How to Clean Greasy Plastic Containers

How to Clean Greasy Plastic Containers

Removing all the grease from a plastic container can be a complete nightmare. Sometimes, no matter what you do ­– the grease just seems to persist. At worst, you might be compelled to throw the container away if you cannot clean it thoroughly.

Luckily, there are some hacks, tips, and tricks that can help you to degrease a plastic container. But you should know that some methods include the use of chemicals that might affect the integrity of the container.

This means that you should follow the steps below to the ‘T’ to avoid damage.

Non-Invasive Degreasing Methods

You can do a few different things to clean greasy containers without making the plastic porous. The methods include common household items and they are easy to employ.

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The dishwasher is your friend

Dishwashers are the first line of defense against greasy plastic containers. You should place the container on a top rack to avoid excess heat (as the heating coils are always found below the bottom rack). Running a medium or eco-wash cycle is also advisable since the container doesn’t have to be in the dishwasher for too long.

However, some containers are not dishwasher-friendly. Check the stamps or labels on the container to see if you can safely put it in the dishwasher.

Use common vinegar

If about half an hour in the dishwasher doesn’t help, some vinegar might. The container needs to be completely leftover-free. Thus, you need to scrape off any residual food unless the dishwasher did it for you. Kitchen paper towels usually do the trick and it’s recommended to avoid sponges that are too abrasive.

Most of the grease stays at the bottom but if there’s some on the sides, feel free to fill up the container with vinegar. Distilled white vinegar works the best and once you fill the container, snap on the lid to avoid spillage. Leave the container for about half an hour or more if the grease is really stubborn. After the container is soaked through, pour out the vinegar and clean the container with a mild dish soap.

Baking soda paste

Besides vinegar, a simple mix of baking soda and warm water is a great solution for greasy plastic containers. The recipe may vary depending on the container size, but about 2 Tbsp. of baking soda and ½ cup of warm water is usually enough.

You should mix the ingredients until they have a peanut butter-like consistency. Add a bit more water if the paste is too thick. Once you get the right consistency, spread the paste around the container and leave it overnight. The lid should be on while the container is resting.

In the morning, rinse it in hot water to remove the baking soda paste together with the grease. Let the container drain for a while, then wipe it dry with a kitchen towel. Don’t put the lid back on until the container is completely dry, or it might develop some mold.

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Methods That Include Commercial Chemicals

There are at least a couple of commercial degreasing chemicals/detergents for cleaning plastic containers. However, you should use the following methods as a last resort since they might damage the container.

Off-the-shelf degreasers

Pick up any of the popular dish soaps like Dawn. Most of them are highly concentrated so a few drops can do the trick. Place the detergent on top of the greasy area and use a kitchen sponge to rub in the detergent.

There is usually no need to leave the detergent to rest so you can rinse the container immediately.

Chlorine bleach

A super mild solution of chlorine bleach in warm water can be effective for removing grease, stains, and other dirt from plastic containers. But you should know that bleach is highly potent and potentially dangerous.

First of all, wear protective gloves when preparing and pouring the mix. In addition, create the solution with 1 Tbsp. of bleach for every cup of warm water and no more than that. Pour the solution into the container and leave it to rest for a couple of hours.

In some cases, two hours might be too long so don’t hesitate to empty the chlorine bleach solution earlier. When the container is completely empty, you need to wash the container again to remove the residual bleach. Keep washing until the container stops smelling of bleach.


If you exhaust the non-invasive methods and common detergents don’t help, it is probably time to get a new container. The chlorine bleach mix will surely wipe the plastic container clean but it might also render it useless for keeping food.

And there is no need to bother with dangerous chemicals since you can get an entire set of new containers for a bargain. This way you won't have to scratch your head about whether the container is safe after the degreasing.