What Causes a White Film on Your Plastic?

White film can develop on your plastic dishes in your dishwasher or on plastic items outside your home that you use your tap water to clean. This white film can make the plastic look dirty, and sometimes the residue can actually attract dirt and other debris. There are several reasons why a white film may appear on your plastic.

Hard Water

One of the most common reasons white film develops on plastic is hard water. Hard water is water that contains an excess amount of minerals such as calcium. When the water dries, it will leave behind this mineral residue, which appears white and chalky. Avoid this by cleaning your plastic with distilled water or installing a water softener in your home.

Over Rinsing Plastic Dishes

If your plastic dinnerware is coming out of the dishwasher with white film, it might be because you are over rinsing your dishes. Some dishwashing detergent contains phosphates. These phosphates help dissolve food residue on your dishes and glasses. If they don't come into contact with food residue, however, they will not dissipate fully and will leave white film. Avoid this by only rinsing away large food particles.

Soap Residue

Soap scum can build up on plastic windows or materials around the outside or inside of your home. Soap scum can appear white, and the residue occurs when you don't thoroughly rinse the soap from the plastic. Avoid this by using less soap and by rinsing the plastic several times until the soap is gone.

Removing White Residue

If the white residue is caused by any one of these issues, use white vinegar to remove it from your plastic. White vinegar is a mild acidic cleaner that is natural and food grade. This means it is completely non-toxic and will not damage your plastic surfaces. To use it in your dishwasher, add 1 cup of the white vinegar to the dishwasher base before running it. Remove it from other surfaces by rubbing the white film with a clean cloth soaked in white vinegar.

Kaye Wagner

Kaye Wagner has been working in the fields of journalism and public relations since 2006 and is a recipient of a National Hearst Award. She is particularly interested in home-and-garden projects, as well as beauty and fashion writing. An avid traveler, she also writes travel reviews and guides. Wagner earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Brigham Young University.