Plastic items are typically inexpensive and useful in outdoor settings, recreational areas, and so on. While they may appear appealing at first, they will eventually turn yellow or discolor with time. Various dynamic stresses, such as excessive sun exposure, dirt buildup, and heat contribute to this.
However, don’t be tempted to toss your yellowed bowls, food containers, or light covers when this inevitable time comes. Instead, give them a second chance by cleaning them thoroughly with bleach, lemon, vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, or other approved methods.
This guide will focus on using various methods to whiten your yellowed plastic. Stay with me to learn how to whiten yellowed plastic the easy way.
How to Whiten Yellowed Plastic
In a nutshell;
- Add a tbsp of Dawn, two glasses of vinegar, and water to the sink.
- Soak the yellowed plastic items in the solution for 15 to 30 minutes
- Scrub the plastic items with a bristle brush
- Rinse with water, then allow to air dry or wipe with a clean, dry towel.
Why Does Plastic Turn Yellow?
When plastic is exposed to the elements, the bromine molecules destabilize and sip through the surface, causing discoloration (yellowing). This yellowing effect can compromise the beauty of your plastic device and make it appear unsightly.
Fortunately, several products are available to address this issue, ranging from typical lemon juice to more invasive commercial cleaning products. Whichever cleaning product you choose, follow the necessary steps that I will address later in this guide.
Cleaning Yellowed Plastic Using
The most effective way to remove discoloration from plastics is using bleach. Here’s how to use it:
- Fill a container with one part water and one part bleach, and make sure the solution is enough to cover the yellowed pieces when submerged.
- If the gadgets cannot be immersed in the bucket, soak paper towels in the bleach solution, then use the wet towels to cover the discolored plastic. Make sure you press the paper towels firmly against the plastic and leave them to sit until the item has whitened. Then, spray the remaining bleach solution on the paper towels to keep them moist throughout the process.
- If your yellowed items are compact enough, soak them in a bucket and leave them there until they return to their original white color. Then, remove them from the bleach solution when they have reached the desired level of whiteness, and rinse with warm soapy water to discard any residue bleach layers.
Yellowed plastic cannot withstand hydrogen peroxide; that’s why most DIYers use it to whiten discolored items.
To use this household cleaner, place the discolored plastic in a plastic ziplock bag and coat it entirely with hydrogen peroxide. Then, allow the plastic to be exposed to direct sunlight for 3 to 5 hours before rinsing with clean water to remove any remaining hydrogen peroxide layers.
Please keep in mind that this whitening method is only suitable for small to medium-sized gadgets that can be quickly covered.
Using baking soda paste is an effective way to restore a yellowed plastic gadget. Learn how to use this household cleaner in the guide below.
- Begin by making a paste of Dawn and baking soda in a clean container. After that, moisten your discolored plastic with water to improve adhesion when the paste is applied.
- Scoop the paste onto a microfiber cloth and rub the item in circular motions to achieve full coverage.
- Allow the paste to stay on the discolored piece for a few minutes before washing with soapy water to remove any leftover paste.
- After cleaning, rinse the plastic with running water and pat dry with a towel.
The acidity of lemon juice makes it suitable for removing yellow stains from plastic without harming it. Find out how to use it here:
- Cut a lemon in half, then squeeze its juice into a clean container. Soak a clean rag in the lemon juice and rub it over the discolored plastic until it’s completely coated.
- After 30 to 50 minutes, check the plastic to ensure that the lemon juice is still effective. If not, leave it longer or expose the item to direct sunlight.
- Once the yellowish stain disappears, scrub the plastic with a nylon scrub brush and soapy water. Finish by rinsing it with water and letting it air dry.
Vinegar is a standard household cleaner, but it works wonders on tough stains. The steps below show how to clean yellowed plastic with a vinegar solution.
- In a clean container, combine one tablespoon of Dawn, two cups of vinegar, and water. Stir the solution thoroughly to create a uniform consistency.
- Soak the plastic in the vinegar solution for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Scrub the item with a bristle brush once the yellow stain has come loose, paying special attention to the detailed areas.
- After that, rinse the vinegar residue away with clean water and allow the plastic to dry to the touch.
6. Magic Eraser
Magic eraser pads are good for plastics, except those with glossy finishes.
- Dampen your magic eraser pad in clean water and wring it out to remove the excess.
- Gently scrub the discolored plastic with the eraser, and use a bristle brush to access the hard-to-reach areas. (If you’re working on larger pieces)
- Dip and wring out your magic eraser as needed and repeat scrubbing the piece until it resumes the white color.
- Finally, rinse and wipe down your plastic gadget with a rag.
Soak a clean rag in water and sprinkle it with salt. Rub the salt into the stained plastic several times until the yellowed spot varnishes. Lastly, use a microfiber cloth to clean the plastic and allow it to dry for 10 to 20 minutes.
Fill an empty container halfway with rubbing alcohol and submerge your yellowed plastic. Allow the plastic to soak for 30 to 40 minutes to loosen the stain before removing and rinsing it under running water.
How to Whiten Your Yellowed Plastic Gadgets
We’ve all had plastics that yellowed due to high humidity, UV light, and heat. But this is not to say that you should dispose of the discolored items. There are methods for restoring the original color of yellowed plastic, so keep reading to find out more.
Things you’ll need
- Cling film.
- 40% peroxide cream.
Step 1: Prepare the yellowed plastic pieces.
