How to remove nicotine stains from plastic items

how to remove nicotine stains from plastic

Nicotine stains are caused by tobacco found in cigarettes or other tobacco products. They are common for cigarette smokers. However, do not be deceived; just because you do not smoke does not mean you are exempt from this kind of stain.

Sharing a household with a cigarette smoker or hanging out with one can expose you to smoke and nicotine stains. If you don’t have an ashtray on hand and use a plastic container instead, it can lead to nicotine stains.

Fortunately, you can get rid of nicotine stains on plastic surfaces and items with simple household cleaning agents such as:

  • Distilled white vinegar 
  • Baking powder
  • Lemon juice
  • Bar Keepers Friend
  • Potatoes

Distilled white vinegar and baking soda approach

Distilled White Vinegar is the best for removing nicotine stains. It is highly rated and known for its non-abrasive nature, which works well on plastic surfaces. So is its common companion, baking soda. The two make for a mean cleaning solution that removes nicotine stains, clears odor, and doesn’t wear the surface out

To prepare the solution you will need:

  • One cup of distilled white vinegar
  • One cup of baking soda
  • A bowl of hot water
  • A sponge


  1. Mix the distilled white vinegar and baking soda in the bowl of water and stir gently.
  2. If possible, put the solution in a sprayer bottle and spray the plastic surface on the affected areas. If a spray bottle is not available, you can sprinkle the water on the affected area.
  3. Let the solution act on the stained areas for five to ten minutes to allow the stains time to loosen.
  4. Using the sponge, wipe the area vigorously until the stains come off.
  5. If the nicotine stains are still noticeable, you can repeat the procedure until it clears.
  6. Once clear, rinse well with clean water. 
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Using baking soda and liquid dish soap

Baking soda individually is a stand-alone cleansing agent, which is especially good with stubborn stains. It is a bleaching agent and gets rid of odors that may arise from nicotine stains. Adding dish soap gives this remedy an extra grease-busting boost.

To use the baking soda  and dish soap method, you will require:

  • One cup of baking soda
  • 2 spoons of liquid dish soap
  • 1/4 cup of hot water
  • A sponge
  • An old toothbrush


  1. Run the plastic item under water to wet it.
  2. Next, make a paste of baking soda, liquid dishwashing soap, and water. Make sure the consistency is not very thick.
  3. Apply the baking soda paste straight onto the nicotine stain-affected areas.
  4. Allow the baking soda paste to act on the stains for five to ten minutes.
  5. Wet the sponge in water and wipe down the affected regions covered with the paste vigorously directly on the stain.
  6. If the stain is not disappearing, you can use the old toothbrush to scrub a little at the nicotine stain to break down its greasy layers.
  7. Cleanse with hot water.
  8. If you still notice nicotine stain residue, you can re-apply the baking soda paste and scrub once again until clear. Be gentle to avoid damaging the surface.

Lemon juice’s acidic nature breaks down nicotine stains

Lemon juice is also excellent at getting rid of nicotine stains from plastic ashtrays. As a stain remover with antibacterial and bleaching properties, its acidic nature can break down the oily nicotine structure. It can generally replace the use of harsh chemicals like bleach and will bring a refreshing smell.

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You will need the following:

  • Six lemons
  • A liter of water
  • A sponge


  1. Squeeze about 6 lemons or use one cup of regular undiluted lemon juice from the supermarket.
  2. Sprinkle on the affected spots and allow the lemon juice to settle on the affected areas for up to ten minutes to work on the stains.
  3. Dampen the sponge with water to near saturation and wipe the affected areas.
  4. You should see the stains slowly coming off. If not, keep scrubbing and then re-apply the lemon juice.
  5. Use the remaining hot water to wipe the surface clean.

Using Bar Keepers Friend 

This is currently a favorite option with many people for its endless applications. With its main ingredients being oxalic acid and sodium sulfonate, it’s less abrasive than its sibling cleaners. However, beware, it should be used with safety precautions like gloves, as it can cause skin or eye irritation.

You will need:

  • Bar Keepers Friend
  • A kitchen scourer or scrubber
  • A jug full of water


  1. Wet the affected areas with water.
  2. Sprinkle the Bar Keepers Friend generously all over the stain.
  3. Let the Bar Keepers Friend sit for up to half a day to give it time to react with the stains.
  4. Afterward, sprinkle a little water on the affected areas to form a paste.
  5. Use the scrubber or scourer to scrub gently on the affected areas.
  6. Rinse the affected areas of the plastic with water.

More about nicotine stains

Can I use these cleaning agents to remove nicotine stains from any other surface?

Yes, the above cleaning agents are the best options for nicotine stains that tend to be brown or black. If you notice any nicotine stains, you should immediately soak the stained item in a lemon solution, baking soda paste or any of the other approaches. After soaking, give it a little scrub.

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For a more in-depth look at cleaning nicotine-stained walls, check out this article.

How can I remove the discoloration from nicotine stains?

To get rid of nicotine stain discoloration, you can use a cleaning agent that contains hydrogen peroxide or add a little hydrogen peroxide to the water that you will use to clean affected surfaces. You can also combine it with baking powder to restore the surfaces to their original color if they had become brownish.

If you’re dealing with nicotine stains on your hands or teeth, find out how to get rid of them here.

Can I use toothpaste to clean nicotine stains?

Interestingly enough, toothpaste does a good job of eliminating nicotine stains. Toothpaste is mild, as it is made for cleaning teeth. It is advisable to use it together with baking powder, which will also deodorize and brighten the plastic.

Wrapping up

The best way to keep plastic items safe from staining is to set ground rules. If you smoke or have smoking friends who visit often, have metallic ashtrays for that. Better yet, have smoking sections in your household complete with ashtrays. Be sure to clean these stains as soon as they occur to avoid the stubborn stains becoming permanent. 

With all this in mind, you’ll have a nicotine stain-free home!

how to remove nicotine stains from plastic

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