Cleaning with Denture Tablets

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2011 • all rights reserved

Denture tablets aren't just for dentures -- they do a great job on lots of things in the kitchen and take up almost no space!

Over the past 5 years or so, I’ve gradually found more and more uses for denture tablets (you know, like Polident or Efferdent . . . except I buy cheap generic ones).  I started buying them to clean the inside of my Thermos bottles.  Then I kept finding more and more uses.

Denture tablets are great on a boat because they take up so little space compared to many other cleaners (some of which are mostly water) and they can be used on all sorts of things — many of which are hard to clean otherwise, particularly without a dishwasher.  They’re usually cheap, too.

In general, they are good on food and grease, and on items where it’s hard to get a brush in and really scrub.  They are good on hard surfaces and some softer materials.

DO NOT use denture tablets on any jewelry that’s not gold, platinum or hard precious stones (diamonds are fine; silver and pearls are emphatically NOT).  When in doubt, don’t use them unless it’s something that you’d be willing to lose.

Denture tablets aren't just for dentures -- they do a great job on lots of things in a boat galley and take up almost no space! If you’ve never used denture cleaner tablets (I had a retainer in junior high and high school and used them then), it’s pretty simple:  fill a container with water, drop a tablet (or more, see below) in the water and add the item to be cleaned.  It will start fizzing, most brands turn the water blue initially (but I’ve seen other colors) and you let it sit until the water turns close to clear again — generally in about 30 minutes.  With most items, you’re fine to leave things in overnight.  Then remove the item and rinse.  Sometimes I have to do a bit of scrubbing or use a Q-Tip to get into a corner, but I find that the denture cleaner has always significantly loosened, if not totally removed, the crud.

I find that I have to use about 1 tablet per cup of water — but I just guesstimate, it’s not an exact science.  It works best with warm-ish water, but I don’t bother to heat it up as dentures should never be put in hot water (they can warp) and thus the cleaner is designed for room-temperature water.

To give you an idea of how it works, here’s a stained plastic bowl and the grounds basket from my coffee maker (we used a Melitta cone on the boat and I truly hated trying to keep the accumulated oils cleaned out of it until I tried this).  On the left is the “before” and the right is after about 45 minutes soaking and about 30 seconds with a couple of Q-Tips on the coffee basket.

It’s a little hard to see, but the bowl was seriously stained from some spaghetti sauce.  I had scrubbed and scrubbed with dish soap and cleanser to get it to what it was in the “before” shot.  It’s not perfect in the “after” but it’s much better — and was far less work.

Denture tablets aren't just for dentures -- they do a great job on lots of things in a boat galley and take up almost no space!

The coffee basket is harder to see (could there be a reason they make them all brown, so you don’t see the gunk?).  It had a LOT of accumulated oil on it that hot water and soap did nothing to dislodge and I couldn’t even get a toothbrush around those little “fins” in the bottom.  When I pulled it out of the denture cleanser water, it looked a lot better, and then I ran Q-Tips over all those little nooks and crannies in the bottom and got virtually all the crud out.  I didn’t have to scrub at all!

So, what else have I found that they work on?

  • Anything made of glass — particularly hard water stains and iced tea stains.
  • Glass baking dishes (Pyrex or generic) — getting baked on crud off, as well as residue from non-stick sprays.
  • Stainless pots and pans — any baked or burned on crud.  DO NOT use on nonstick pans, and I’d be careful using it on any pan that wasn’t stainless (I haven’t tried it, but I’m afraid there might be a less-than-desirable reaction with an aluminum pan).
  • Any type of a Thermos, carafe, vacuum bottle or air pot.
  • Coffee pot.
  • The bottle I store iced tea in (an old clear plastic juice container).
  • Coffee and tea mugs (particularly stained Melamine ones), including our insulated mugs.
  • Iced tea glasses (ours are plastic and were okay, but I’d try it on one before soaking all of yours just in case it takes any design off — this is at your own risk!).
  • It also helps significantly if you have any food storage container (“Tupperware”) that had spoiled food in it.
A few other uses that I’ve heard of but haven’t had a reason to try:
  • Gold and diamond jewelry.
  • Stained fingernails (natural nails, not acrylic) — say after picking blueberries, pitting cherries or doing an oil change — make up a small bowl and soak your nails for just 5 minutes before using a nail brush.
  • Stains on white cotton (such as t-shirts) — use plenty of water.  I haven’t tried this, so I can’t vouch for how safe it is on the fabric, but a land-based friend swears by it for her  baby’s onesies.
  • And be sure to check out Carol Ann’s method to clean to bilge with denture tablets in the Comments below — makes a nasty chore a LOT easier!  (UPDATE:  Another reader said it didn’t work well for them . . . see that comment below, too.)

