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How To Remove Stains from Plastic Dishes

Updated on October 20, 2011
New set of Tupperware sans stains
New set of Tupperware sans stains

Remove Plastic Stains

Like me you probably have had a favorite piece of Tupperware or other plastic type dish get ruined with that nasty red tomato stain that wont go away. You probably stored some homemade sauce in the container and even though you wash it, and even though you soak it, that stubborn stain just wont go away. With those cheapie glad containers and lids who cares as you can always replace those in the supermarket. But when it is the very nice plastic dish or some piece of vintage Tupperware handed down from Aunt Ethel, getting it fresh looking is the goal.

Read on as there is a sure fire way to get rid of these stubborn plastic stains.

Why Do Tomatoes Stain Plastic

The reason that tomatoes stain plastic dishes and such is that in the fruit there is a chemical that gives them their beautiful red color: Lycopene. Funny when I was a kid in high school I never really paid attention in my organic chemistry class. Who knew that when we learned about chemical reactions these tips were going to help us when we became moms!

Here is the scientific reason that tomatoes stain according to Wikipedia;

"lycopene diffuses into plastic, making it impossible to remove with hot water or detergent. If lycopene is oxidized (for example, by reacting with bleaches or acids), the double bonds between the carbon atoms will be broken; cleaving the molecule, breaking the conjugated double bond system, and eliminating the chromophore."

Plastic dish stained with tomato sauce
Plastic dish stained with tomato sauce

Stain Prevention Tip

Tomato Stains Plastic

If you want to prevent tomato sauce stains on plastic, start by spraying your Tupperware with a nonstick cooking spray like Pam. Do this before pouring in tomato-based sauces. You will notice that there are no more stains, or at the very best a slight coloration. In time the oil will set into the plastic but the first few times you will definitely see some hue. The principle behind coating the plastic is that this thin layer of oil will prevent the sauces from sticking on the side of the container. Simple, isn't it?

Anyway that is prevention, now onto how to revive your favorite dish.

Lemons - great to disinfect, remove stains and they simply smell wonderful!
Lemons - great to disinfect, remove stains and they simply smell wonderful!

Lemon Cleanser Tip

Warm your lemons in the microwave before squeezing them for juice, you will get much more juice from the lemons.

Lemons for Stain Removal

Refresh and Remove Stains with Citrus

This one is simple unless you live in NYC and it is winter. Lol even if you live on the east coast in an apartment this one may be tough and for you, and therefore you will have to read on. But for those of you who ar lucky to have the open air living and lots of sunshine this is a great tip. All you need to do is simply cut a lemon in half and rub the cut side over the stains on the plastic. Make sure that some of the juice is squeezed on to the stained plastic as well. Then allow to dry in the sun for 4-8 hours, and then wash with some dish detergent. If you see any trace of red try adding a little baking soda for a little extra muscle. Must admit that one is a pretty good tip for the next time your famous chili turns your tupperware all kinds of red.

If you dont have the benefit of the sun try this:

FIll the plastic container with about half filled with water. Add a few drops of lemon juice and mix together. The darker the stain the more lemon juice. Then set in the microwave for a few seconds.

use baking soda for hard to remove stains on plastic containers
use baking soda for hard to remove stains on plastic containers

Stain Removal Tip Using Sodium Bicarbonate

Next time you splatter yourself and your favorite new blouse with some oily stain quickly get your box of baking soda out from the refrigerator (you know you have one there, everyone does!) and cover the stain and I mean cover it with a mountain of the stuff. Let it sit on the stain for at least 12 hours. You want all the oil to be seeped up into the powder. If you still see the outline of the oil repeat application of the sodium bicarbonate. This treatment works like a gem but sometimes you have to keep your patience.

My White Vinegar mix with water and my bottle of Dr Briggs Apple Cider Vinegar -
My White Vinegar mix with water and my bottle of Dr Briggs Apple Cider Vinegar -

Baking Soda

Use Baking Soda to Remove Stains
I am always fascinated at the many uses for Baking soda. There are so many ways to put this powdery item to use all around the house. One of my favorite and most satisfying uses for baking soda is putting this powerful stain removal tool on the nasty stains on plastic containers. Next time you need to remove a stain on your plastic Tupperware try sprinkling baking soda all around and let it soak before scrubbing it with a damp cloth or sponge. All but the toughest stains will do a disappearing act right before your eyes.


Clean Containers With White Vinegar
When it comes to using Vinegar the uses are unlimited. From the kitchen to the bathroom to health and even to beauty and skincare. But here we will limit the many uses of Vinegar to stains!
Like baking soda, white vinegar has so many different purposes around a home. Vinegar has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the toughest available solutions for so many things. You can use vinegar to remove tough stains from your plastic food storage containers and it is one of my favorites. Simply create a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water in the container. I also add a few drops of Dawn liquid. It just seems to add that extra boost when fighting these stains. Allow the vinegar and water mixture to sit in the container for at least thirty minutes, and then rinse with cold water. Most stains will disappear following this procedure, and it will remove any bad smell that has accumulated. Ah the many wonders of vinegar. Cleans, deordorizes and cuts through unruly stains.

