How to Clean and Whiten Yellowed Plastic: 7 Easy Methods is reader supported. This page uses affiliate links and when you click on an affiliate link, and make a purchase, we receive a small compensation at no cost to you. See our disclosure policy for more information.

Many of us have yellowed plastic in our homes, whether it’s the bathroom shower curtains, old toys, or even kitchen equipment. The best thing to do is to throw them away, right? Well, maybe not. It’s incredibly wasteful, not to mention environmentally unfriendly, considering the plastic is still functional. Don’t fret though, we’ve got you!

Here are 7 ways you can clean yellowed plastic back to its original color.

What causes plastic to yellow?

White plastic can turn yellow over time due to a chemical reaction that occurs when it is exposed to sunlight, oils, etc. However, there are a few different ways you can get rid of this discoloration. The method you choose depends on the size of the project and the tools you have available. Some methods are simple and cost-effective, while others can be a challenge for little payoff.

Cleaning plastic with soaking methods

1. Rubbing alcohol

If a plastic container has yellowing stains, you can use rubbing alcohol to clean it. Pour the rubbing alcohol into the container and let it sit for a few minutes. If the container can’t hold liquid, pour the rubbing alcohol into a separate container and put the plastic container inside. To ensure that the piece is free from any alcohol, rinse it under the tap with water afterward.

When you’re trying to keep your plastic items clean and sanitary, you’ve got a few options: bleach and vinegar. Bleach is much more effective (and way stronger) than vinegar and can be used to tackle stubborn stains and odors but it also requires you to wear protective gear and follow safety precautions, which is often difficult to remember when you’re busy doing other things.

If you want to remove a stain from plastic, just mix together 1 part white vinegar and 3 parts water. Dump the solution over the stain until it sinks in. If the plastic can’t hold liquids, pour the solution into a bowl and submerge the item. After a few hours, wash as usual and leave to dry.

2. Hydrogen peroxide

Coat the yellowed plastic in hydrogen peroxide using this simple process: put the plastic in a plastic bag with enough hydrogen peroxide to cover it entirely (ability to submerge depends on the size of the object), and leave it in direct sunlight for three to four hours. Rinse off the solution with clean water, and you’ll be left with a brand-new product that looks like it came straight out of the box.

3. Alka Seltzer tabs

If you have white plastic containers that have become stained from repeated use, a simple way to reduce discoloration is by soaking the containers in a mixture of hot water and denture tablets.

  1. Place the denture tablets into a bowl of hot water to let them dissolve.
  2. Once dissolved, pour the mixture into or onto the stained containers and allow them to sit for about half an hour.
  3. Rinse the containers with soap and water.

Rinse the plastic thoroughly to remove the liquid — be sure there is no soap or food residue left on the item. Once you’ve removed the stain, use clean running water to rinse the liquid off of the plastic. Be sure to use warm water and pour it over the area of contact. You can also use soap if desired.

If you’re not getting the right results, try a different solution. If you’re using a liquid, you can dry rub your stain instead. This can be more effective with stubborn stains.

Cleaning plastic with scrubbing methods

1. Salt

Put some salt on your stain with a damp cloth to start rubbing off the mark. Soak up water with a cloth or towel and sprinkle it with some salt. Rub the salt into the plastic along the stain to remove it. Keep rubbing until you see the spot disappear with your own eyes.

2. Baking soda

One of the best ways to remove yellowed plastic is by using a baking soda paste. Create a baking soda paste and apply it to the yellowed plastic. Mix water and baking soda in a cup or similar container until the solution forms a paste, then apply it to the plastic and let it sit for several hours. Scrub the paste off with a sponge or rag, then rinse well.

3. Lemon Juice and Sunlight

Sunlight is as good as a lemon at removing the yellow from plastic. First, take a fresh lemon and cut it in half. Then rub both halves over the affected plastic, leaving the juice to do its work. Set it outside for several hours, or ideally an entire day; during that time, the sun will help remove the yellow stains.

Wash your plastic with warm water and soap or use an all-purpose cleaning solution to completely remove any residue that may have accumulated on the outside of the cup. If you can’t get rid of stains after using this guide, try using a gentle abrasive with water to make them disappear.

How to whiten plastic further

First, test the bleach out on a small section of plastic before covering it entirely. This is to make sure that the bleach doesn’t harm the plastic in any way. Once you’re confident that it won’t, try using it as a whitening product for your plastic.

To whiten plastic, wipe the surface of the plastic with a bleach solution. To make the solution, mix 1 tablespoon of bleach per 1 cup of water. To prevent discoloration on your skin, wear latex gloves when you handle the bleach. Use an old toothbrush to scrub the bleach into the plastic until it’s clean. Rinse thoroughly with soap and water after you’re done bleaching.

Keep plastic looking new!

Now you can restore the look of your appliances, sinks, and tubs by getting rid of ugly yellow stains. Trusted brands like Clorox bleach are formulated to get rid of stubborn yellow stains — and we’ve tested it ourselves for yellowing — which means we know they work.

So, don’t throw out those old plastic toys and small appliances! Restore their shine with a few simple household items and some clean-up time. This guide presents the easiest ways to clean yellowed plastic and restore its shine without scratching or harming its surface. Just follow these easy steps and methods and your plastic will look like new for years to come.