How to Get Food Coloring Out of Clothes

Kimbry Parker

Food coloring is fun to use to dye Easter eggs, spruce up white cupcake frosting or even make a colorful drink on St. Patrick’s Day, but your mood might change if it gets on your clothing.

Treat food-coloring stains promptly for best results.

Although food coloring might seem impossible to remove, it can be done -- but stain removal isn’t as simple as just tossing the garment in the washing machine. Care must be taken so the food coloring doesn't spread further onto the clothing.


Do not place the clothing in the dryer until all of the food-coloring stain is gone. This may set in the stain. Wash the garment in cold or lukewarm water. Hot water may also set the stain. When washing the garment, add chlorine or oxygen bleach to the washing machine -- whichever is safe for the fabric according to the care instructions -- for more stain-eliminating power.


Never mix chlorine bleach and ammonia. The fumes produced can be toxic.

  1. Scrape off any globs of food coloring with a butter knife. Do this gently so the food coloring doesn’t spread.

  2. Fill a bucket with 1 quart of lukewarm water. Add 1/2 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent and 1 tablespoon of household ammonia.

  3. Place the garment in the bucket. Let it soak for 15 minutes.

  4. Take the clothing out and rub the back of the stain with your fingers. Soak for 15 more minutes. Remove the garment and rinse under cool water.

  5. Empty the contents of the bucket and rinse it out well. Fill it with 1 quart of warm water and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Soak the garment for 30 minutes. Wash the garment as usual.

  6. Discard the mixture from the bucket and rinse it out well. If the stain remains after laundering, fill the bucket with 1/4 cup of bleach and 1 gallon of water. Use chlorine bleach if the garment is white and it’s safe for the fabric; otherwise, use oxygen bleach. Soak the clothing for 30 minutes. Rinse well and launder again.