I have also heard that they can clear clogged drains and clean toilets.  I’d be a little leery of using them for either of these purposes on a boat as I don’t know what they might do to hoses, the holding tank or to seawater if you’re in an area where you’re discharging overboard.

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  1. Candy on Facebook says:

    Wow! Never would have thought of this cool tip! Love it and now have denture cleaner on my grocery list. Thanks!!

  2. Sami on Facebook says:

    Toilets too!! Not sure if you mentioned it bcuz I’m reading u fr my BlackBerry!

  3. Carol Ann Getter says:

    I use denture tablets and a bucket of hot water to clean the bilge. About half a box of super-deep discounted tablets and a 2 gallon bucket of water, swirl it around for just a couple of seconds, and toss it in the bilge and go for a sail. The motion of the boat swishes the solution into little nooks & crannies. By the time you come back, it’s sparkling clean. Pump it out, and you’re going to smile! Fair winds!

    • Carolyn Shearlock says:

      Fantastic! I’m going to add a note in the article to make sure people read your addition.


    • Carolyn Shearlock says:

      A follow-up from Andrea Dollins on this:

      Well we tried the denture tablets in the bilge this weekend, didn’t work so well, I put a whole pack in a bucket of fairly warm water, poured it in and let it sit for about an hour..I think it actually made it even ickier, if thats even we still had to get the simple green out to finish the job..but it did make it smell minty fresh..haha 🙂

  4. Waterwoman says:

    We bought some many years ago and I used them in the head. I don’t know if that might be the reason we had to replace the joker valve or not, but I too wondered what they might do to the hoses and fittings, so when we replaced the toilet and all the hoses, I decided not to use them.

    I have a large box and it sure feels like a “duh” moment to see all the uses for them you have provided.

    Thanks, Carolyn!

    • Carolyn Shearlock says:

      Interesting about the joker valve — hadn’t thought of that being a problem, but it’s certainly a possibility!


      • I was replacing Joker Valves way too often, so I called the manufacture of the toilet and they told me the leaving vinegar in the bowl would damage the rubber valve. I would be careful using denture cleaners until more facts are in.

  5. Charlotte on Facebook says:

    You always come up with something new and good. I love your site . Thanks!

  6. In case you read the article before Carol Ann added her comment with a GREAT (easy, no scrub) way to clean the bilge with denture tablets, be sure to check it out!


  7. Candy on Facebook says:

    Thanks for sharing Carol Ann’s comment on cleaning the bilge!!! Great idea!!

  8. I’m definitely trying the bilge thing!!..this weekend!!..I hate cleaning the bilge!!!

  9. Thanks for yet another great tip! I also love the idea of cleaning the bilge with these tablets … gonna have to try it!

  10. Sounds like we’ll all be cleaning our bilge soon .. great tip!

  11. If anyone gets a couple of before and after shots of the bilge that they’d be willing to share, I’d like to post a longer article about using the denture tablets to clean the bilge!

  12. Charlotte on Facebook says:

    Stupid question perhaps but does the denture cleaner have any long term negative effects if it is not flushed all away,after a certain time, e.g. can it degrade rubber or other toilet related materials?

  13. I have looked all over for the answer to this, both when I originally posted the article and again today. And the bottom line is that I just can’t find an answer. Polident says they haven’t evaluated their product for use with rubber-lined dentures, but Efferdent says you can use theirs on all dentures and mouth guards. On the comments under the article, Waterwoman wonders (but doesn’t know) if using the tablets contributed to them having to replace the joker valve years ago. Since having a working head is critical to me, I’d hesitate to use them in the toilet.

