Things You'll Need
Bucket, 5 gallon
Areas on plastic where nicotine stains have been in place for an extremely long duration will often remain discolored if the plastic object was initially clear or white.
Nicotine stains coat painted walls, linoleum, vinyl and plastic objects after repeated exposure to smoke and over time. These stains can be brown, oily, grimy and adhere to plastic often with a build up of accumulated dust. According to the State of Michigan's fact sheet for citizens, "Nicotine is a toxic substance found in the tobacco plant. The commercial preparation of the plant involves drying the leaves for the production of chewing tobacco, cigars, cigarettes and snuff." Removing light or heavy nicotine stains from plastic requires diligence and a lot of scrubbing, but removal is possible in most cases.
Put the rubber gloves on your hands. Common dishwashing gloves work fine.
Fill the bucket half full with the hottest tap water available. Add one cup of baking soda and one cup of vinegar.
Spray the plastic coated with nicotine stains with an all-purpose cleaner and allow the cleaner to saturate the plastic for about five minutes.
Dip the scrub brush into the baking soda/vinegar/water solution and scrub the plastic vigorously. Repeat until residue or stains are removed. If stains/residue persist, continue scrubbing.
Change the bucket solution repeatedly as you clean, especially if you're dealing with a large amount of stained plastic. The water will become brown as the nicotine transfers from the plastic to the scrub brush and subsequently to the water. If the stain is very greasy, pour vinegar straight onto the stain, then scrub with the solution and scrub brush.
Use a toothbrush to scrub any fine details in molded crevices on the plastic. Use the same cleaning solution, or liberally sprinkle baking soda onto a wet plastic surface and scrub the soda undiluted directly onto the stain. Rinse the plastic with a rag soaked in water.
Wet a rag in cold water and wipe down the plastic, rinsing away the cleaning solution. After rinsing, if you notice any residue/stains still in place, proceed to the final step.
Use an eraser sponge to further scrub the plastic. Eraser sponges, such as Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser and Scotch-Brite's Easy Erasing Pad, contain melamine foam, an effective stain remover, but the pads break up and dissolve very quickly. Use a wet rag to rinse away any residue left behind by the eraser sponge.
Louise Harding holds a B.A. in English language arts and is a licensed teacher. Harding is a professional fiction writer. She is mother to four children, two adopted internationally, and has had small businesses involving sewing and crafting for children and the home. Harding's frugal domestic skills help readers save money around the home.