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Getting stubborn odors out of storage containers?


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Occassionally I have trouble getting food odors out of both glass and plastic storage containers. Currently it's chicken soup odor in a restaurant quality plastic container and coffee and aromatic tea out of two glass storage containers. I have washed them each twice with dish soap and baking soda.

All suggestions welcome!

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Fill the container with bleach water and let it sit for awhile?  That's what  I usually do, and it seems to work.

ditto but I go one step further and toss a dry paper towel in the container after washing it and drying it ..then put the lid on ...remove paper towl after a few hours ..that seems to take any residual bleachy smell out

it is rare that I have to do this because the dishwasher works so well I guess

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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I use DRY baking soda, about half a cup, leave it with the cover in place for 2 days.

For extremely persistent odors in Cambro containers, I get some activated charcoal at an acquarium supply store and put a cup of it in the container in a bowl that will fit inside (I have a Pyrex bowl that is never used for anything else)

For beverage containers (plastic) I put the charcoal in a narrow tea infuser.

The charcoal can be re-used, simply spread it on a sheet pan, place it in a very low, 175 degrees F., oven for 45 minutes.

For glass containers, I have excellent results with distilled white vinegar, undiluted. Pour in a cup, cover, swish it around and leave it overnight. If the container has a tight cover or you can cover it with plastic wrap, shake it well or swirl it around, rinse.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Boiling for 15 or so minutes works like a charm for glass jars and metal lids. I'm pretty sure commercial-grade Lexan containers like Cambro can be boiled as well.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I use super oxygenated water from this Lotus water treatment thing I have (Costco online). Works 3000 times faster and 50% more powerful than chlorine bleach for killing stuff (per the data). Seems to suck the smell out of things. The thing is designed to be used for cleaning foods, but I generally use it to make the water that I then us to do things like laundry and other exciting things. :)

My soup looked like an above ground pool in a bad neighborhood.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I tried andiesenji's vinegar treatment for glass jars on several and it worked just fine. I think that if I had a bunch of them, or needed one right now, I would try Steven's boiling approach first.

I just put dry baking soda in a plastic container (not lexan) that had chili in it. There was not any noticeable odor in it after I washed it two days ago, but there is now. I'll see how this does. If not well, I'll try the newspaper next, and then the activated charcoal.

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My worse problem is getting old coffee stink out of the thermos that I take on climbing trips. The inside is stainless steel, so I don't want to use chlorine bleach. I'd also rather not use a process that takes days.

What's the story with that oxygenated water system?

I remember seeing "oxygen bleach" cleaners in commercial kitchens (which I assume is some flavor of peroxide, meant to for stainless surfaces) but I never see it at stores.

Notes from the underbelly

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My worse problem is getting old coffee stink out of the thermos...

I've successfully used the "oxygen bleach" found on the laundry aisle. Not OxyClean, it has added brighteners and scent. You want the cheap stuff, I think the last one I got was Sun brand, comes in a smaller tub. Just put a teaspoon or so in your container, put it in the sink (it will foam), then fill with boiling water (or as hot as your container will take) cover loosely, let stand for an hour or so, rinse thoroughly, and you should have an odor and stain free container. Have used this on glass, plastic and stainless with no problems.

Edited by Quiltguy (log)
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My worse problem is getting old coffee stink out of the thermos that I take on climbing trips. The inside is stainless steel, so I don't want to use chlorine bleach. I'd also rather not use a process that takes days.

You can use the same de-scaler that you use to treat a coffeemaker. I think Durgol is the fastest, but less expensive products like Dip-It do the same thing in 20-30 minutes.

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I just put dry baking soda in a plastic container (not lexan) that had chili in it. There was not any noticeable odor in it after I washed it two days ago, but there is now. I'll see how this does. If not well, I'll try the newspaper next, and then the activated charcoal.

Still smells like chili....great chili, but still smells after the dry baking soda treatment, so next it's the newspaper fix.

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There's a Palmolive Oxy with Odor Eliminator dishsoap that works great. Give it a try if you find it. (easy to spot on the shelf, it has a very weird neony-pink color)

The human mouth is called a pie hole. The human being is called a couch potato... They drive the food, they wear the food... That keeps the food hot, that keeps the food cold. That is the altar where they worship the food, that's what they eat when they've eaten too much food, that gets rid of the guilt triggered by eating more food. Food, food, food... Over the Hedge
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I just put dry baking soda in a plastic container (not lexan) that had chili in it. There was not any noticeable odor in it after I washed it two days ago, but there is now. I'll see how this does. If not well, I'll try the newspaper next, and then the activated charcoal.

