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How To Get Food Coloring Stains Out Of Clothing

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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.

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  1. lorraine williamson says:

    thank you for the tips will definitely try do you use a particular brand of dish soap or just any dish soap.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I use Dawn Original because that’s the one I always buy. Most liquid dish detergents should work, though. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the solution ! We were playing with “rubber eggs” (eggs soaked in vinegar and food coloring for 24-72 hours). Shells dissolve and eggs bounce, AND EXPLODE if squeezed! Also, egg coloring is coming up for Easter!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’ve never heard of rubber eggs before and now want to try that! Glad to have helped with the food coloring stains. 🙂

  3. Thank you so much! My son got blue dye all over his new (mostly white) shirt. We had a conversation about asking to use food coloring for projects and keeping it at the table but that didn’t change that his clothes were full of it 🙁 Found this and was AMAZED at how easily it came out.

    1. Katie Berry says:


  4. Green food dye from Warhead Candy that was in the beige pant pocket and went through a wash and dry cycle…….it came out with the luke warm water, vinegar and some spray n wash blend and soak for 15 mins.

    WOW – Thank you!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Excellent! Those Warheads are tough to deal with.

  5. Ashley Welborn says:

    Wouldn’t the knife cut or rip tiny fibers eventually causes a thin spot if not a whole in the fabric ?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Table knives don’t have sharp tips. You could also use the edge of a spoon or even an old credit card.

  6. This worked so well!! I made green cupcakes today and noticed hours later that somehow I wound up with tiny specks of green ALL over my white shirt…I was so worried it was ruined, but after taking it out of the hydrogen peroxide mixture it was already back to normal! Thank you thank you thank you!!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m glad to have been of help, Katrina!

  7. My daughter made home-made bath jellies and I accidentally ended up with bright, neon blue on my new white jeans. I thought they were goners but this took the stains right out! I’m thrilled. Thanks for posting!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m glad to have been of help! Your bath jellies sound fun. Enjoy!

  8. Jill Evans says:

    Thank you! Worked like a charm. My daughter had yellow and pink icee all over her brand new light pink shirt and it worked great.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      So glad to have helped you rescue that shirt!

  9. Lynn Schmidt says:

    I have my daughters wedding dress stained that she has food coloring dye of purple from her wedding cake from almost 6 years ago now. I can soak it in the solution but I cannot wash it immediately after that or normally dry it! Can I just hang it up to dry after making sure that I rinsed out the dawn well?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      With something like a wedding dress, I’d recommend taking it to a professional dry cleaner.

    2. I called up several places for professional dry cleaning for a wedding dress and it was several hundred dollars to do it. I think I will have her sell it as is and the buyer can take it to the dry cleaners themselves. Thanks.

    3. Katie Berry says:

      Hi again, Lynn!

      If she’s not attached to keeping the dress, I think that sounds like a fantastic idea. I’m just reluctant to suggest a solution for something as expensive as a wedding dress since so many brides want to keep theirs and pass it down.

  10. My daughter likes to play with food colouring and gets it on her sheets would it work on sheets

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Bella,
      It should work with sheets, too. 🙂

  11. Autumn Reynolds says:

    Thank you sooooo much ! I was using food coloring and got it in one of my favorite hoodies with this you have saved me ! Thanks!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m so happy to have helped! Enjoy your hoodie.

  12. WOW!!!!!! This really worked my my dried red food coloring stain on my new clothes. I read other articles and they said you would probably have to throw them out if the stain was dried. But this worked in 10 minutes. Thank you so much!!!!

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