How to Get Smells Out of Plastic: Effective Tips

How to Get Smells Out of Plastic?

To get smells out of plastic containers, there are several methods you can try.

Rubbing lemon on the inside of the container, filling it with scrunched up newspaper, and using a paste of baking soda and water to rub inside the container can all help eliminate odors.

Leaving the containers outside in the sun with the lids off, sealing them with charcoal for 24 hours, and washing with hot water, soap, and white vinegar are other effective approaches.

Remember that polypropylene, the material used in Tupperware and similar containers, is porous and can absorb smells, but there’s no need to throw away the container just because of a lingering scent.

Repeat these tips as needed to keep your plastic storage containers odor-free.

Key Points:

  • Rub lemon on the inside of the container
  • Fill with scrunched up newspaper
  • Use a paste of baking soda and water to rub inside
  • Leave containers outside in the sun with lids off
  • Seal containers with charcoal for 24 hours
  • Wash with hot water, soap, and white vinegar

Did You Know?

1. Did you know that exposing plastic to direct sunlight can help eliminate odors? Ultraviolet rays from the sun can break down odor-causing compounds and freshen up plastic items.
2. One surprising method to get rid of unpleasant smells from plastic is by using coffee grounds. Simply place the plastic item in a bag with coffee grounds overnight, and the coffee will help absorb the unwanted odors.
3. Vinegar, known for its versatility, can also be used to remove smells from plastic. Soak the plastic item in a vinegar and water solution for about 30 minutes, and then wash it thoroughly to get rid of any remaining vinegar smell.
4. To deodorize plastic containers, sprinkle a small amount of baking soda inside and let it sit for a few hours. Baking soda is excellent at absorbing odors, including those lingering in plastic.
5. Surprisingly, vodka can be an effective odor eliminator for plastic. Fill a spray bottle with vodka and spritz it onto the plastic surface. As the alcohol evaporates, it will take the odor with it, leaving the plastic smell-free.

Rubbing Lemon On Plastic Containers

One common method to remove odors from plastic storage containers is by rubbing lemon on the inside of the containers. Lemons are natural deodorizers and have a refreshing scent that can help eliminate unpleasant smells.

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To use this method, cut a lemon in half and squeeze the juice onto the interior surfaces of the plastic container. Rub the lemon halves against the plastic, ensuring that the juice is distributed evenly. Let the lemon juice sit in the container for at least 10 minutes before rinsing it out. This technique can be particularly effective for absorbing strong odors, such as those from garlic or onions.

However, while lemon juice can neutralize many smells, it may not completely eliminate stubborn odors. In such cases, it is best to try other methods in conjunction with the lemon juice treatment.

Filling With Newspaper

Another effective technique to remove unpleasant smells from plastic storage boxes is by filling the containers with scrunched up newspaper. Newspaper contains carbon that aids in absorbing odors and can help eliminate the smell from the container.

To use this method, crumple newspaper sheets and fill the plastic container with them until it is full. Close the lid tightly and let the container sit undisturbed for at least 24 hours. The newspaper will work to absorb the unwanted odors from the plastic. Afterward, remove the newspaper and discard it, ensuring that the container is thoroughly cleaned and rinsed.

Baking Soda Paste

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a versatile cleaning agent known for its ability to absorb odors. Creating a paste with baking soda and water can be an effective solution to eliminate stubborn smells from plastic containers.

To make the paste:

  • Mix a tablespoon of baking soda with a small amount of water until it forms a thick consistency.
  • Apply the paste to the interior of the container and scrub it using a sponge or cloth.
  • Allow the paste to sit for about 30 minutes.
  • Rinse the container thoroughly with water.

The baking soda will help neutralize and eliminate the odor, leaving your plastic container smelling fresh.

Tip: This method can also be used for removing odors from other household items such as refrigerators, trash cans, and cutting boards.

Sunning Plastic Containers

Another simple yet effective way to remove smells from plastic containers is by exposing them to sunlight. Sunning plastic containers can help the odors dissipate, leaving the containers odor-free.

