How to remove food coloring from skin

Getting food coloring on your skin is a common annoyance, especially if you have young kids who love to experiment with coloring and painting. Food dyes can leave bright stains on hands, arms, faces and clothes that seem impossible to remove. While food coloring is designed to add vibrancy to frosting, drinks and more, you don’t want that vibrant color staying on skin.

The good news is you don’t have to live with smudges of blue, green or red on your skin. There are many simple, natural methods you can use to remove food coloring stains from skin. With ingredients like baking soda, toothpaste, lemon juice and more, you can easily banish food coloring stains.

Read on to learn how to remove food coloring from skin in just minutes using common household items. With these simple tips, you can get skin looking fresh and clean again.

remove food coloring from skin

Home Remedies to Remove Stains

Wash with Soap and Water

The first method you should try to remove food coloring stains from skin is washing with soap and water. This may seem too simple, but soap helps dissolve and lift food coloring off the skin’s surface.

Start by wetting the stained area with warm water. Apply a small amount of liquid hand soap or body wash and lather it up. Gently scrub at the stained skin for 1-2 minutes to help break up the food coloring.

Rinse thoroughly with warm water. Repeat this process until you have removed as much of the food coloring as possible. This should at least help lighten the stain so other methods will be more effective.

Recommended soaps:

  • Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar – $6.99 for 4 bars
  • Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Hand Soap – $4.99 for 12.5 oz
  • Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Bar Soap – $4.69 for 5 oz bar

Use Baking Soda

For more stubborn food coloring stains, baking soda is an effective and gentle abrasive. The tiny granules of sodium bicarbonate help lift and absorb pigment when used on wet skin.

Start by wetting the stained skin with warm water. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda directly onto the stain. Using your fingertips, gently rub the baking soda around to form a thin paste. Scrub at the stain for 2-3 minutes.

Rinse with warm water and pat dry. Check if the stain has lightened or been removed. If not, repeat the process using a little more baking soda. The baking soda abrasion should help brush away stubborn food color stains.

Recommended baking soda:

  • Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda – $5.99 for 5 lbs
  • Bob’s Red Mill Baking Soda – $7.99 for 2 lbs
  • Arm & Hammer Baking Soda Fridge Box – $4.22 for 15 oz box

Try Lemon Juice

Citrus fruits like lemons contain acidic juices that can help dissolve and break down food coloring pigments. Thanks to its bleaching abilities, lemon juice is the perfect way to lighten or remove staining on your skin.

Cut a fresh lemon in half and squeeze some juice directly onto the food coloring stain. Let it sit for 2-3 minutes. This gives the juice time to soak into the skin and start breaking up the pigment molecules.

Use your fingertips to gently rub and massage the lemon juice over the stain. After a few minutes of scrubbing, rinse with clean water. Check if the staining is gone. If not, just apply more lemon juice and scrub again.

Recommended lemon juice:

  • Santa Cruz Organic Lemon Juice – $4.29 for 8 oz
  • Whole Foods Market Organic Lemon Juice – $3.69 for 16 oz
  • Lakewood Organic Pure Lemon Juice – $4.99 for 32 oz

Make a Baking Soda Paste

For extra stain-fighting power, combine baking soda with lemon juice to make a scouring paste. The abrasiveness of the baking soda mixed with the bleaching from the lemon work together to banish food coloring.

In a small bowl, add 1 tablespoon of baking soda and mix in 1-2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice. Stir to form a clean, thick paste. Use your fingers or a soft cloth to gently apply the paste to the stained skin. Let it sit for 3-5 minutes.

Scrub the paste around for another 2-3 minutes to scour the skin. When you’re done scrubbing, rinse the paste off thoroughly with clean water. This powerful combination should remove all traces of food coloring stains.

Rub with Toothpaste

The mild abrasives in toothpaste can help lift food coloring off skin just like they remove stains from your teeth. For quick stain removal, just grab a small dab of regular white toothpaste.

Apply the toothpaste directly to the stained skin and use your fingers or a toothbrush to gently scrub the stain for 2-3 minutes. The paste will help brush away the food coloring.

When you’re finished scrubbing, simply rinse the skin clean with water. Make sure you remove all the toothpaste. Check if the stain has been removed. For more stubborn stains, apply more toothpaste and scrub again.

