How to Clean Yellow Discolored Plastic

While some plastic home products are durable enough to last for decades, once that plastic becomes stained, yellowed or cloudy, you may feel like tossing it in the trash or recycle bin. Before getting rid of yellowed food containers, bowls or fluorescent light covers, give them one more chance. A thorough cleaning with household staples such as vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice just may give them a new -- stain-free -- lease on life.

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Vinegar Soak to Clear the Cloudiness

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Over time, plastic -- especially plastic that comes into contact with food -- may become cloudy. Remove that cloudiness with a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water. If the cloudy plastic area is the inside a cup or a container such as a plastic blender, pour the mixture into it. Use enough liquid to fill the container, or at least cover all the cloudy areas. If the cloudiness is on the outside of a plastic item, submerge the item in a plastic or glass vessel containing the vinegar solution. You may have to rotate the cloudy plastic piece from time to time or weigh it down, since it most likely floats. Allow the clouded plastic to soak for several hours, and then scrub it with a nylon scrub pad. Rinse and wash it thoroughly afterward.

Baking Soda Scrub

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Baking soda may remove some types of yellowing such as those caused by dyes and minerals in some foods. Make a paste of baking soda and water, and then wet the yellowed plastic. Dip a toothbrush, scrub pad or scrub brush into the paste, and scrub the affected areas. It may take several tries to lighten the plastic completely.

Lemon Stain Lifter

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Lemon juice's acidity makes it an excellent stain lifter. Pour lemon juice -- either straight or diluted with an equal amount of water -- over or into the yellowed plastic, allowing the item to soak for a while. Check the plastic after an hour or so; if it's still yellow, let it sit longer, or place it out in the sun with the lemon juice still on or in it. Scrub the item with a nylon scrub brush and a mild dish soap solution afterward.

Simple Bleach Soak

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Bleach removes some stains and discolorations from plastic, just as it can from fabrics. Add 1 tablespoon of bleach per cup of water, using enough liquid to cover the discolored areas completely. If the item needs to soak in the solution, use a glass or plastic container to hold the bleach solution. After 30 to 45 minutes, rinse the item off and wash it in warm, soapy water.