how to clean plastic Tupperware containers so they look and smell like new
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Need to know how to clean plastic or Tupperware containers? It’s simple, really.

Plastic storage containers are a smart investment if you do a lot of cooking. They’re inexpensive, come in sets that offer a wide variety of stackable sizes, and are microwave- and dishwasher-safe.

They’re particularly handy for storing big batch meals such as chili, curry, and stew, ensuring you have leftovers to last a week and granting you a well-earned break from cooking (not to mention constantly washing dishes).

Related Reading: These Make-Ahead Freezer Meals Are Great for Weeknights

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But all good things must come to an end, and unfortunately after your eats have been fully consumed, it’s time to give your container a scrub. Hot water and dish soap are up to the task with other materials, but when it comes to plastic, they just aren’t enough to erase the aroma of the previous residents, particularly if they were prepared with potent spices and sauces. Even something relatively innocuous like cut pineapple can leave its mark (I experienced this first hand when my wife’s spectacular mushroom risotto took a tropical turn after an overnight stay in our Tupperware).  


Dishwashers can be the hero here but finding space may be an issue. Plastics should be relegated to the top shelf because close contact with the heating element on the bottom of the machine will cause harmful chemicals to leach. This often results in a frustrating game of dishwasher Tetris, particularly if you need to make room for those multi-quart storage containers that take up valuable real estate. And even after all that effort, your containers may still retain a lingering scent post-cleaning.

But before you start questioning whether it’s worth shelling out the extra money and clearing out space for glass containers, know that there is indeed an easy and non-mechanical way to get your Tupperware stain- and stank-free. To restore them to their former glory, simply enlist the help of two pantry staples: baking soda and white vinegar.

Related Reading: These Are the Essential Pantry Staples Every Cook Needs During Quarantine

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Remember that elementary school science fair papier-mâché “volcano” experiment? Baking soda has base pH levels and vinegar has acidic pH levels, and when combined, you get quite a reaction. As a bonus, you might actually interest your kids in washing the dishes if you try this simple trick.

You’ll still want to use hot water and dish soap to get things started. But follow up with a light sprinkling of baking soda. That reacts with the acids remaining in the container and absorbs and neutralizes them, making it an effective odor eater. Then, white vinegar’s high acidity steps in to help loosen grease and remove stains.

Related Reading: What Is the Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder?

Another major benefit? Bacteria are not huge fans of vinegar or baking soda and when confronted by them are reduced to undetectable levels.

Just follow the seven simple steps below and your plastic containers will be good as new.

How To Clean Plastic Food Containers

1. Rinse the container thoroughly with hot water to remove any debris.

2. Sprinkle in a bit of baking soda, enough to form a paste to coat the container.

3. Scrub the paste with a coarse sponge.

4. Add a splash of vinegar. Behold the fizzy reaction.

5. Scrub the container a bit more to ensure the container is fully coated.

6. Fill the container with piping hot water and let it sit overnight.

7. The next day, scrub with hot water and dish soap.

Next Up:

How to Clean Your Dingy Baking Sheets So They Look Like New Again

Header image courtesy of Yagi Studio / Photodisc / Getty Images

David is a food and culture writer based in Los Angeles by way of New York City. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, CBS Local, Mashable, and Gawker.
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