Bleach + Polypropylene = Horrible white gunk?
February 3, 2017 5:00 PM   Subscribe

I put plastic and metal scungy kitchen implements in a bucket, added bleach, and diluted. This did not go quite as planned and instead of nice clean dishes I have horribly sticky white dishes. What happened, and is it reversible?

I had lifeforms starting to colonize things I had left in the sink, so rather than deal with it with hard scrubbing and general grossness, I dumped it in a bucket, threw in a few splashes of bleach, and filled up the bucket (this was a rather inexact science, so don't ask me what the final concentration was). A few days later I'm dismayed to see a white residue on everything in the bucket, and even more dismayed to find that the residue is tenacious and hellaciously sticky. Almost all of the plasticware in there was polypropylene, I think; there was also some metal. I've done some digging and it looks like PP is moderately subject to dissolution by bleach at high enough concentrations and/or temperatures (I used warm water for the dilution). Is this white gunk dissolved PP, or is there another possibility? At this point I just want to know how to clean off this mess; I'm willing to give up the PP food containers as a dead loss if necessary, although if there's a way to get this gunk off without damaging them further I'd just as gladly keep them. Scrubbing seems to take it off but immediately makes whatever I scrub with disgustingly sticky.
posted by jackbishop to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
According to this chart, it's going to depend on the temperature of the water and the length of time they sat in there. I think it's really likely that the sticky stuff is degraded plastic, though, and you need to toss it.
posted by Huck500 at 5:17 PM on February 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Bleach can do a number on plastic. I've had a little success scrubbing the plastic with strong (not rubbing) alcohol. It eventually eliminated the stickiness but the color remained mottled.
posted by cat_link at 6:21 PM on February 3, 2017

It sounds like you put the bleach in first so it was undiluted until you added the water. So yes, I think you melted the plasticware and no it's not salvageable. It's not foodsafe anymore. Next time use soap to soak crusted on stuff, its more effective anyway.
posted by fshgrl at 8:22 PM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Throw that stuff away and start over.
posted by fixedgear at 5:17 AM on February 4, 2017

I get what people are saying about the plastic containers being degraded, but what of the metal kitchenware? Is there a way to get this gunk off of it?

By strong (not rubbing) alcohol do you mean high-concentration ethanol in particular?
posted by jackbishop at 5:35 AM on February 4, 2017

What if you soaked the metal stuff in a clean batch of bleach, and scrubbed off with disposable thin sponges? Might as well use the same solvent, eh?
posted by oceanjesse at 7:33 AM on February 4, 2017

Discard any plastic containers. Try acetone on the utensils. Make sure you get plenty of ventilation, use polyurethane gloves, discard waste properly.
posted by disconnect at 8:25 AM on February 6, 2017

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