sitting for multiple hours, rinse and wash them thoroughly. Check to be sure the odor is gone. Repeat this process as much as is necessary to eliminate the smell.

What Is The Best Cleaner For Plastic?

When looking for a plastic cleaner, you want to use a non-abrasive, all-purpose cleaner. Here are highly rated product ideas to help you understand what to look for.

Cascade Platinum

This soap works great for cleaning plastic containers, as well as eliminating stains and odors.

Click here to see it on Amazon!

Dawn Power Dissolver

Dawn Power Dissolver can be sprayed directly onto your dishes to clean baked-on foods without needing to be scrubbed.

Click here to check it out on Amazon!

Novus Plastic Clean And Shine

This product is nonabrasive and great for cleaning plastic windshields and acrylic products.

To see it on Amazon, click here!

Formula .420

Formula 420 is a non-toxic and biodegradable product that works on plastic and silicone.

Click here to check it out on Amazon!

Final Thoughts

After reading this, you now know there are several different ways to remove stains and smells from plastic. Some of these methods include lemon juice, baking soda, and white vinegar. We also talked about using glass and ceramic containers when storing tomato products to prevent staining.

In addition to that, we covered how to whiten yellowed plastics and get the strong odor of onion out of your plasticware. If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also enjoy these other posts on this blog.

Are Plastic Food Containers Dishwasher Safe?

Is It Better To Store Food In Plastic, Glass, Or Stainless Steel?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *