How to Clean Yellowing Refrigerator Door Handles

Updated February 21, 2017

Plastic refrigerator door handles turn yellow over time for many reasons. Transfer of dirt and oils from hands to handle surfaces can cause yellowing. In addition, many handles inevitably yellow with age from reactions to chemicals and heat (including sunlight), causing permanent damage. Although old, damaged handles typically require replacement, you can use a few household cleaning items to clean and restore most yellowing refrigerator door handles or at least brighten and enhance the handles' appearance.

Moisten a scratch-resistant scrubbing pad with warm water.

Sprinkle baking soda on the pad and, using light pressure, scrub your refrigerator door handle. Rinse and repeat as needed. If the stain persists, continue to Step 3.

Soak the scrubbing pad in 2 tbsp of distilled white vinegar, sprinkle again with baking soda and scrub the handle in circles, applying medium pressure. If the stain persists, continue to Step 4.

Rinse the scrubbing pad. Apply two to three pea-sized dabs of toothpaste to it. Scrub the handle with the pad again, applying medium pressure.

Clean with a slightly harsher abrasive such as a melamine resin foam eraser if you believe that the yellowing is due to staining rather than plastic damage and the other methods didn't work. Soak the eraser in water, squeeze out any excess and gently rub (do not scrub) any yellow areas on your refrigerator door handle.

Wipe the handle with a wet, lint-free microfiber cloth when finished.


For textured surfaces, use a toothbrush and baking soda, vinegar and/or toothpaste to scrub away dirt, oils and stains in crevices or grooves. If you can't reach every area using your cleaning tools, remove the handle with a screwdriver to clean it. Scrub the handle and/or soak it in mild detergent, then scrub it to remove yellow staining. To protect against additional chemical or heat damage, move the refrigerator away from direct sunlight or any other heat sources (stove, heat vent or overhead lights). In addition, consider spraying the handle with kitchen-safe enamel paint for plastics colour-matched to the original handle colour or use a new colour. The paint not only protects the handle from future damage (with regular cleaning), but it can also make an old handle look completely new.


Never use harsh chemicals or bleach on plastic door handles to remove yellowing as the ingredients in many commercial cleaners and bleach can damage the plastic. Never scrub plastic using a melamine resin foam eraser as the melamine resin can scratch and/or pit plastic.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Scratch-resistant scrubbing pad
  • Baking powder
  • White vinegar (optional)
  • Toothpaste (optional)
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Melamine resin foam eraser
  • Toothbrush (optional)
  • Screwdriver set (optional)
  • Mild detergent
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About the Author

Based in Southern Pennsylvania, Irene A. Blake has been writing on a wide range of topics for over a decade. Her work has appeared in projects by The National Network for Artist Placement, the-phone-book Limited and GateHouse Media. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University.