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Getting odors out of tupperware/plastic containers?

  • f

What's the best way to get smells out of plastic storage containers? Despite my constant scrubbing and frequent washing, my tupperware often retains the odors of the previously stored item.

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  1. I've seen the folks in my office catering department fill plastic containers with vinegar to remove odors.

    1. m
      Marion Morgenthal

      I've been told putting scrunched up newspaper in and sealing it up for a while removes odors--but I haven't tried it.

      1. I know it's a little too late, but for the future, if you spray the inside of the plastic container with cooking spray it will prevent the plastic from staining or getting smelly.

        1. Not sure if you've tried the dishwasher or a soak in very hot water and dishwasher (not dishwashing) detergent, but my dishwasher does a fine job on plastics.

          1. Sounds like newspapers, charcoal, or baking soda will help.

            Link: http://sneakykitchen.com/forum/tupp_s...

            1. The worst case scenario (finding the container in the back of my fridge with something foul and unidentifiable in it) was remedied by a good scrubbing with detergent (diswasher even better here), followed by filling it with a slug of chlorine bleach and the rest cold water. After a few days right side up, I flipped it. After a few more days, I drained and rinsed well. No more odor.

              4 Replies
              1. re: ironmom

                I can relate to your "worst case scenario"- I've had many of these. What in part makes these containers great is that they keep in odor but it's also what has led to many "science experiments" in our fridge. Like you, I've found bleach to really work. White vinegar has also worked but not as well. Since you mentioned using a dishwasher, I thought I'd note that since we got a new dishwasher a couple of years ago, we've had virtually no problems keeping our plastic containers clean and odor free. I haven't figured out why that is
                since our last dishwasher did a fine job with dishes.

                1. re: ironmom

                  Ironmom;
                  I'll bet it is an ingredient in the dishwasher detergent you are using, rather than the washer itself.

                  My problem is getting rid of the odor which accompanies food containers from China. I've tried baking soda (no good). I'll try vinegar net.

                  1. re: jascannon

                    We have the same problem with food containers from India. Our solution is to leave it out in the sun, and it has always worked for us.

                    1. re: pmody

                      After keeping it in sun, also it is not working out for me. It removes the stains (yellow most Indian food use termeric) However I am getting very bad odor from my tupperware box. Suggets what we can do for this

                2. FML,
                  i cook a lot with curry, hence the orange/yellow stains in the Tupperware. I add white vinegar to my dish washing liquid, and for tougher stains scrub the plastic boxes with salt, then wash with the vinegar liquid.
                  good luck

                  1. soak overnight in weak warm water/bleach solution. repeat if necessary.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: soupkitten

                      Vanilla extract and water........allow to soak overnight ....rinse....depending on how strong the odor is will mandate to amount of vanilla you use.....the vanilla smell will disipate rapidly after rinseing.

                      1. re: Saddleoflamb

                        Vanilla extract. ... I don't dilute mine though.

                        Use your fingers to spread it on so you don't waste any on a tissue or sponge.

                        1. re: Saddleoflamb

                          I'm going to try this if the sugar doesn't work.

                      2. After washing the container well, make a paste with baking soda and water, and coat the entire inside of the container. Leave set for a day or two, then wash again. If it's still not gone, do it again. That works for me on my worst science experiments.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: revsharkie

                          Y'know, this is what I do except I don't add water, I just use baking soda.

                          Sprinkle baking soda. Cover lid. Shake. Leave overnight. Empty and rinse. Voila, no odors.

                        2. It may be too late for this, but it also helps if you don't use a scrubbing sponge/cleanser that scratches the plastic. Scratches trap particles of food and can be unhygienic. I might try the newspaper trick though!

                          1. I have two 1970s-era white Tupperware containers that I haven't used in quite awhile that have a nasty plastic odor on the inside. I've tried airing them out, both indoors and outdoors, and crumpling up newspaper and putting the lid on for weeks with no luck. I'll try the baking soda next; I'm about ready to give up on them. BTW, I called Tupperware thinking that they might replace them, but they won't. Guess their so-called "Lifetime Guarantee" doesn't mean much, huh?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: kathyw1

                              Please be aware that Tupperware® Brand products are warranted by Tupperware against chipping, cracking, breaking or peeling under normal non-commercial use for the lifetime of the product. Your problem is a smell, not the defect of the Tupperware.

                              1. re: dianeludwig

                                And if you put a teaspoon or so of baking sofa in and fill with water, stir it up, put the lid on, and leave for a couple hours or overnight, and then wash it out you will have no more smell. I've successfully gotten rid of smells in all plastic and nalgene containers using this method. It hasn't failed yet. All new hyper plastic smells, all musty old plastic smells, all previous food/beverage smells.

                                1. re: TeRReT

                                  I tried this and unfortunately it didn't work. I have a tupperware spice container that had Cloves in it and I want to change it up for Thyme but would like to get rid of the smell first.

                            2. I have never been able get odors out of tw. I have an acute sense of smell so that may b part of it. And i hate the plastic smell even more than the food smell. I've been able to remove the food smell by soaking in hot soapy water or even a miniscule amount of bleach (if stained). So the plastic takes on the odor of soap,etc I bought two sets of glassware at costco a couple of years ago. I use them so much and they're so easy to clean. Plastic is just nasty. It leaches into food.

                              1. When my wife isn't looking, I throw them out.

                                5 Replies
                                  1. re: bobbert

                                    If you use glass containers (yes, I hoard glass) you won't have this problem, and you will be able to recycle over and over.

