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4 Ways to Remove Stubborn Stains from White Dishware

A sink overflowing with white dirty dishes.

White dishware looks stunning and is totally timeless, but what happens when your beautiful white dishes and cups get stained? Never fear—a few kitchen ingredients can get those dishes back in pristine condition.

Whether it’s tomato sauce on a plate or the dreaded coffee stain on a mug, it’s surprisingly easy to remove even the toughest stains from white or lighter-colored dishware. The secret is to wash them as quickly as possible with the right ingredients, and here are four methods.

Method 1: Baking Soda

Baking soda next to a sink; a hand using a blue sponge to scrub a pan
Arm & Hammer/Scotch Brite

Baking soda is one of the most popular stain removers. Its slightly abrasive texture, combined with its alkalinity, means it can react with, absorb, or lift away many of the most common stains.

It’s those same properties that make it the perfect choice for handling stains on white dishes and mugs. If you treat your dishes with baking soda before your normal washing process, it’ll lift away the stains, whether they’re brand-new or have been setting for a while.

Just follow these steps before you wash your dishes or put them in the dishwasher:

  1. Wipe or rinse away any lingering food or sauce.
  2. Combine 3 parts baking soda with 1 part room temperature water to make a paste, and let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Dip a damp sponge in the paste, and then scrub your dishes.
  4. Rinse, and then wash normally.

HBLife Bamboo Folding Dish Rack

Let your dishes dry on this space-saving rack.

Method 2: Lemon Juice

A bag of lemons sitting on a white counter; close-up of lemons on a tree
Wonderful Citrus

Lemon juice is a fantastic natural alternative to harsh chemical cleaners, and it smells great, too. It’s a natural bleaching agent, which is exactly what you need to remove dark stains from white or light dishware.

ReaLemon 100% Lemon Juice, 8 Oz.

Nature's stain remover.

The acidity in lemons also helps cut through many of the most common stain-causing substances. All you need is a lemon (or you can pre-squeeze your own juice) and a clean rag, and then follow these easy steps:

  1. Squeeze or pour some lemon juice into a shallow container.
  2. Dip part of a clean rag in the juice and let it soak.
  3. Using the saturated part of the rag, scrub the stained areas of your dishes.
  4. Repeat as necessary, using a clean section of the rag each time.
  5. Wash your dishware as usual.

For particularly stubborn stains, you can squeeze or pour some lemon juice directly on the dish and let it sit for about an hour. Then, just follow the rest of the steps above.

Cuisinart Pulp Control Citrus Juicer

Multiple pulp settings for making your own pulp-free lemon juice.

Method 3: Toothpaste

A box of toothpaste on a white counter; a tube of toothpaste next to a toothbrush

It keeps your teeth stain-free, so why wouldn’t toothpaste do the same for white dishes and mugs? Its bleaching and abrasive properties are actually the perfect stain-lifting combo.

You can use any kind of toothpaste, although your best bet is probably a regular or whitening brand, rather than specialized pastes for sensitive teeth, and so on.

So, grab it out of your medicine cabinet, and then just follow this straightforward process:

  1. Squirt a small amount of toothpaste on a clean toothbrush (you’ll probably not want to use one anyone actually uses on their teeth). You can also use a clean rag.
  2. Scrub at the stain until it fully lifts away (you might have to add more toothpaste for stubborn stains).
  3. Rinse, and then wash thoroughly.

Colgate Total Whitening Toothpaste

It whitens your teeth, so why not your dishware?

Method 4: Bar Keeper’s Friend

Two cans of Bar Keeper's Friend being used to clean kitchen surfaces
Bar Keeper’s Friend

If the stains on your white dishware are majorly stubborn, Bar Keeper’s Friend pulls double duty: it clears away both stains and odors. This scrubbing powder is an abrasive, but it also works on stains chemically to leave behind a sparkling surface.

Follow these quick steps and see for yourself:

  1. Sprinkle some Bar Keeper’s Friend on the stained dishware.
  2. Scrub with a wet sponge.
  3. Rinse well and repeat if necessary.
  4. Wash as usual to ensure all residue is removed.

Bar Keepers Friend Powder Cleanser

Removes even the toughest stains.

Never stress again about keeping your white dishware spotless and stain-free. With these easy tips and tricks, you can get those pesky stains gone! Oh yeah, and you can tackle those tough grease stains on your pots and pans with the same ingredients.

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »
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