Depending on how badly they're stained and why, you may have no options other than replacing or painting yellowed refrigerator door handles. It's true that a good scrubbing can work wonders for removing years of dirt and grime. Sometimes, however, refrigerator door handles and other plastics turn yellow due to chemical reactions. If so, you'll need to create a chemical reaction of your own to reverse the damage and discoloration.
Cleaning Yellow Plastic
If your trusty Maytag refrigerator's handles turn yellow, the discoloration could simply mean they're dirty. Refrigerator handles are constantly exposed to dirty hands, cooking grease and, in some cases, cigarette smoke. To remove this built-up grime, GE Appliances recommends cleaning the door handles with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.
You can also try cleaning your handles with several traditional house cleaning hacks. A 50/50 solution of vinegar and water may do the trick, as can making a paste from water and baking soda. Denture cleaners work wonders for removing stains from plastic, so try removing your refrigerator handles and soaking them overnight with a cleaning tablet. If you don't have denture cleaning tablets, try using Alka-Seltzer instead.
Create a Chemical Reaction
Sometimes plastic appliances turn yellow because chemicals in the plastic react to the sun's UV rays or another substance. When this happens, cleaning yellowed plastic won't turn it white again, no matter how hard you scrub. Instead, you'll need to create another chemical reaction to reverse the first. Begin by taking your refrigerator's handles off and giving them a good cleaning.
When they're clean and dry, evenly brush a layer of hydrogen peroxide cream onto them. You can get this cream at any hair salon supply store. You can use liquid hydrogen peroxide, but as How-To Geek points out, you'll need a lot more of it and it will be more expensive. After covering your handles with the gel, wrap them in plastic wrap or drop them into a resealable plastic bag and set them outdoors in direct sunlight. It's important to seal the handles so the cream doesn't dry on them, as this will cause streaks.
Leave the handles in the sun for about six hours, rotating them 90 degrees every hour for even light exposure. Rinse away the peroxide gel and apply a fresh layer if it starts to get foamy. When your six hours has passed, bring the handles indoors and rinse them thoroughly. If the yellow is fading but still hanging on, repeat the process again.
Paint Yellowed Refrigerator Handles
If all else fails, you can always paint yellowed refrigerator handles. Again, you'll want to remove your handles from the refrigerator and clean them with a degreaser first. If your handles have chrome accents, mask them off with tape so you don't accidentally paint over them.
Set the handles on some newspaper or kraft paper and apply your chosen spray paint. Make sure you get the right paint for the job. You may need appliance paint or paint made specifically for plastics, depending on what your handles are made from. Hold the paint can about 8 inches from the handles and apply it in steady, even coats. Several thin coats will prove much more attractive than one heavy coat.
Allow your freshly painted handles to dry thoroughly and then touch them up as needed. When you're happy with them, re-install them on your refrigerator and enjoy the fresh, clean look.
Replace Your Handles
Replacing yellowed refrigerator door handles is the simplest option, but it's also the most expensive. Exactly how much you pay will vary greatly from one refrigerator manufacturer to another. At AppliancePartsPros.com, for example, refrigerator handle prices start at around $15, but some sell for over $100.
You can get a new handle directly from your refrigerator's manufacturer or an authorized parts dealer. You'll need to know your unit's model number to get the right handles, however. You can find this information in your appliance's user guide. If you can't find that, look for a metal plate or sticker on the side of your refrigerator door or on the back of the appliance.
Removing and replacing door handles is typically an easy process that requires nothing more than a screwdriver and a few minutes. If you can't figure out how to do it by examining the handles, check your manual for instructions. When all else fails, your refrigerator's manufacturer will likely be able to talk you through it over the phone if they're willing to do so. If they're not, call a handy friend — a service call will likely cost you more than the handles did and just isn't worth it.
Home is where the heart is, and Michelle frequently pens articles about ways to keep yours looking great and feeling cozy. Whether you want help organizing your closet, picking a paint color or finishing drywall, Michelle has you covered. If she's not puttering in the house, you'll find her in the garden playing in the dirt. Her garden articles provide tips and insight that anyone can use to turn a brown thumb green. You'll find her work on Modern Mom, The Nest and eHow as well as sprinkled throughout your other online home decor and improvement favorites.