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How To Get Garlic Smell Out Of Plastic Containers [11 Hassle-Free Ways]

Are you sick of opening up your plastic containers only to be greeted with a big whiff of stale garlic?

Me too.

I love the taste of garlic, so leaving it out of my meals isn’t an option. Besides, other foods like onions and chilis are also ‘smell culprits’.

I decided to do an experiment and find out: what’s the best way to get smells out of plastic?

To get rid of garlic smells in your plastic containers, make a paste with baking soda and water and coat the inside. The paste will absorb any garlicky odors from the plastic. Within a few hours, the plastic will smell good as new. Always try to wash your containers ASAP.

Baking soda is my favorite method, but there are plenty of others that also work. I reveal all my secrets below.

Rinse the container as soon as possible

The first and most important thing you can do to minimize lingering odors in your plastic containers is to rinse them out as soon as you’ve used the contents. 

If you’re taking lunch to work, rinse the container as soon as you’ve finished eating instead of waiting until you get home (or the next day #guilty).

You can use cold water in a pinch, but warm soapy water is best. 

Once you’ve got rid of most of the food residue, make sure to dry the container. Leaving the box wet will make the smell worse.

Washing alone often isn’t enough to completely banish the garlic smell from the plastic. 

You might need to pull another trick out of the bag. My go-to is baking soda. But there are tons of options…

Baking soda

plastic container rubbed with a baking soda paste
Coating your smelly containers in a baking soda paste will remove all nasty smells

Baking soda is the king of cleaning. Nothing can top baking soda in its ability to clean just about anything in your home.

It will come as no surprise then that baking soda will also deodorize plastic containers.

What you’ll need:

  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • Smelly plastic container

Method:

  1. Rinse the container with soapy water to get rid of any food residue
  2. Make a paste with the baking soda and water
  3. Smear the paste all over the walls of the container
  4. Cover the container and leave it overnight
  5. Wash off the baking soda mixture and smell the container

It should smell of nothing – perfect!

Vinegar

Plastic container soaked in a vinegar and water solution
Soaking your smelly plastic containers in a vinegar solution will remove any unwanted smells

‘How do I clean this?’

‘Vinegar!’

Sound familiar?

Along with baking soda, vinegar is a popular natural cleaning solution for just about anything. Plastic containers are no exception.

Simply fill the container with a ½ water ½ vinegar solution and leave it to soak for a few hours. If you’re in a hurry, you can rinse the container with straight vinegar and then wash it with soapy water.

Voila, the smell is gone.

Lemon juice

Plastic container rubbed with the juice of a lemon
Rubbing your old plastic containers with lemon juice helps to remove unwanted odors

If you have half a lemon lying around and nothing to use it for, you might just have found your Sunday afternoon activity (you know what they say… when life gives you lemons…).

Gather all your smelly plastic containers and rub the insides with a lemon slice. The acidic lemon juice will neutralize odor-causing compounds and leave your Tupperware smelling fresh.

Warning: avoid this method if you have any cuts on your hands. It will STING!

If you don’t have a lemon handy, you can rinse them out with lemon juice instead.

Activated charcoal briquettes

Activated charcoal is a wonder ingredient that’s been rapidly growing in popularity. It’s used in everything from toothpaste to face masks.

But unlike pugs or avocados (sorry, I just don’t get it), it’s worth the hype. The briquettes are great for absorbing most odors, including garlic. 

They’re so good in fact that most kitchen compost bins use an activated charcoal filter to prevent any rotten smells from escaping.

Place a chunk or two of activated charcoal (link to Amazon) in your container, put the lid on, and wait for a couple of days. When you open the lid, the smell will be gone. 

Make sure you opt for non-toxic, additive-free activated charcoal. These tablets (link to Amazon) are perfect for removing odors.

Newspaper

Newspapers are a dying trade, but maybe once people realize how good they are at odor control we might see a revival. 

Fill your stinky plastic container with crumpled up newspaper, put the lid on, and leave it overnight. The porous nature of the newspaper fibers means they’re very effective at absorbing odors.

I like this method cause it’s very cheap and requires minimal effort.

Sun

Everything’s better when it’s sunny.

Go outside and get some sun’ is what my mum would say to just about any problem I had. It was a catch-all cure, and she wasn’t wrong.

Sun will also cure your garlicky plastic containers.

Leave them to air out in direct sunlight for a day, and the UV rays will neutralize any odors. Sadly, this won’t work as well in the winter when the sun’s hidden behind a bunch of clouds.

Coffee grounds

Another odor absorbing material is coffee grounds. After your morning coffee, instead of throwing the grounds away, put them in your garlicky Tupperware.

The coffee will soak up all the plastic odors and leave it with a pleasant earthy smell.

Once you’re done with the coffee grounds, you can chuck them in your compost bin to make sure they don’t go to waste. Who knew there were so many uses for coffee grounds?

Bleach

Bleach wouldn’t be my first choice (due to it being made from harsh chemicals), but there’s no denying it works. If you have a bottle in the cupboard you might as well use it.

Dilute the bleach with water, or if it’s already diluted, simply cover the plastic with a thin layer of the cleaning solution. Let it rest for half an hour and then rinse thoroughly. 

Make sure you don’t leave any bleach residue behind because it’s harmful if ingested.

Salt

Adding salt to your plastic containers before storing helps to keep them fresh and smell-free

Salt is a natural deodorizer and something everyone has in their kitchen cupboard. 

All you need to do is put a pinch of salt in the bottom of your plastic container and leave it there until you next need to use it. No matter how smelly the box was before, it should be gone.

Don’t forget to empty the salt before you re-fill the container.

