Saffron, one of the most expensive ingredients used in cooking, adds flavor to seafood dishes like bouillabaisse and paella and is used frequently in Persian, Indian, European, and Arab cuisines. It is also one of the hardest stains to remove from clothes and table linens. While quite flavorful, the yellow pollen gathered from crocus is also used as an excellent dye. The key to successful saffron stain removal is to treat the stain as soon as possible.
How to Remove Saffron Stains from Washable Clothes
If you drop a bit of dry saffron on clothes, do not rub or try to brush away the particles because you will only press the pollen deeper into the fabric. Instead, use a bit of sticky tape to lift the grains from the surface of the fabric. If you don't have tape, blow air on the fabric or shake the fabric outside or over a trash bin to loosen the grains.
If the saffron is already added to the cooking dish like paella or dissolved in water, you'll need to do a bit more work to remove the stain.
For washable fabrics, treat the stained area with a heavy-duty enzyme-based stain remover like Shout or Zout. Use a small, soft brush - like an old toothbrush - to work the stain remover into the stain. Begin at the outside edge and work in a circular motion toward the center. Try not to spread the stain any larger. If you don't have a stain remover, use a bit of liquid heavy-duty detergent (Tide or Persil) to treat the stain.
Let the stain remover work on the fabric for at least 15 minutes. Rinse under cool water. If any yellow color 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 or table cloth 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 and repeat. It may take several soakings to remove the stain but it should come out.
How to Remove Saffron Stains from Dry Clean Only Clothes
If the garment is labeled as dry clean only, follow the same sticky tape routine to lift any dry saffron pollen from the surface. If the stain is liquid, blot with a dry, white cloth to remove as much moisture as possible.
As soon as possible head to the dry cleaner and point out and identify the stain to your professional cleaner. If you decide to use a home dry cleaning kit, be sure to treat the stain with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the kit's cleaning bag. Be forewarned, you'll have much better success allowing a professional to tackle a saffron stain.
How to Remove Saffron Stains from Carpet and Upholstery
Again, if the saffron is dry, try not to rub it deeper into the fibers. Use a vacuum to carefully pull the pollen away from the fibers.
For wet stains, lift any solid matter from the carpet or upholstery with a dull kitchen knife or edge of plastic credit care. Then use a damp, clean white cotton cloth or white paper towel to blot away as much moisture as possible. Do not rub because you can make the stain larger. Keep moving to a clean area of the towel with each blotting action to absorb as much as possible.
To remove the remaining yellow stain. mix a solution of oxygen bleach and cool water following package directions. Apply the solution to the stained area using an eye-dropper to prevent over-wetting the area. Work from the edges toward the center of the stain so the stain will not grow larger.
Allow the oxygen bleach/water solution to remain on the area for at least 30 minutes. Blot the stained area with a dry white cloth or paper towel. Allow to air dry. Repeat as often as needed until stain is removed.
If the upholstery is silk or heavily embroidered, contact a professional to handle the cleaning.