Recommended toothpastes:

  • Sensodyne Pronamel Gentle Whitening Toothpaste – $6.99 for 4 oz
  • Crest 3D White Brilliance Toothpaste – $7.99 for 4.1 oz
  • Colgate Optic White Stain Fighter Toothpaste – $4.97 for 4.2 oz

Use Salt

Plain table salt is an effective abrasive for scouring away food coloring stains on skin. The coarse grains physically lift and remove pigment that is lodged in the top layers of skin.

Wet the stained skin with water first. Pour a small pile of salt directly onto the stain. Using your fingertips, gently rub the salt around on the stain for 1-2 minutes. The friction from the salt will brush away the coloring.

Once you’re done scrubbing, rinse your skin with warm water to remove all the salt and coloring residue. Dry your skin and check if the stain is gone. If it’s still there, just repeat the process with a little more table salt.

Recommended salt:

  • Morton Table Salt – $1.98 for 26 oz
  • Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt – $2.12 for 3 lbs
  • La Baleine Sea Salt – $3.79 for 26.4 oz

Try Rubbing Alcohol

Alcohol’s ability to dissolve oil and pigment makes it a popular choice for removing stains from surfaces. You can also use a high-proof rubbing alcohol to help lift food coloring off your skin quickly and efficiently.

Start by wetting the stained skin with water. Pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol onto a cotton ball or soft cloth. Gently rub it over the stained skin in a circular motion. Keep scrubbing for 1-2 minutes.

Make sure to rinse your skin thoroughly with water when you’re done to remove any alcohol residue. Check if the alcohol scrub removed the coloring. You can repeat the rubbing alcohol application as needed.

Recommended rubbing alcohol:

  • CVS Health 70% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol – $2.99 for 32 oz
  • Playtex Antiseptic Rubbing Alcohol – $4.19 for 40 oz
  • BD Alcohol Swabs – $2.99 for 100 count

Opt for Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is another household staple that can do wonders for removing food coloring stains from skin. Thanks to its strong bleaching abilities, hydrogen peroxide helps destroy stubborn pigment molecules on contact.

Start by washing and wetting the stained skin with water. Apply a small amount of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution directly onto the stain. Let it bubble and fizz on the skin for 2-3 minutes so it can fully penetrate.

Use your fingers or a soft washcloth to gently scrub the peroxide around. After 1-2 minutes of scrubbing, rinse the area thoroughly with clean water. Check if the stain has lightened or been bleached away completely.

Recommended hydrogen peroxide:

  • CVS 3% Hydrogen Peroxide – $1.99 for 16 oz
  • Alcohol-Free Hydrogen Peroxide – $4.57 for 16 oz
  • Hydrogen Peroxide Swabs – $6.29 for 100 count

Use Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda

You can also mix hydrogen peroxide and baking soda together to create a stain-fighting duo. The baking soda scrubs while the peroxide bleaches for the ultimate food coloring destroyer.

In a small bowl, mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and baking soda to form a loose paste. Apply a layer of the fizzy paste onto the stained skin and let it sit for 3 minutes. Scrub gently for another 2-3 minutes.

Rinse the paste off fully with water and pat skin dry. The combined bleaching and abrasive effects should lift even the most stubborn food coloring stains off skin.

Skin Brightening Solutions

Seek Out Vitamin C Serums

Topical serums with vitamin C such as L-ascorbic acid can help remove skin stains thanks to vitamin C’s skin brightening abilities. Look for creams or oils specifically formulated for facial staining.

Read the product instructions and apply a small amount directly to the stain on your skin. Massage it in and let it soak for 5-10 minutes before rinsing off with water. The vitamin C will get to work dissolving the pigment that causes food coloring stains.

Recommended vitamin C serums:

  • TruSkin Vitamin C Serum – $19.99 for 1 oz
  • Paula’s Choice Vitamin C Booster – $49 for 0.67 oz
  • Dr. Brenner Vitamin C Serum – $21 for 1 oz

Try Aloe Vera Gel

Soothing aloe vera gel is a natural stain remover for skin. It contains enzymes that help break down stubborn pigments to lighten staining. The moisturizing properties of aloe also help lift staining from deep within skin.

Scoop a generous amount of pure aloe gel and smooth it over the stained area. For maximum effectiveness, let the aloe fully penetrate for 5-10 minutes before rinsing off with water. Repeat as needed to lighten and remove the food coloring stain.

Recommended aloe vera gels:

  • Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera 100% Gel – $4.97 for 12 oz
  • Seven Minerals Aloe Vera Gel – $18.95 for 10 oz
  • Majestic Pure Aloe Vera Gel – $14.50 for 16 oz

Exfoliate with Sugar Scrub

Exfoliation with a gentle sugar scrub helps slough off stained dead skin layers to reveal fresh new skin underneath. The granulated sugar provides just the right amount of abrasion without irritation.