  14. Charlotte on Facebook says:

    Yes, I agree, especially as we have an electroscan which doesn’t like any additives. But I think it would be great for all the other uses such as the bilge, coffee and tea pots and those pesky canned tomato stained dishes, especially plastic containers. I am a great believer in malt vinegar and baking soda for sink and shower drains and they have no detrimental effects. Half a cup of each, soda first.

  15. I’ll do before and after when we do it..not happening this week much other stuff to do 🙂

  16. Hi Carolyn,
    Great article. I will try this out on my old thermos! I do like the idea about using them to clean out the bilge. One concern I have is about the bilge pumps. Do they have any negative impact on plastic or any other parts that may become submerged in the solution?

    • Carolyn Shearlock says:

      Hi Dawn!

      Regarding the denture tablets, it’s extremely difficult to know exactly what chemicals are used and so forth. I checked all the manufacturers’ web sties and even sent them e-mails about using them in toilets and the bilge. No answers of course, or just a form e-mail thanking me for inquiring about their product.

      Considering that many brands often run special packages with a hard plastic “cleaning tub” for the dentures (I wore a retainer for years), I don’t think it would hurt any hard plastic. Rubber pump diaphragms I’m not sure about, but I also don’t know that denture tablets would be any harder on them than anything else used to clean the bilge . . . or things that might get in the bilge (thinking of a split in a diesel line we once had). That said, I don’t want to endorse it as “perfectly safe” either — I just don’t know!


    • Linda Schrank says:

      Love the idea for the thermos. I use them anytime I get a mystery stain on clothes. Better than stain remover. I’d rather make a try than toss a good shirt. A dish tub of water, one tablet, swish, sit overnight, and rinse.

  17. Denture tabs are mostly bicarbonate (baking soda like), weak acids (citric acid) and some surfactants mainly to take off tea and coffee stains and plaque on dentures.
    Some brands will have an enzyme to cut proteins- and mint and colour.

    Cheap Costco size bag of baking soda is great for removing moss from walk ways– and plain baking soda is great for tea and coffee stains in mugs and tea pots.
    Should not hurt most plumbing bits at all. The new(ish) chlorination system in most US water(Chloramine) is responsible for perishing some rubber seals.

  18. Candy Ann Williams on Facebook says:

    Since you shared this I have used the tablets on several things and it is great!! They really did the trick on a vinegar and oil glass container that my husband decided to add peppers to. It had gotten a scummy/scaly residue that I couldn’t get out because of the tiny opening. I broke up two tablets and they worked great!! My husband had laughed at me when I came came home to The Bootlegger with a whole bag from the dollar store. He is no longer laughing at me! Thanks again for your great tips!!

  19. Just a note: You should not use denture cleaner to clean your jewelery, including gold jewelry.

    Read this:

  20. Downeaster32 says:

    since denture cleaners are mostly sodium bicarbonate, you could get a similar effect from adding baking soda + vinegar into the dirty container.
    Let fizz then done. Could be a fine substitute. Perhaps cheaper.
    Add some hydrogen peroxide to sanitize.
    Yes, all of the above may affect joker valves in the head which have been deformed by sediment, which once the sediment is dissolved, the valve no longer seals, thus leaks.

  21. Fantastic tip. Thanks. Now I gotta go find some denture tablets.

  22. Dallas interesting?!

  23. Indeed!

  24. I use vaby bottle sterilizing tabkets for cleaning drink bottles too.

  25. I make dentures for a living and beg people to not bother using these on their dentures…atleast now I can tell them that they do a good job on saucepans!!

  26. A couple of winters ago we were hosting family Christmas at our home. The house was full. Everyone was trying to help. When I opened the dishwasher I found my crystal glasses in there – all milky white! I just wanted to scream. A few weeks ago I saw on a TV program that you can use denture cleaning tablets to clean crystal so I though why not? I mean, it couldn’t get any worse than it already was. So I soaked one glass for 5 hours and it came out crystal clear again!

  27. Lance M. says:

    I was reading this article and had a question, so I went to google and got the question answered. In doing so, I ran across this article in Practical Sailor Magazine and wanted to share.

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