How to remove food coloring stains from skin

For most parents out there, seeing a child covered in food coloring is not uncommon. When dealing with food coloring, it is similar to ink, which requires patience for proper removal. If you don’t feel like waiting it out for the stain to fade, there are some things you can do to help remove it. Read further to learn how to remove food coloring stains from skin.

How to get food coloring off your hands

You can remove food coloring from your hands by first washing your skin with warm water and soap. Then you use a washcloth with vinegar that you gently rub on the stain. Dab a baking soda paste on your hands. Rinse and substitute with the vinegar rub.

Detailed steps below. No Vinegar? Scroll down to the solutions with toothpaste or rubbing alcohol.

Steps on how to remove food coloring stains from skin

If you find food coloring stains on your skin, it is important to deal with the stain immediately. Let’s take a look at the steps on how to remove food coloring stains from skin.

  • Rinse or wipe away as much of the food coloring that is left on the skin as possible. If you have an old washcloth, use it. An alternative is to use paper towels to avoid transferring the stain to the washcloth.
  • Immerse a washcloth or paper towel in white vinegar.
  • Carefully rub the washcloth or paper towel over the stained skin.
  • Rinse the washcloth frequently with water or replace the paper towel once it becomes stained.
  • For a stubborn stain, prepare a paste by mixing baking soda and water. Wash away the vinegar from the skin thoroughly before applying the paste.
  • Dab the baking soda paste into the skin gently. Rinse and substitute with the vinegar rub.
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When the stain completely fades, wipe, or wash the skin thoroughly. You can repeat the process if necessary.

Additional tips

  • Be careful not to get vinegar or baking soda directly into the mouth if the stain is on the face. 
  • When it comes to stubborn stains, you can prepare a mixture of vinegar and baking soda. The reaction when these ingredients are mixed can no only help clean the stain, but it can also be fascinating for young children to observe.
  • When dealing with a stain on the skin, avoid scrubbing or rubbing too hard since this can damage the skin. Remember that a stain from food coloring is easier to live with than a sore rash.
  • If needed, you can use options such as hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, or plain white toothpaste. 

Video: How to remove food coloring stains from hands and fingers

Is food coloring safe?

Food dyes are chemical substances developed to improve the appearance of food by providing it with artificial color. 

Artificial food dyes provide the bright colors of sports drinks, candy, and baked goods. They are widely used in different food products and even in medications. There have been claims made that artificial dyes can trigger serious side effects such as hyperactivity among children as well as cancer and certain allergies. 

Throughout the years, hundreds of artificial food dyes have been developed, but most of them have been found to be toxic. Only a handful of artificial dyes are still used on food today. There has been controversy and conflicting views when it comes to the safety of artificial food coloring. Some dyes are considered safe in one country but banned in another, making it hard to assess their safety.

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Does vinegar remove food colouring on skin?

Food colouring on the skin can be removed by using a combination of vinegar and baking soda. Simply follow these steps.

  • Wash the stain using warm water and soap. An alternative is soaking a washcloth in water and rubbing it on the site to remove the dye from your skin.
  • Immerse a clean washcloth in white vinegar. 
  • Rub it on the stain. If the vinegar stings, try mixing 1-part vinegar with 1-part water. This will dilute the vinegar to lessen the stinging sensation. 
  • Rinse the washcloth in cool water and soak it again in vinegar. This washcloth will soak up the dye. Continue rubbing on the stain until it fades.
  • For stubborn stains, prepare a paste with 2-parts baking soda and 1-part water. Apply the paste on the stain and rub your fingers over it in a gentle, circular motion. 
  • Rinse away the paste with soap and water. 

You can repeat the vinegar and baking soda treatment if necessary. Most dyes should have faded by this point, but if the stain is really deep, you may need to repeat the process.

How do you get food colouring off your skin without vinegar?

If vinegar is not available to remove food coloring on your skin, there are other alternatives that you can use.


  • Wash the site with warm water and soap. Rub the soap on the site to produce a lather. Keep the skin damp.
  • If available, use a toothpaste with baking soda.
  • Apply a thin coating of toothpaste on the stain. Carefully rub it in using circular motions. 
  • Once the toothpaste dries up, splash some water and continue washing. After a short while, the dye should start to lighten.
  • Rinse the toothpaste away with warm water. 
  • Repeat the steps if needed. If a trace of the stain lingers, wash it again with more toothpaste and water. 
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Rubbing alcohol

  • Soak a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol. For a wider area, use paper towels or a washcloth. 
  • Rub it on the stain. The rubbing alcohol will help dissolve the pigment in the dye. With a few strokes, most of the dye should come off.
  • Repeat using fresh cotton balls and rubbing alcohol until the dye fades. 
  • Wash the site with soap and water and pat dry using a towel. If traces of the stain linger, rub it away with more rubbing alcohol. Thoroughly wash and dry your skin after.

Due to the drying effect of alcohol, it is recommended to apply lotion after, especially if you have sensitive skin. 

Does food coloring stain your skin

Food coloring will stain your skin, but it is not forever. If you want the food color off faster, you use can vinegar and baking soda to remove it. Two other solutions on how to get rid of food coloring stains on hands etc. are rubbing alcohol or toothpaste.

Final thoughts

The bright colors of food coloring can be attractive to look at, but once food coloring accidentally spills on your clothes, skin or surfaces, it can leave behind a stubborn stain. With the methods described on how to remove food coloring stains from skin, you can properly deal with them.

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