It’s a tale as old as time: Store spaghetti sauce in Tupperware just once, and you might as well kiss that once-clear plastic container goodbye forever. Doesn’t matter what you do, either — send the orange-tinged monstrosity through the dishwasher, scrub it with steel wool, spray it with a power washer — try as you might, Tupperware stains are stubborn beasts.
Or are they? According to Katie Pearse, president of the Glisten Academy, you can always restore even the most worse-for-the-wear Tupperware to its original form. “For stained plastic, use a couple capfuls of bleach — about two tablespoons per cup of water — fill with water and soak for a few hours,” she says. “Scrub and wash thoroughly before you use it for food storage again.”
If containers full of bleach aren’t something you’ve got lying around, however, you could always “apply a bleach-based gel cleanser to the stains with a small brush,” says Carolyn Forte, cleaning products director at Good Housekeeping.
Using bleach on your plastic storage containers might sound sketchy, but Pearse swears by it — just make sure to use it in a ventilated area, wash and rinse it diligently. “Bleach works,” she says. “I tested it last night, because I actually had a plastic bowl with leftover spaghetti in my fridge, stained galore. I put it outside on the patio table, because I’m very concerned about bleach fumes. I’ve been super non-toxic and based my whole cleaning career since before I even launched my cleaning biz in 2008 on non-toxic cleaning, so bleach is a big deal to me.”
That said, to avoid this kind of hassle next time you’ve got leftovers, Pearse suggests bypassing plastic containers altogether when storing sauces, especially tomato-based ones. “Ideally, store leftover spaghetti and sauce in glass containers, instead of plastic,” she says. “The acid in tomato sauce stains plastic, which is why it’s sold in glass jars. Mason jars are a great option to have on-hand for storage, or you can use any other type of glass storage container.”
If you have to use plastic, though, Pearse says, “Spray a little Pam in the container before you pour in the leftovers. This can help protect the plastic from being stained.”
So, uh, what’s for lunch?