To utilize this method, follow these steps:

  • Place the plastic containers outdoors in direct sunlight, ensuring that the lids are off.
  • Sunlight has natural deodorizing and anti-bacterial properties that can help eliminate smells.
  • Leave the containers outside for a few hours or even the entire day, allowing them to air out and bask in the sunlight.
  • Be cautious of leaving them out for too long, as excessive exposure to sunlight can cause plastic to become brittle over time.
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Note: Excessive exposure to sunlight can cause plastic to become brittle over time.

With these simple steps, you can effectively remove smells from your plastic containers and keep them clean and fresh.

Charcoal Odor Absorption

Charcoal is renowned for its odor-absorbing properties. Using charcoal can be an effective method to eliminate lingering smells from plastic storage containers.

To utilize this method, follow these steps:

  1. Place a few pieces of charcoal (activated charcoal or charcoal briquettes) into the plastic container.
  2. Seal the container tightly with its lid.
  3. Let it sit undisturbed for approximately 24 hours.
  4. The charcoal will absorb the odor molecules, leaving the plastic container fresh and odor-free.
  5. Afterward, thoroughly wash and rinse the container to remove any traces of charcoal.


Charcoal is a powerful odor absorber, but proper cleaning and washing are necessary to ensure the container is ready for future use.

Hot Water And Vinegar Wash

Washing plastic storage containers with a mixture of hot water, soap, and white vinegar is a popular and effective method for tackling persistent odors.

To effectively clean plastic storage containers and remove odors, follow these steps:

  • Rinse the plastic container with hot water to remove any loose debris.
  • Create a mixture of warm water, a small amount of dish soap, and a tablespoon of white vinegar.
  • Scrub the interior and exterior of the container using a sponge or cloth, paying extra attention to areas with noticeable odor.
  • Rinse the container thoroughly with hot water to remove any soap residue and vinegar smell.
  • Allow the container to air dry completely before use to prevent trapping moisture, which can lead to future odors.

Remember, the key to success is to thoroughly clean and dry the container, ensuring all traces of odor are eliminated.

  • Rinse the container with hot water
  • Create a mixture of warm water, dish soap, and white vinegar
  • Scrub the container inside and out
  • Rinse thoroughly with hot water
  • Air dry completely


Plastic storage containers, such as Tupperware, can easily absorb and retain odors from strong-smelling food. However, with these effective tips, it is possible to remove the smells and keep your containers odor-free. Whether you choose to rub lemon, use newspaper, create a baking soda paste, sun the containers, use charcoal, or wash with hot water and vinegar, it’s important to find the method that works best for you. Remember, these tips can be repeated as needed to ensure your plastic containers remain fresh and odorless for future use.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does vinegar remove odors from plastic?

Yes, vinegar can effectively remove odors from plastic. This natural remedy works by breaking down and neutralizing the odor-causing molecules. To begin, thoroughly clean your storage containers with hot water and soap. Next, fill them with white vinegar and let them sit for a few minutes, allowing the vinegar to penetrate and eliminate the odors. Finally, rinse the containers with hot water and soap again to ensure any remnants of the vinegar are removed, leaving your plastic storage containers odor-free.

Can plastic absorb smells?

Plastic is notorious for its ability to absorb smells due to its composition and porosity. The use of polypropylene, a porous type of plastic, in products like Tupperware and other reusable containers, contributes to this effect. These containers can retain the smell of the food stored inside them over time, as the plastic absorbs the scent and properties of the food, creating an olfactory memory that can linger even after thorough cleaning.

How do you get the smell out of plastic Tupperware?

One effective method to eliminate unpleasant odors from plastic Tupperware is by utilizing baking soda. Begin by adding a tablespoon of baking soda, adjusting the amount if necessary based on the size of the container or the intensity of the smell. Dampen the lid and sprinkle baking soda on it, allowing it to sit for approximately an hour. Afterward, rinse and wash the Tupperware as usual, and the odor should no longer be present, leaving you with fresh-smelling plastic containers.

Can smells stick to plastic?

Plastic has a tendency to absorb and retain odors, making it possible for smells to stick to it. While wiping down plastic with soap and water can often remove odors, if these smells have lingered for a long time, they may become ingrained and more difficult to eliminate. Furthermore, heat can actually set odors in plastic, making them harder to remove. So, while plastic can initially be easily cleaned of smells, it’s important to address odors promptly to prevent them from becoming long-lasting and pervasive.

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