I Tried the TikTok Hack for Cleaning Stained Plastic Containers — And I Have Some Thoughts

published Sep 27, 2022
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Draw dividers used to organize containers and lids

Of all the possible stains on a plastic food-storage container, tomato sauce is probably the worst. Here’s the problem: I almost always make way too much spaghetti, which I end up storing in the fridge and using for leftovers.

The pasta is so easy to heat up and enjoy the next day, but my plastic containers? Definitely not easy to clean. I don’t know about you, but I almost always end up with orange, greasy stains, even after lots of scrubbing. 

I found a potential cleaning solution on TikTok posted by @adikemplar, and of course I had to try it on a plastic container that had been discolored by tomato sauce. The gist is this: First, you put a bit of dish soap in the container with warm water, then you add a couple of torn-up pieces of paper towel. Top with the lid, seal well, and shake. The paper towel pieces are supposed to absorb the grease and discoloration when you shake the soapy mixture. 

The steps seemed super easy, and I had everything I needed on hand, so I got to work as soon as I found my dirty Tupperware. I squirted a bit of Dawn into the bottom of the container, filled it up about halfway with warm water, and then tore up one sheet of paper towel.

I put the lid on securely and shook the container over the sink. TikTok recommends 40 to 60 seconds, so I went for the full minute hoping for the best possible outcome. In the video, the creator pours out the soap and water, then rinses the container to reveal it’s completely clean.

Credit: Ashley Abramson
One of my stained plastic containers. Clearly, it's seen better days.

Unfortunately, I did not have the same experience. When I poured the soapy water mixture out, I could see right away the stain hadn’t budged, and it was still visible even after I rinsed it and wiped it out with a towel. Bummer!

I’m not the only one: Commenters on the viral TikTok noted their containers still looked dirty, too. One person wrote that maybe the results depended on how long the stain had been sitting there. I agreed, and wondered if my stain was too old (weeks or maybe even months!) for it to actually work.

Credit: Ashley Abramson
Trying the TikTok hack... without success.

My thoughts? This hack is worth a try, especially if your container is freshly stained. The key is to attack the stain as soon as it happens. Next time, I’ll try the hack as soon as the next stain appears, and hopefully it’ll work better.

And if it doesn’t? There are plenty of recommendations, including using the power of baking soda to gently scrub it out. Or better yet, stick to a trick Kitchn has already tested in one of our popular cleaning showdowns: Use hand sanitizer to cover the stain, and let it sit for 45 minutes. Your plastic container will look good in no time.

Do you have a foolproof method for cleaning stains off plastic containers? Tell us in the comments below.