How to get every last bit of food coloring off your skin

No need to cry over spilled dye . . .

By Sara Coughlin
April 3, 2021 8:49PM (UTC)
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(Photo by Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images)

This story first appeared on Food52, an online community that gives you everything you need for a happier kitchen and home – that means tested recipes, a shop full of beautiful products, a cooking hotline, and everything in between!

The Halloween season certainly gives it a run for its money, but there's no denying that spring is a big time of year for the food dye industry. Between St. Patrick's Day and Easter, the season is full of opportunities to create vividly multicolored treats and dishes — and, unfortunately, to end up with multicolored hands, too.

It's one thing to protect your clothes from pesky stains with, say, a stylish apron, but in the midst of an egg dyeing project, you might not be able to save your skin from the same fate. Luckily, with a little elbow grease and creativity, you can wash off even the most stubborn, concentrated food colorings.

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Here, we'll show you how to best deal with food coloring stains on your skin.

Act fast

According to Dudley's, a longstanding manufacturer of Easter egg decorating kits, it's important to try to get any food dye off your hands as soon as it makes contact. Even something as simple as a paper towel or hand wipe will do, as long as you can get to it before it dries. Because once food coloring dries, it stains.

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Wash, rinse, repeat

If you can't wipe it all away with a dry paper towel, take yourself over to the sink — and plan to be there for a while. Food coloring giant McCormick recommends, quite simply, washing your hands repeatedly with soap and water until the dye starts to come off. It's a good thing that we're all in the habit of thoroughly washing our hands nowadays, and we also know how to rehab hands that are dry and chapped from excess washing.

Get a little rough

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As long as your hands can take it, you can use a washcloth or exfoliating sponge to supplement your rigorous handwashing. Lather up your cloth with soap then gently scrub at the stained areas, making sure not to overdo it. As annoying as food coloring stains can be, no one wants to end up with irritated skin. If the food coloring has made its way under your fingernails, however, you can break out a (preferably clean) toothbrush to scrub the stains out from this hard-to-reach area.

Raid your pantry or medicine cabinet

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If your skin is still stained after a few rounds at the sink, it's time to get a little creative and follow the advice from Chefmaster: vinegar, that old cleaning stalwart, is offered as a solution to particularly stubborn stains on skin. Soak a cloth or towel in some regular old white vinegar, then buff the stain out with the cloth. If you don't have any vinegar on hand but have baking soda to spare, the post also suggests making a paste of baking soda and water, and using it as a hand scrub on dye stains.

Or, as we've previously recommended for washing off turmeric stains, a little lemon juice can serve the same purpose as white vinegar (just make sure you don't have any cuts before giving it a try). Hydrogen peroxide is yet another option if you have it. Whatever your cleaning solution of choice may be, you can just rub some on your hands, try Chefmaster's washcloth trick, or take a page out of your manicurist's book and let your hands and nails soak in a dish of it for a few minutes. Taking this latter route should help loosen the dye from your skin and make it easier to wash off with soap and water.

Plan ahead next time

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Before your next food coloring project, pick up some basic latex or rubber gloves along with your dyes of choice. In the same way that your apron will save your clothes from any staining mishap, so, too, will the gloves spare your skin.

If you forget your gloves or get some food coloring on your hands anyway, don't panic. Anyone who spends any time in a kitchen knows that stains happen — and, as frustrating as they can be, are ultimately harmless. In due time, your hands will be clean once again. Sometimes, it's just a matter of being patient (and generous with the soap).


Sara Coughlin

MORE FROM Sara Coughlin


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