Denture Cleanser To Remove Stains

Cut Stains with a Fizzy Tab

Some say this option works though I must admit I have tried it to no avail. Take a couple of denture tabs. They act like vinegar and baking soda together where when added together they make an explosion like a volcano. (They say to make sure you use an effervescent (fizzy tab) denture cleaner for this to work best) Then walk away for a couple of hours and when you come back the stains will hopefully be removed.

Buy New Tupperware

Refresh Your Plastic Dish Collection

If your plastic food storage containers are still stained after trying all three of these cleaning tips, it’s likely that it’s time for you to buy some new Tupperware. Aunt Ethel may be somewhat upset that after all these years her favorite handed down plastic container has met its final destination in the trash so buying some new plastic dishes to hold your leftovers and other food items may be the only solution.

After all your tupperware and dishes have served you well over the years a new set will last just as long or even longer if you follow my cleaning advice above. Tupperware and other plastic dishes are inexpensive and last for years they are an investment that pay you back every time you eat a sandwich or a piece of fruit that you stored in them.

Tupperware is great and in the last 10 years Rubbermaid has entered the food container market. They are a great option and have so many different combos of sets, that if you own one of these you will never be at a loss for what to store leftovers in. And with the holidays coming up, one can never have enough of these.


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    • wavegirl22 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from New York, NY

      Robin - so glad I reminded you of the wonders of lemons! Amazing the things we know and sometimes file them away. Sometimes writing a hub is just what the file cabinet needs up in the memory bank!!!

    • katrinasui profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for sharing these useful tips.

    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      This is one of my favorite Hubs that you have written because it's incredibly useful to me! I've got some cleaning to do as we're a big pasta family and I have a few bad stains on my tupperware! I had forgotten about warming up the lemon to get more juice; I always roll the lemon back and forth on the counter top to loosen up the juice as well. Wonderful tips!

    • Karen N profile image

      Karen N 

      7 years ago from United States

      Very helpful, I've always hated the tomato stains on my tupperware.

    • wavegirl22 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from New York, NY

      drbj - I bet if Rubbermaid and Tupperware took this advice and put it on their own sites their fan base would grow and take away from the cheap Glad ones! For me I use both - depending if I am giving the plastic dish to someone (knowing they will never return it) And I always and I mean always have a bottle of vinegar close by!!!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      7 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Awesome tips! I use Tupperware all the time and get frustrated by those stubborn stains. I will give some of these strategies a try. Thanks!

    • wavegirl22 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from New York, NY

      livelonger - thanks for that Clearasil stain removing tip. In all my days I never heard of that but I certainly am going to try it! Makes sense as the benzoyl peroxide is a kind of bleach . . and I know Clorax works I just hate using straight clorox on anything....seems to always somehow get on places I dont want it - and then I end up with some Clorox disaster!!! Ill let you know how I make out with the Clearasil.

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 

      7 years ago

      Dear WaveGirl ~ Thank you for using biodegradeable and healthful substances like baking soda, lemon, and vinegar as cleaning agents. My only comment to friends and family is to trash the plastics. Please read my hubpages called, "Canada Decides To Ban Bisphenol A Found In Plastic As Hazardous To Health" because it explains [like your science class] the harmful effects to life and environment of these products. Blessings, Debby

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      I'm bookmarking this valuable information, Shari, so it will be available the next time I attempt to clean a tomato-sauce-infiltrated plastic container. Watch your back though, my dear, Tupperware and Rubbermaid may have you on their hit list for discouraging resales of ther products.

    • wavegirl22 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from New York, NY

      Maralexa - its hard to part with some of my better Tupperware and now with some help in the kitchen with such good 'green' items they are sparkling clean!

    • wavegirl22 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from New York, NY

      Honestly as long as the cleaning tips involve my favorite Vinegar ;) Stains and getting rid of them is always tops on my list!

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Great Hub. I actually have a tip that might be helpful for those really persistent orange/red lycopene stains in tupperware: Clearasil (or Oxy 10)! I had read a long time ago that the benzoyl peroxide in it is a type of bleach that can actually penetrate the plastic, and break down the lycopene. I've tried it, and it actually works!

    • Maralexa profile image

      Marilyn Alexander 

      7 years ago from Vancouver, Canada and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

      Extremely useful article, wavegirl22. Your greasy stain removal from good blouses is my favourite tip -- and yes, I will remember to be patient.

      I have a number of good (but stained) plastic wear storage containers that I will now clean with your tips and will feel better about continuing to use them.

      Up and useful, interesting, awesome.

    • jimmythejock profile image

      James Paterson 

      7 years ago from Scotland

      Hey Wave, you know your stuff, cleaning tupperware or plastic can be a nightmare, but your tips will help make one of the chores i hate a lot easier in the future.

      thanks.....jimmy 80)


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