How to Remove Food Coloring Stains

Family preparing food coloring for Easter eggs
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Food coloring in liquid, gel or powdered form is safe to use to make colorful desserts and dishes but all forms of the dye are highly concentrated and stain fabrics easily. So unless you want your outfit to match the color of your food, it's important to treat the stain as soon as possible.

How to Remove Food Coloring Stains from Washable Clothes

When a spill of food coloring happens on washable clothes or fabric, hold the stained area with the wrong side up directly under a cold water faucet running fully open to flush the stain out of the fabric as soon as possible. If the food coloring is a powder or gel, do not rub with your hand or cloth because that will push it even deeper into the fabric.

After flushing, work some a heavy-duty liquid detergent like Tide or Persil (these are leading high-performance brands that contain the necessary enzymes to break apart the dye molecules) or a stain pre-treater like Zout or Shout or Spray 'n Wash into the stain. Work the stain remover in well with your fingers or a soft-bristled brush and allow the stained item to sit for at least fifteen minutes before laundering the garment as usual.

If the stain remains, mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach (OxiClean, Clorox 2, Country Save Bleach, or Purex 2 Color Safe Bleach are brand names) and cool water. Follow the package directions as to how much product per gallon of water. Completely submerge the entire garment and allow it to soak for at least eight hours. Check the stain. If it is gone, wash as usual. If it remains, mix a fresh solution of oxygen bleach and water and repeat. It may take several soakings to remove the stain but it should come out.

Do not place a food coloring stained fabric in a hot dryer until the stain is removed. The high heat can set the dye and make it nearly impossible to remove.

How to Remove Food Coloring Stains from Dry Clean Only Clothes

If the garment is labeled as dry clean only, blot the stained area with a dry white cloth or paper towel. As soon as possible, head to the dry cleaner and point out and identify the stain to your professional cleaner. If you are using a home dry cleaning kit, be sure to treat the stain with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the dryer bag.

How to Remove Food Coloring Stains from Carpet 

If the dye stain comes from a food item or a roll-away wet Easter egg or a blob of gel dye, remove any solid matter as quickly as possible. If the food is gooey, use a dull knife edge or spatula to lift away the solids. Do not rub because that will push the dye deeper into the fibers.

For liquid stains, blot away as much of the stain as possible with a white paper towel. Add a bit of plain cool water to the stained area to dilute the stain (don't over saturate) and continue blotting.

If color remains, mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach (see brand names above) and cool water following package directions. This is usually one tablespoon per cup of water. Stir to dissolve completely and use a clean white cloth to apply the solution to the stained area working from the outside edge of the stain toward the center to keep the stain from getting bigger. Allow the solution to work for at least 30 minutes and then blot away.

Repeat as necessary. Allow the area to air dry away from direct heat. If a bit of white residue appears from the oxygen bleach, simply vacuum it away.

How to Remove Food Coloring Stains From Upholstery

If some dye or brightly colored icing lands on a kitchen chair cushion, use the same cleaning solutions and techniques recommended for carpet. Take care not to over-saturate the fabric because excess moisture in the cushion or filling can cause problems.

If the upholstery is vintage or silk, consult a professional upholstery cleaning company or if you need more stain removal tips.