You can get food coloring out of clothes with a few common household or laundry ingredients and some elbow grease. Try these methods, even if the stain has been there for a while.
Food coloring drops, gel, and powder are popular ways to tint frosting and cupcakes, dye Easter eggs, or make colorful craft projects. But spills happen, and when they do, you’ll want to know the easiest ways to get the food coloring out of fabrics without damage.
Is Food Coloring Permanent?
Food coloring is designed to quickly and vividly color things, but that does not mean it’s always a permanent stain. Since food dye is oil-based, it is easier to remove from synthetic fabrics like rayon and polyester. Still, even with cotton, you can usually remove it with a bit of elbow grease and common household ingredients. For silk or wool garments, you should consult a dry cleaner since the rubbing involved in stain treatment can damage these fabrics’ fibers.
How to Get Food Coloring Stains out of Clothing
As with most stains, it’s easier to treat a new spot than one which has already set in. Fortunately, getting food coloring stains out doesn’t require any specialized products or equipment, whether they’re new or old, just ordinary things you should already have in your cleaning supplies or laundry room.
In the Washing Machine
Like ink stains, most fresh food dye stains will come out if you blot the area with a paper towel to remove excess food coloring, then apply a small amount of liquid detergent or dishwashing detergent to the spot on both sides of the fabric and wait 10-15 minutes, but don’t let the detergent dry.
Once the pre-treatment has had time to work, launder the item in the warmest water allowed on the care label with your usual laundry detergent. Add a cup of chlorine bleach to the wash cycle for white fabrics, and for dark or bright-colored clothing, use a cup of oxygen bleach (or make your own nonchlorine bleach). Check that the stain is gone before you put it in the dryer.
Spot-Treating Food Coloring Stains
Sometimes you may not want to wash an entire load or have access to laundry facilities. In that case, here’s how you get rid of fresh stains from food dye without a washer:
1. Grab a table knife and scrape off as much of the spot as possible.
2. Press a damp white rag firmly against the stain to transfer dye from the clothing to the rag. Rinse. Using a new section, continue to blot until the spot is gone. (The reason for using a clean white cloth is to ensure you aren’t transferring color from the rag to your clothes.)
3. When you’ve dabbed away as much dye as possible, soak the stained area in a shallow bowl filled with 1 cup cold water, one tablespoon white vinegar, and one teaspoon liquid dish soap. If necessary, weigh the fabric with a coffee mug, so it remains immersed in the soapy water.
4. After 15 minutes, rinse it under a cold faucet with the stained side down. The flow of the water will help pull additional dye out of the fabric. Inspect the garment after it has air-dried and repeat if needed.
Removing Older Food Coloring Stains
1. Combine 1 quart of warm water, one tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide, and one teaspoon liquid dish detergent in a bowl or bucket.
2. Submerge the stained area in this solution, weighing it down if necessary. Allow the fabric to soak for 15 minutes then gently rub it from the back to loosen the dye. Rinse very thoroughly under warm water with the stained side down. Launder immediately.
Get Food Coloring Off Carpet and Upholstery
Naturally, my frosting bag mess didn’t only stain my shirt. We also wound up with food coloring stains on the carpet and sofa. If that happens to you, don’t panic. It’s still pretty easy to remove them. As with all stain removers, sure to spot test these methods in an inconspicuous place to check for colorfastness.
Rubbing alcohol: Use a clean white rag and rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol to remove food coloring spots on carpets and upholstery. Dab the area lightly to lift the stain and transfer it to your rag. Be sure to switch to a clean section of your cloth often so you aren’t spreading the mess. Once the stain is gone, wipe the area with fresh water and blot dry with a clean towel.
Oxygen bleach: Dissolve a tablespoon of oxygenated bleach in 2 cups of cool water. Apply this to the area with a clean sponge or cloth, wait 5 minutes, then blot with a fresh cloth to lift the stain. Change to a clean section of your cloth often so you don’t transfer the dye back to the carpet.
Baking soda and vinegar: A simple, all-natural way to get food coloring out of carpet and upholstery involves sprinkling the stain with baking soda and then spraying it with vinegar. The foaming produced by this combination can dissolve the stain’s bonds to the fabric fibers. Wait for the foaming to stop, then blot the area with a clean, damp cloth. Turn the cloth frequently to lift the mess and not spread it.
After removing the food dye, wipe the area with a fresh cloth lightly dampened in water to neutralize the stain removers, then blot it dry.