Rice

When you’ve dropped your phone in water, what’s the first thing you do? 

PANIC! (okay apart from that…)

Put it in rice

Rice absorbs moisture from the air, and it’s proven to also absorb odors.

Fill your containers with rice while you store them, When you next want to use them, the plastic won’t smell.

 You can mix the rice with some salt to make it doubly effective.

Vanilla Extract

This might sound a bit out there and is by no means cheap, but it will leave your plastic smelling wonderful. 

Vanilla can neutralize unwanted odors and leave a slightly sweet scent in its place. Mix 1-2 drops of vanilla extract with water and leave it in the container for a few hours. 

I know what you’re thinking… Thai green curry and vanilla? Yuk! 

Vanilla might not be everyone’s first choice. But if you’re going to store something sweet in the container once it’s clean, it’s perfect!

How do I stop the smells from happening in the first place?

Plastic is a porous material and therefore absorbs odors. Sadly, there’s no way to stop this from happening. So it’s time for plan B.

Plan B: Buy some Pyrex containers! (a link to my favorite Pyrex containers on Amazon)

Pyrex (or glass) containers are superior to plastic in almost every way:

  • Glass has a non-porous surface that doesn’t absorb odors. It will never get smelly and won’t stain!
  • Glass can withstand high temperatures without warping or leaching chemicals. This means you can safely put them in the dishwasher and don’t have to wait for your food to cool before storing it. Pyrex containers are also oven safe.
  • Glass containers are better for the environment. They last a lot longer than plastic containers, and glass is 100% recyclable without any quality loss.

And unless you’re carrying 5 to work everyday, they’re not that heavy.

Once you’re the owner of a glass container, you can tick the ‘de-stink plastic containers‘ chore off your list.

My article will become redundant, but your life will become a little easier!

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5 from 1 vote

How To Get Garlic Smell Out Of Plastic Containers

To get rid of garlic smells in your plastic containers, make a paste with baking soda and water and coat the inside. The paste will absorb any garlicky odors from the plastic. Within a few hours, the plastic will smell good as new. Always try to wash your containers ASAP.
Prep Time5 mins
Active Time10 mins
Total Time15 mins
Yield: 1 container
Cost: $2

Equipment

  • Plastic container
  • Plastic bowl

Materials

  • 1 portion baking soda
  • 1 portion vinegar
  • 1 portion lemon juice
  • 1 briquette activated charcoal
  • 1 piece newspaper
  • 1 portion coffee grounds
  • 1 tablespoon bleach
  • 1 portion salt
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 portion vanilla extract

Instructions

Rinse the container as soon as possible

  • The first and most important thing you can do to minimize lingering odors in your plastic containers is to rinse them out as soon as you’ve used the contents.
    If you’re taking lunch to work, rinse the container as soon as you’ve finished eating instead of waiting until you get home (or the next day #guilty).
    You can use cold water in a pinch, but warm soapy water is best.
    Once you’ve got rid of most of the food residue, make sure to dry the container. Leaving the box wet will make the smell worse.

Use baking soda

  • Rinse the container with soapy water to get rid of any food residue.
  • Make a paste with the baking soda and water.
  • Smear the paste all over the walls of the container.
  • Cover the container and leave it overnight.
  • Wash off the baking soda mixture and smell the container.

Use vinegar

  • Fill the container with a ½ water ½ vinegar solution and leave it to soak for a few hours. If you’re in a hurry, you can rinse the container with straight vinegar and then wash it with soapy water.

Use lemon juice

  • Gather all your smelly plastic containers and rub the insides with a lemon slice. The acidic lemon juice will neutralize odor-causing compounds and leave your Tupperware smelling fresh.

Use activated charcoal briquettes

  • Place a chunk or two of activated charcoal in your container, put the lid on, and wait for a couple of days. When you open the lid, the smell will be gone.
    Make sure you opt for non-toxic, additive-free activated charcoal.

Use newspaper

  • Fill your stinky plastic container with crumpled up newspaper, put the lid on, and leave it overnight. The porous nature of the newspaper fibers means they’re very effective at absorbing odors.
    I like this method cause it’s very cheap and requires minimal effort.

Leave the containers in the sun

  • Leave the plastic containers to air out in direct sunlight for a day, and the UV rays will neutralize any odors. Sadly, this won’t work as well in the winter when the sun’s hidden behind a bunch of clouds.

Use coffee grounds

  • After your morning coffee, instead of throwing the grounds away, put them in your garlicky Tupperware.
    The coffee will soak up all the plastic odors and leave it with a pleasant earthy smell.

Use bleach

  • Dilute the bleach with water, or if it’s already diluted, simply cover the plastic with a thin layer of the cleaning solution. Let it rest for half an hour and then rinse thoroughly.
    Make sure you don’t leave any bleach residue behind because it’s harmful if ingested.

Use salt

  • Salt is a natural deodorizer and something everyone has in their kitchen cupboard.
    All you need to do is put a pinch of salt in the bottom of your plastic container and leave it there until you next need to use it. No matter how smelly the box was before, it should be gone.
    Don’t forget to empty the salt before you re-fill the container.

Use rice

  • Rice absorbs moisture from the air, and it’s proven to also absorb odors.
    Fill your containers with rice while you store them, When you next want to use them, the plastic won’t smell.
    You can mix the rice with some salt to make it doubly effective.

Use vanilla extract

  • Vanilla can neutralize unwanted odors and leave a slightly sweet scent in its place. Mix 1-2 drops of vanilla extract with water and leave it in the container for a few hours.
    Vanilla might not be everyone’s first choice. But if you’re going to store something sweet in the container once it’s clean, it’s perfect!

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