How to Clean Your Discolored Vent Covers With Hydrogen Peroxide

How to Clean Your Discolored Vent Covers With Hydrogen Peroxide
Photo: Nadezhda Mikhalitskaia, Shutterstock

There’s a difference between something being dirty and discolored — and plastic vent covers can be both. While many homes feature vent covers made of metal, plastic is also relatively common. And one of the downsides of white plastic vent covers is that they yellow over time, ending up discolored.

If this happens, no amount of elbow grease or cleaning product will instantly get them back to their original colour — but it appears as though a nice soak in some hydrogen peroxide may do the trick. In a video for USA Today’s “Problem Solved” vertical, reporter Kristopher Juniel demonstrates how to do this, and explains why it occurs in the first place. Here’s what to know.

How to use hydrogen peroxide to whiten your discolored plastic vent covers

So why do white plastic vent covers gradually turn various shades of yellow and beige? According to Juniel, it’s the result of prolonged exposure to sunlight. And since air vents are always there, out in the open on your wall, this is something that can’t really be avoided.

Here’s what to do, courtesy of Juniel in this video:

  1. Start by removing the plastic vent covers. In most cases, they’re attached to the wall with two screws, so a screwdriver should be all you need to get that part of the job done.
  2. Once they’re down, thoroughly clean the vent covers. This means getting rid of any dirt, dust, or other debris stuck between the grates or along the edges. When you’re done, give it a final rinse.
  3. Find containers — ideally with lids — that are big enough to fit the vent covers. Place them in the containers, and pour on hydrogen peroxide until they’re completely submerged.
  4. Pop a cover on the container, and let it sit out in the sun for a few hours. Check on them periodically to see what kind of progress they’ve made.
  5. Once they’re white again (or at least are less-yellow than before), bring the vent covers in for a quick rinse, and allow them to dry.
  6. Lastly, reattach the vent covers to the wall.

Even if this method doesn’t get your plastic vent covers back to their original fresh-out-of-the-box shade of white, it’s easy and cheap enough to be worth a shot.

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