How Do I Get a Musty Smell Out of My Plastic Dishes?

Plastic dishes are easy to store, affordable and compact. Reusable plastic storage containers are a big part of everyday life. But when a musty smell gets deep into the material of plastic dishes, it can make the plastic dish practically unusable. Getting the musty smell safely removed from plastic dishes can be done a few ways.

A set of baby dishes on a blue soft napkin for breakfast. kitchen table accessories for serving. Colored small spoons.
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Plastic dishes are easy to store, affordable and compact.

When Plastic Dishes Smell Foul

Sturdy and lightweight, plastic containers store leftovers, tote lunches to work and carry snacks to park play dates rather well. Because they are so portable and convenient, they can get tucked behind a car seat, left inside a desk over the weekend and otherwise forgotten with remnants of its contents left to stink up the container. If you can, always rinse them clean immediately after consuming the contents and putting the container away once you get home.

When the plastic ware is more than musty and also has whiffs of mold or mildew, it requires a serious scrubbing to rid it of the food-based odor. Douse the dirty plastic or Tupperware in vinegar and let it sit for an hour. Scour it with baking soda to remove any lingering food odors as well as the acrid scent of the vinegar.

For stained and smelly plastic ware, put a fine layer of salt along the bottom and cut up a half or full lemon. Stir the lemons around the salt and let it sit or snap the lid on the plastic dish, if applicable, and shake the container. Let it sit for an hour or overnight and rinse clean.

Plastic Dinnerware and Microwave Safety

Thick plastic plates, bowls and mugs made of plastic seem durable enough to handle piping hot or freezing cold. However, the durability of the plastic dishes doesn't have anything to do with whether or not they can also make it through a few minutes or seconds in the microwave.

Whether they are safe to place in the microwave can be perplexing. Don't assume all plastic dishes can go into the microwave without melting or breaking down the structure of the material. Plastic dinnerware sets are microwave safe if they have a stamp on the bottom saying so or a symbol that looks like wavy lines over a plate, bowl or glass.

Plastic Dish Cleaning Hacks

There are a few ways to clean musty plastic dishes and keep them smelling fresh until they are ready to use.

  • A spin through the top rack of the dishwasher can take out most of the leftover odors from a plastic dish that was closed up and stored too long.
  • Make a thick paste of baking soda and warm water and let it sit on the stains of the plastic dishes to leach out the stains as well as the odor.
  • Place them in the sun and allow them to air out. The sun will bleach out the smell naturally.
  • Wad up a piece of newspaper and stuff it inside cups and bowls to remove any lingering foul odors.
  • When putting plastic dishes away, place a pinch of salt in the closed container.

Kimberley McGee

Kimberley McGee

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.