In a bowl, mix 1 cup of white sugar with 1/4 cup olive oil or coconut oil. Wet the stained skin then apply a thick layer of the scrub. Gently massage in circular motions for 2-3 minutes.

Rinse thoroughly with water and pat dry. Repeat the exfoliation process 1-2 times per week to continually remove staining.

Recommended sugar scrubs:

  • Tree Hut Shea Sugar Scrub – $6.99 for 18 oz
  • Brooketh Bath Co. Sugar Scrub – $14.95 for 8 oz
  • The Body Shop Cocoa Butter Body Scrub – $20 for 8.4 oz

Use Whitening Toothpaste

Whitening toothpastes contain higher concentrations of stain fighting ingredients such as hydrogen peroxide, silica, and baking soda. Using a whitening toothpaste can help lift food coloring stains faster.

Squeeze out a dab of whitening toothpaste and gently rub it onto the stained skin for 1-2 minutes using your fingers or a toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly with water when finished scrubbing. Repeat as needed for stubborn stains.

Recommended whitening toothpastes:

  • Crest 3D White Brilliance Toothpaste – $7.99 for 4.1 oz
  • Arm & Hammer Advance White Extreme Whitening – $3.97 for 6 oz
  • Sensodyne Pronamel Strong & Bright Enamel Toothpaste – $6.99 for 4 oz

Try a Bleaching Face Mask

Pigment-busting bleaching masks can help draw food coloring stains out of skin thanks to ingredients like lemon juice, strawberries, mint, or kojic acid. Look for masking products designed specifically for stain removal.

Apply a stain-fighting and skin brightening facial mask as directed over the stained area. Let the mask dry fully then gently rinse off according to package directions. Use stain-removing masks a few times a week for best results.

Recommended bleaching masks:

  • Sand & Sky Australian Pink Clay Mask – $49.90 for 2.1 oz
  • Proactiv Revitalizing Lemon Peel Off Mask – $12.50 for 2 oz
  • Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Mask – $12.95 for 1 lb

Professional Treatments

For extremely stubborn or persistent food coloring stains on your skin, make an appointment with your dermatologist. They have access to professional grade lightening creams and peels that can help remove unwanted pigment.

Be prepared to explain what type of food coloring caused the stain and how long ago. Based on the severity of the stain, your dermatologist will recommend topical creams, chemical peels, or laser treatments to gently remove the stain.

Skin lightening procedures they may recommend:

  • Prescription bleaching creams with hydroquinone
  • Glycolic acid chemical peels
  • Retinoid creams to increase skin cell turnover
  • Microdermabrasion to remove stained layers
  • Low-level laser treatments to break up pigment

Preventing Future Food Coloring Stains

Once you get your skin cleaned up, it’s smart to take some precautions to avoid future food coloring stains. Here are some tips to prevent skin staining when working with food dyes:

  • Wear gloves when handling food coloring to keep it off your hands
  • Use a splatter guard when mixing colored batters to prevent messes
  • Drape an apron or smock over your clothes when decorating
  • Tie back long hair so it doesn’t drag through food coloring
  • Keep wet wipes or a towel handy to immediately wipe up spills
  • Work in a confined area and contain spills with baking sheets
  • Opt for gel-based food colors which don’t transfer as easily

Recommended protective items:

  • Food coloring stain remover wipes – $2.79 for 20 wipes
  • Disposable plastic gloves – $7.47 for 100 count
  • Reusable silicone gloves – $11.95 per pair
  • Plastic baby bibs – $8.50 for 5 pack
  • Artist/painter smock – $15.99 each

By taking the right precautions, you can enjoy making decorative baked goods and other colorful foods without accidentally ruining your skin and clothing.


Food coloring stains on the skin might seem pesky, but they don’t have to be permanent. With practical household ingredients like lemon juice, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and more, you can easily remove food coloring from skin.

Gently scrubbing and bleaching away pigment molecules prevents you from having to live with brightly colored hands, arms or faces due to food coloring accidents. Try different stain removal methods to discover which works best for your unique skin type.

With the handy tips in this article, you can banish food coloring stains in no time. Heading to an event? Quickly mix up a stain removal recipe before you go so you can fix it on the spot. Share these simple food coloring clean up tips with other parents or crafty kids too.

Sharing Is Caring:

As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.

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