What Should I Know About Cleaning Plastic?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 August 2019
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Cleaning plastic is something just about everyone has to do at one time or another. With plastic products ranging from storage containers to outdoor furniture to bathroom fixtures and accessories, knowing how to clean plastic is essential. If you are not sure how to clean plastic substances around your home, here are some tips that may help.

One of the basic rules to cleaning plastic is to never use abrasive cleaning products. Even hard plastic surfaces are easily scratched. This can ruin the finish on the plastic and leave the item looking worn. Stay away from steel wool pads, powdered cleaners with abrasive qualities, or harsh detergents. Instead, use sponges, soft cloths, and mild detergents when cleaning plastic.

While cleaners in aerosol cans are convenient, they are not always the best option when it comes to cleaning plastic. Many people assume that glass cleaner in a can or spray bottle is safe to use on plastic shower stalls or toilet seats. While the damage may not be immediately visible, aerosol can products developed for cleaning glass or wood will sometimes cause the plastic to begin pitting. Over time, this will leave the fixture with a mottled appearance that doesn’t appear to be clean no matter how hard you scrub.


One of the problems with cleaning plastic food containers is that they sometimes absorb some of the coloring of the food stored in them. For example, a plastic storage container may have a reddish tinge after being used to store spaghetti sauce. When this is the case, it is important to use a gentle cleaner that is considered safe for plastic. As part of the plastic stain removal process, allow the container to soak in a mixture of warm water and cleaner, then wash the container thoroughly with a mild dish detergent. If the plastic is dishwasher safe, you can run it through the dishwasher two or more times until the stain is removed.

When cleaning plastic, make it a point to use plastic cleaner products that are right for the type of plastic you are cleaning. Keep in mind that a formula that is ideal for cleaning the resin table and chairs on the patio may not be the best option for cleaning a plastic rain poncho. Pay close attention to the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions and only use plastic cleaners that are recommended for the type of plastic you wish to clean. While this seems like a lot of trouble on the front end, this simple precaution will help prolong the life of your plastic items while also helping them appear new and fresh for a longer period of time.


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Post 3

You could use a stick and a cloth to reach the bottom.

Post 2

Fill it with water to the top, add a 1/4 cup or less of Clorox. Let it stand overnight and watch!

Post 1

Does anyone know how to clean a plastic water container that is 1 1\2" deep, 12" long and 8" wide. I can't find a bottle brush long enough to reach the bottom.

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