• Cleaning: 15 – 20 Minutes
  • Drying: 1 – 2 Minutes
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Cost: Low

While nothing replaces washing your hands thoroughly with soap, hand sanitizers, also called hand antiseptics, are an excellent option for keeping your hands clean when you’re on the move or inside your car. 

Hand sanitizer bottles are convenient to use, but can often drip due to the non-viscous nature of the sanitizer and the design of the bottle. Although these stains appear transparent, they can leave behind white circular stains on plastic – sometimes even permanently.

The best way to remove hand sanitizer stains from plastic surfaces is to either use an all-purpose cleaner, mild dish soap, a white vinegar solution, or a baking soda paste. These cleaning solutions can help lift compounds such as benzalkonium chloride from the affected areas.

In the following article, we’ll be sharing our in-depth cleaning guide on removing hand sanitizer stains from any type of plastic surface, without accidentally scratching or damaging it. 

Method 1: Using An All-Purpose Cleaner 

An all-purpose cleaner is exactly what the name implies; a cleaning solution that can be used on every type of surface, including plastic, without having to worry about accidentally damaging or scratching it.

As there is a wide variety of all-purpose cleaners to choose from, you should make sure that the one you choose doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals and is non-abrasive. While abrasive cleaners tend to be very effective, they can cause scratch marks on plastic surfaces. 

Cleaning Instructions

An off-the-shelf product that works well for us is the Chemical Guys Invisible Super Cleaner, as it’s colorless, odorless, effective, and safe for use on plastics! It’s also concentrated, so you’ll be able to dilute it as much as you need. 

  1. Start by diluting your preferred all-purpose cleaner according to the manufacturer’s directions. It’s best to do this in a small bowl. Skip this step if your cleaner doesn’t require any dilution. 
  2. Then, grab a soft microfiber cloth, as it will not scratch or damage the plastic surface in any way. Use it to apply the cleaning solution directly on the affected plastic.
  3. Use the microfiber cloth and with gentle pressure rub the solution across the affected area in back-and-forth motions. 
  4. Continue doing this until you slowly notice the hand sanitizer stains lift off the plastic.
  5. Lastly, wipe the plastic surface using a dry area of the microfiber cloth. Ensure that the surface is stain-free and dry. 

Method 2: Using a White Vinegar Solution

White vinegar is known to contain acetic acid and water. Acetic acid is a powerful organic liquid that can neutralize alkaline (hand sanitizers are known to be alkaline-based). 

For that reason, white vinegar can serve as an effective cleaning solution in removing hand sanitizer stains from plastic surfaces. It’s also non-abrasive, meaning that it will not damage the plastic material.  

Cleaning Instructions

Start by mixing 1-2 tablespoons of white vinegar with equal amounts of water and ensure that it’s mixed well. It’s best to do this in a small bowl.

  1. To remove hand sanitizer stains on plastic with white vinegar, dab a dry microfiber cloth into the cleaning solution that you’ve just prepared. 
  2. Avoid soaking it in too much vinegar and only use as much of it as required. 
  3. Then, gently apply the cloth with the vinegar cleaning solution on the plastic surface and wipe the stain off. 
  4. It may take a few attempts, but repeat this process for stubborn stains.
  5. After the stain is removed, ensure that the plastic surface is wiped dry using a clean part of the same microfiber cloth.

Method 3: Using a Mild Dish Soap

Dish soap can be effective in removing mild hand sanitizer stains. After several tests, we’ve found that fresh stains are relatively simple and fast to remove, however, may not be as effective if the sanitizer has been left to set on the plastic surface. 

Cleaning Instructions

Before beginning the cleaning process, you’ll need to create a cleaning solution using mild dish soap. Start by adding 1 part of any mild dish soap (preferably made of natural ingredients) to 10 parts of water into a small bowl. 

Ensure that you mix the dish soap well to create a natural cleaning solution. To achieve that you can simply use your fingers. After that, you can follow the steps below: 

  1. After ensuring that you’ve mixed your dish soap with water, dab the end of a microfiber cloth into the cleaning solution. Avoid dipping the entire cloth into the solution, as you’ll most likely be dealing with more minor stains and also need a dry piece of cloth for the drying process. 
  2. Gently wring out any excess liquid from the microfiber cloth to avoid it from dripping, before you clean the plastic surface. 
  3. Then, gently apply the cloth with the cleaning solution on the plastic to remove the hand sanitizer stains. Remember to use gentle pressure and use back-and-forth or circular motions. 
  4. Check to see if the stain is completely removed before taking a dry end of the microfiber cloth to remove any excess cleaning solution from the plastic surface. 

Method 4: Using a Baking Soda Paste

Baking soda is a slightly alkaline ingredient when mixed with water and can also be used to remove hand sanitizer stains from plastic. However, we should note that we’ve tested this extensively and didn’t find this as effective for tougher stains. 

Cleaning Instructions

Start by adding 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water to create the ideal cleaning paste. Before starting the cleaning process, ensure that both ingredients are well mixed together using a spoon (avoid mixing with your fingers, as baking soda can irritate your skin).

  1. Use a soft microfiber cloth to scoop up a bit of the baking soda paste (use gloves if baking soda irritates your skin). 
  2. Then, start applying it to the stained plastic. Take note that this method may not be as effective for tougher hand sanitizer stains. 
  3. Rub gently to remove all traces of the stain from the plastic surface. 
  4. Repeat the process if the stain persists and wipe the surface off with the clean portion of the cloth.

Frequently Asked Questions

Removing hand sanitizer stains from plastic surfaces can prove to be challenging if the stains have discolored the material. It’s also important that you use the right equipment for this as you want to avoid leaving scratches. 

Some of our readers wrote in asking various questions with regard to the process, equipment, and cleaning solutions we’ve mentioned. We’ve taken the time to answer some of these questions below. 

Can I Use a Scraper to Remove Hand Sanitizer Stains From Plastic?

You should not any scraper or abrasive material as you’ll risk damaging the plastic surface. Using a scraper will leave behind unsightly scratch marks and is not likely to help remove the hand sanitizer stains. 

Instead, use an effective cleaning solution with the right ingredients that we’ve mentioned in the section above. Select any of the four methods for the most effective results. 

What Should I Do If the Hand Sanitizer Stain Has Discolored the Plastic?

If you’ve let the stain set for a long period of time, chances are that the plastic has faded. This happens because hand sanitizer contains high amounts of alcohol which permeates and draws the oils from the plastic. 

When this happens, the oils dry up over time, leaving behind a faded appearance that you won’t be able to restore using any of the cleaning solutions that we’ve mentioned above. 

Instead, you can either use a heat gun to restore the color of your plastic or paint over it. However, we don’t recommend any of these methods for plastics that are found on car interiors or that are in contact with food. 

What Can I Do If I Can’t Seem to Remove the Hand Sanitizer Stain?

Tougher stains that permeate the plastic surface can be difficult to remove, as they can discolor and damage the material. If compounds such as benzalkonium chloride and alcohol get into contact with plastic for a long period of time, you may not be able to remove them. Instead, you’ll need to either repaint or replace the plastic.

About Sirinan

Sirinan is a self-proclaimed cleanaholic and the editor-in-chief of Cleaney. Apart from coming with up creative ways to keep her living spaces clean and tidy, she loves to read on rainy days.