Still smells like chili....great chili, but still smells after the dry baking soda treatment, so next it's the newspaper fix.

After two days with newspaper crumpled in it, the plastic container smells like...newsprint. Even after washing it out with dish soap. I could see if dry baking soda would fix that, but I picked up some activated charcoal today just in case, so that's next. Then for this one or another one later I'll try the Palmolive Oxy with odor eliminator.

This container is similar to the semi-opaque Cambro containers, but it's made by Continental Carlyle. I'll ask the folks at Ace Restaurant supply if some container materials absorb odors more than others. But maybe someone here has an idea about that.

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I think the problem is that the odor has permeated the material, itself, so activated charcoal won't be of much help, either, since it will merely absorb the odors from the air in the container, rather than from the container, itself. The Palmolive Oxy might be a better choice. If that fails, you might just have to try bleach (if the smell of bleach is more pleasing to you than chili).

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I think the problem is that the odor has permeated the material, itself, so activated charcoal won't be of much help, either, since it will merely absorb the odors from the air in the container, rather than from the container, itself.  The Palmolive Oxy might be a better choice.  If that fails, you might just have to try bleach (if the smell of bleach is more pleasing to you than chili).

Good point. The Palmolive Oxy might be a better next step.

Another alternative is to simply label this container "CHILI".

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One thing that I have done with plastic containers that hold onto odors is to coat the entire inside surface with a paste made from Bar Keeper's Friend and water. I let it sit for about an hour then fill the container with hot water and let it sit for another hour. At that point, I rinse and then clean the container with a typical dish soap like Ajax or Palmolive.

Gear nerd and hash slinger

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I do have a "when-all-else-fails" procedure for removing truly awful odors from something you simply must keep (usually I simply trash them).

I have a lovely small antique earthenware jar that "someone" (I never did learn who) used to store some fish sauce while I was otherwise occupied during a party. It was shoved behind some other things on the counter and I did not discover it for a couple of days.

I was livid, because I never used the jar because it was a precious item inherited from my grandmother.

The odor was absolutely awful and nothing affected it. Finally I consulted with a person who dealt with removing bad odors from structures and learned this technique, which is tricky, but effective.

One needs a metal trash container with a lid - doesn't have to fit tightly, but enough to contain the fumes.

Do this in a well-ventilated place, not indoors.

Put the item or items you want to de-stink in the bottom of the container and arrange some sort of rack above it.

Into a small metal can (I use the size that holds tomato sauce) place 1/3 cup of Epson salts. Add just enough denatured alcohol so you can get a wicking effect with a piece of cotton string or cloth.

Put the can on the rack, light the wick and cover the container.

Do not remove the lid for two hours.

This works!

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I think the problem is that the odor has permeated the material, itself, so activated charcoal won't be of much help, either, since it will merely absorb the odors from the air in the container, rather than from the container, itself.  The Palmolive Oxy might be a better choice.  If that fails, you might just have to try bleach (if the smell of bleach is more pleasing to you than chili).

Good point. The Palmolive Oxy might be a better next step.

Another alternative is to simply label this container "CHILI".

Update: On the plastic container I tried a paste of baking soda and dish soap (not Palmolive Oxy) first and left it overnight. This reduced the smell of newsprint about 50%.

Next I tried the activated charcoal. No additional effect.

Next I tried filling the plastic container with water and the Palmolive Oxy with Odor Eliminator and let it stand for a several hours. This resulted in the absolute elimination of the newsprint odor, which was replaced by the stronger bubblegum or cherry Gaitorade aroma of the Palmolive. Not really what I was hoping for. So I have the container soaking in water and my regular dish soap which is much more neutral, to be followed by a diluted vinegar solution.

This has been an interesting excercise. Many of the things I have tried have worked, but introduced a new odor. May be a matter of which odor would negatively effect whatever you are going to store in it next.

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Thanks for your "when-all-else-fails" treament, andiesenji. Hope I don't ever need it, but glad to have it.

Grovite - if the noxious bubble gum odor lingers, your Bar Keeper's Friend paste treatment is my next step. Thanks.

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I've had good luck using a brewing/winemaking sanitizer like B-Brite or 1-step to get the odor of (among other things) whey protein gone wrong out of lexan water bottles--that's a bit of a specialty product to be sure, but I find it works well for odors and cooked-on things

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