                                    1. re: The 1st and only KSyrahSyrah

                                      I do too in addition. At some point i do have to recycle them since i only havd so much room in my kitchen. Some lids get rusty too. If a product is sold in glass container i try to buy it if it's within my budget rather than plastic

                                      1. re: The 1st and only KSyrahSyrah

                                        I suppose they do make glass containers to store cookies, breads, etc. but not only are they heavier, but if they are dropped on a tile floor it would be very difficult to clean up all that glass and splinters.

                                        1. re: kathyw1

                                          I have a tile floor and am a glass advocate. In 25 years we've dropped amazingly few breakables on our floor. Perhaps after dropping ONE glass jar on the floor, we became very determined not to do it again!! ha

                                    2. one of my tupperware containers smells very... fusty. I don't even know how to describe it.... sort of plasticy combined with old vegetable oil I guess. It's the one I usually use for marinating meats - with the bumps inside the 2 halves. it.smells.gross. even tho I rinsed then ran thru the dishwasher every time I used it.
                                      I'll have to try some of these solutions!

                                      1. I find that the hard plastic storage containers don't stain or absorb odors as much as the softer plastic (tupperware) containers. that being said I have noticed that the dishwasher does the better job than handwashing, I assume the higher temp water does the trick.

                                        1. I believe I may have stumbled onto a good solution here: sugar!

                                          We had some soup, you see. It was in an airtight plastic container (Snapware) in the fridge and was forgotten. Then there was a power outtage...

                                          Anyway, I've tried everything discussed here plus some others, such as coffee, to remove the terrible rotten smell. Some things helped a little, but once it was closed back up for a while it would stink again when opened.

                                          I basically gave up and was about to throw it out, but I had an extra half-bag of granulated sugar with no place to put it, so I put it in the stinker...

                                          Voila! I now have stinky sugar and a sweet smelling plastic container! Actually, the plastic smells like nothing at all. I have transferred the sugar to another container to confirm. What's more, the sugar doesn't seem to be otherwise affected at all. Certainly not at all detectable when used in my morning coffee.

                                          Sugar's cheap... Give it a try!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: DrSlaw

                                            How long do you think it has to sit for the odor to be gone?

                                            1. Fill with water, dishwashing liquid, baking soda, and a little bleach; put the lid on, shake, and leave overnight.
                                              If the smell is from garlic, do the above and add used coffee grounds.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Michelly

                                                Be very cautious when mixing bleach with any dishwashing liquid - make sure that it does not contain ammonia. It is toxic.

                                              2. I am going to share the secret with everyone to finally GETTING RID OF THE ODORS IN YOUR PLASTIC AS WELL AS FAVORITE TUPPERWARE CONTAINERS. -
                                                First, wash the item well with soapy water & rinse (remember that cool water will 'close the pores' in the plastic). After washing it, dry the container an lid thoroughly, crumble up some newspaper, place it into the container, close it tight and stash it someplace for a couple of days. When you finally open the container to toss out the paper inside, you will find that the carbon in the newspaper has absorbed the stinky smell. I have been using this trick for years. Newspaper has a lot of home uses. I recently discovered that when I clean out my kitty's litterbox, I wrap the soiled litter in several sheets of newspaper before I toss it in the trash and this keeps the waste from stinking out my garbage pail. Try it. - I promise it works!

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Selanny

                                                  I'm going to try this. It's about the only thing I haven't tried.

                                                  1. re: Selanny

                                                    Nope, doesn't work. I had stored some granola bars in a Tupperware container. As they passed their expiration date, my husband swore he would eat them. Every time I would offer to throw them away, he said to keep them. After a year past the date, I finally quit asking and just tossed them. The container smelled like that disgusting odor vegetable oil gets when it goes rancid. I literally left baking soda in in for months. Didn't phase it. So I tried the newspaper trick. I left it in for about 3 days. I opened in and thought, "Wow it really does work!" The next day I smelled it and the odor was back - not as bad but bad enough I won't put food in it. I also tried in another container for a week. Same result. Still searching for an answer that really works....

                                                    1. re: GeriS

                                                      Mild bleach/water mixture: 1 part plain bleach to 4 parts water. Fill container and cover. Leave overnight. If you want to be very thrifty, use the bleach/water mixture to disinfect sponges, cloths etc. Rinse well. If problem persists treat again.

                                                      DO NOT MIX BLEACH w/ANY THING CONTAINING AMMONNIA.

                                                      Bleach destroys organic molecules (food particles) that decompose and cause smells. Ammonia is a similar disinfectant but not nearly as destructive to bacteria as chlorine bleach.

                                                      DO NOT MIX THEM or even use on the same surface at the same time.

                                                      Bleach, vinegar, baking soda and ammonia are much more effective than all the anti-bacterial things sold and are safe when used correctly. Saves $ too
                                                      Bacteria cannot develop 'resistance' to bleach.
                                                      good luck.

                                                  2. stick a page of newspaper in and leave it for a few days. the carbon from the newspaper will suck the odor.

                                                    1. We stored some funky stuff in some of our Snapware containers and totally ruined the taste of some yogurt that went in later. My brilliant husband decided to try 20 Mule Team Borax just on a whim and in less than an hour of soaking, the odor was gone! He mixed a 1/4 cup of Borax in a large mixing bowl, set the lid to the container on the bottom of the bowl, placed the container in the bowl, right side up, and let it fill up with the solution. Two hours later, he took it out and the smell was gone. He did the same thing on the second container, except he took it out after an hour and that was long enough.