Begin by dusting your plastic pieces and smearing peroxide cream all over the object to coat it completely. Next, cover all surfaces of the plastic piece with cling film, leaving no gaps for the cream to escape. This prevents the cream from becoming too dry.
Tip: Wrap with caution to avoid streaking. Also, wear latex gloves to avoid contacting the cream.
Step 2: Place the plastic item in direct sunlight
UV light is essential in the whitening process. So, instead of locking the treated parts away in your cupboard, place them under direct sunlight. This sunning process can take 4 hours or more, depending on the severity of the yellowing.
Step 3: Wash the pieces
Remember, the idea is to restore the original color of the discolored plastic. So don’t let the cream dry up, primarily under the sun. Otherwise, it will cause an unsightly bleaching effect that is unfortunately irreversible.
Lastly, remove the plastic from the cling film and rinse it thoroughly before storing or using it.
Note; If this method fails, use other commercial restoration products such as plastic conditioners. Learn how to use plastic conditioners below:
Step 1: Wash the plastic gadget
Soak a microfiber cloth in lukewarm water and use it to clean the plastic. This should wipe out dirt, dust, and other impurities that could impair the effectiveness of the cleaning products.
Step 2: Apply plastic conditioner onto the affected areas
Buy a plastic conditioning product from your local store. Squeeze a tiny drop of the specialized conditioner onto your plastic.
Buff the yellowed spots in a circular motion using a clean microfiber cloth until the conditioner blends with the plastic.
Note: If you’re concerned about further discoloration of your plastic gadget, test the conditioner in an inconspicuous area first.
Step 3: Wipe off the excess conditioner
Most plastic conditioning products take 10 minutes or less to dry. But ensure you refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to confirm the drying time and other particular guidelines.
If the conditioner is working as expected, it will penetrate the plastic, restoring some of the colors. After this time, wipe off any conditioner pooled on the plastic gadget and apply a second coat if the product is absorbed quickly.
Step 4: Use a plastic buffing product to address scratches
Check your plastic carefully for signs of scratches. If any, get a buffing product meant for plastic and squeeze a small amount on a clean rag—Buff the scratches out in circular motions to avoid wearing down your plastic. Thereafter, go back over the buffed spot with a cloth to collect any residue left on the plastic. This prevents the buffing product from continuing to abrade your plastic.
Step 5: Spray on a polish
Most polishing products are sprayed on, making them easy to apply, unlike the brushed-on varieties. Once you’ve obtained the desired polish, spread it on your plastic using light coats to cover all the affected areas before continuing to step 6.
Step 6: Use a microfiber cloth to rub the polish
Even out the polish coating with a soft microfiber cloth and use circular motions so the plastic appears new and in top-notch condition. If you see any excess plastic polish pooling over the item, wipe it off with a cloth.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can Yellow Plastic Turn White?
Yellow plastic can turn white using basic household cleaners, from vinegar to lemon juice to baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. However, it must be noted that these products are only intended to partially remove the yellowing and not to restore the original white color.
Can You Paint Yellowing Plastic?
Painting yellowed plastic items can help prevent future discoloration. Here’s how to spray paint yellowed plastic:
Step 1: Clean the plastic
Use your regular liquid detergent to wash off the plastic. Mix about 15 mL of the detergent in 470 mL of hot water. Apply soap, then wash the plastic thoroughly and rinse it off with a damp rag or a hose.
Step 2: Dry the plastic
Use a soft cloth to dry the plastic and remove any impurities that can compromise the adhesion. You can also let the item air dry, but more dirt and debris will build up the longer you wait.
Step 3: Sand the gadget
Scuff the yellowed area with 220 to 320 grit sandpaper, taking care not to scratch the plastic. Rub the area in circular motions for the best results, then wipe away the sanding dust with a damp cloth.
Step 4: Apply a general-purpose cleaner to remove stubborn oils and grease
Repeat the cleaning process with a soft rag and a general-purpose degreaser. If you don’t have a degreaser, you can remove the leftover oils with rubbing alcohol.
Step 5: Wrap painter’s tape around the discolored sections
Paint will always leave unwanted discoloration if it spills in areas you don’t intend to color. So it would help if you protected such spots with a painter’s or masking tape to avoid unnecessary stains.
Step 6: Wear latex gloves and a respirator
Unless you intend to dye your hands, wear a pair of latex gloves before painting. Also, wear a respirator to avoid inhaling toxic fumes from the paint. It’s also advisable to wear long-sleeved clothes to protect your skin.
Step 7: Use spray paint to coat the yellowed area
Choose a spray paint designed for plastics and ensure it’s the color you want. Next, slowly paint back and forth across the yellowed area in a swinging motion. Then, overlap your strokes until you have complete coverage for the best results.
Note: Use a primer coat before painting for added effect. Though it’s not required, the primer will guarantee better adhesion.
Step 8: Allow the paint to dry
After covering the entire discolored surface, let the paint dry for nearly 30 minutes. But depending on your environment, you may wait a little longer before the paint dries to the touch.
Step 9: Add more paint layers
After the first coat has dried and covered up any surface imperfections, apply a second coat and let it dry for 30 minutes. If you’re still not pleased with the result, add more layers, but make sure each coat dries before proceeding. You can also use a paint sealer to keep the paint job in top-notch condition longer.
Any plastic item subjected to destructive events will eventually discolor as it ages. Fortunately, you can address the yellowing effect on plastics by regularly treating them with basic household cleaners or commercial plastic conditioning products. All these products can reverse the damage though not to the original state.