How To Clean Turmeric Stains With Just Pantry Staples

Not all food stains are alike and some can be impossibly tough to handle. Turmeric is one ingredient that can be a real pain to clean up because its vivid color will latch on to anything it comes into contact with — cutting boards, countertops, dish towels, aprons, your hands, and fingernails. This ingredient can be found in many cuisines but is perhaps most commonly associated with Indian food, as an ingredient in various masalas.

A rhizome similar to ginger, turmeric can be used both in its fresh or powdered form, but either way, it will stain everything in your kitchen. It's so potent turmeric was historically used as a dye to produce a rich yellow color on fabrics. But just because you get a little on your favorite button-down Oxford, doesn't mean you have to give up and dye the whole thing yellow. Basic household staples like hand sanitizer, baking soda, and vinegar can be used to eliminate those turmeric stains.

Getting turmeric stains out

It's worth knowing a couple of key bits of info before digging into that spice stain with sponge and solvent. The first is that turmeric is a natural pH indicator and changes color depending on what it is brought into contact with. When mixed with anything alkaline, turmeric stains will turn bright red. Because soap is basic, this can cause a kitchen panic when the yellow stain you are trying to clean with soap becomes even more vibrant after "washing." 

Turmeric is also fat soluble, not water soluble, so it can't simply be run under the tap. As with any stain, you want to treat it immediately so it doesn't have time to set. To get the stains out of clothing, you will want to pre-soak the item(s) in rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. Alcohol, which is neither acidic nor basic, will help loosen the stain without changing its color. Let it soak for ten minutes before running it through a cold cycle in the washing machine.

Other turmeric stain tips

If you are trying to remove a stain from white clothes, you can bleach them, or scrub them with a baking soda paste, before washing them in cold water. Letting them air dry in the sun afterward will allow a little extra natural bleaching to finish the job.

To clean turmeric stains off of dishes, soak them in a mixture of warm water and distilled white vinegar for half an hour before washing. (Lemon juice will also work.) This is great for cleaning out your favorite mug for golden milk lattes, or a set of bowls after a family dinner of masoor dal.

If you want to avoid turmeric stains, using powdered turmeric generally offers you a little more control, since it can be added directly to your pot or pan without chopping or blending. But you shouldn't let a fear of stains turn you off turmeric, which can add a wonderful deep earthiness and a bright pop of color to your dishes — but hopefully, that's all.