Although containers are made from all kinds of materials these days, plastic is still the most popular option. They may not be the best choice from an environmental standpoint, but if taken care of properly, plastic containers can last for years. Their advantage is that they are light, which makes them great for transporting food, especially if you need to pack lunch for the kids (also, plastic will not shatter into a million little pieces when dropped).
Best care tips: According to the Tupperware-brand website, the best way to wash plastic containers is with a soft sponge and non-abrasive cleaner. Ideally, you’d like these containers to last as long as possible, so it makes sense that you shouldn’t expose them to extremes. Only use the dishwasher if the plastic container is labeled “dishwasher safe” and always use the top rack. The reason for that last tip is that the bottom rack of the dishwasher is closer to the heating element and can melt your plastic containers.
When to throw away: There’s no general rule of thumb about when it’s time to throw out your plastic containers. You will instinctively know it’s time to toss them when they become warped or cracked. How long that may take depends on how well you care for your containers, and the quality of the plastic. Do keep in mind that scratches can trap bacteria, so it’s important to keep an eye out for them.
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How to get rid of stains and odors: Plastic containers may look smooth but actually they have a porous surface that can be permeated by stains and odors. “Like your skin, plastic has pores and will absorb what is around it,” explained Corinne Brown, a Tupperware sales director, in a statement to Reader’s Digest. If you encounter a stain in your plastic container, which usually comes from acidic foods like tomato sauce, here is how to easily remove it: fill the stained container with one part water and one part vinegar, then soak it overnight or until you see that the stain is starting to fade.
To remove odors like garlic from your plastic containers, make a paste with baking soda and water. Scrub the container using the paste and a microfiber cloth, then wash with soap and water.
Glass containers are gaining more and more popularity. While they may be heavier than plastic and take a little bit more space they have some important benefits. Glass is generally safer than plastic when it comes to our health. You can heat and reheat glass containers over and over without worrying about any chemical leaching into your food. The same applies to the freezer.
Related: 11 Useful Food Storage Tips to Help Food Stay Fresh Longer
Best care tips: When it comes to glass containers, cleaning them is no different than cleaning other glass-made kitchen items. It is completely safe to put them in the dishwasher. If they have a plastic lid, use the previous tips to ensure it stays clean and in good shape.
When to throw away: If durability is what you’re looking for in your containers, you may want to opt for those made of glass. With care, glass containers will last almost indefinitely and if you do decide to dispose of them, they are 100% recyclable.
How to remove stains and odors: The vinegar and baking soda solution we suggested for plasticware should work with glass containers as well. A super simple trick to get rid of odors is to expose your containers to direct sunlight. The sun has a natural ability to fight off odors, and airing them out on a sunny day is a perfect way to take advantage of it.
One general storage tip that housekeeping and organization experts swear by is to keep your containers with a box of open baking soda in the cabinet. Another option is lining them with newspaper to keep them from absorbing any new smells. These tricks should be effective with containers of any material. For more storage tips, take a look at our previous article 8 Ingenious Tupperware Organization Tips You Must Know.
Metal containers may not be the obvious choice for food storage, but there is no reason to shy away from them. They are affordable and more durable than their plastic and glass counterparts. Metal can get banged up and repeatedly relocated without suffering significant external damage. There are some care tips as those listed below, specific to metal containers, that are important to know.
Best care tips: The most important advice about the upkeep of metal containers is to not use a sponge when washing them. The bad smells from the sponge cling to the metal like a magnet. Instead, when washing metal containers simply fill them with a mix of hot water and soap, then seal and shake until the container is sufficiently clean.
How to remove odors: Odor could be an issue when dealing with metal containers, as they can get damp and musky if you put the lid back on before they've had a chance to properly dry. To prevent this mildew odor from forming, be patient and let them air dry as long as needed (it may take a while - anywhere from a few hours to overnight). Another good way to ensure the odor never forms in your metal containers is to wash them once every week, even if it’s a bottle you only use for water. The more often you clean them, the longer they will last.
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