How to Get Food Coloring Out of Hands – 10 Proven Methods to Try!

Food coloring can make any dish look better and make mealtimes more fun. But how many times have you used it without staining your hands? It doesn’t matter how careful we are with it, as it always seems to find a way to make our hands messy—and bright. So, the question is: how to get food coloring out of hands?

With a bit of elbow grease, creativity, and lots of scrubbing, here’s a guide to removing the rainbow from your hands. I’ve listed the best ways to deal with the most stubborn food coloring stains on your hands and skin.

Food Coloring: Is it Necessary?

red powder on white ceramic plate - how to get food coloring out of hands
Photo Courtesy of Gayatri Malhotra

As unnecessary people may think it is, food coloring does matter. After all, we’ve been using food dyes since ancient times. And iconic treats like cereal and dishes such as curry need food coloring to really pop off. 

Not to mention, spices like annatto and paprika are valued for their vibrant hues! So, you can see why it’s necessary to use food coloring. 

Today, artificial food coloring is prevalent in the market and is used in all kinds of food. For instance, it gives our favorite sweet treats like Skittles their distinct hues. And that isn’t even the best part! After all, you can use food coloring in your dishes at home. 

Who wouldn’t like to enjoy a home-cooked meal that’s delicious and appealing? But working with it can put your hands and skin at risk of stains. Luckily, there are many ways how to get food coloring out of hands. So, read on to see the best techniques!

How to Get Food Coloring Out of Hands


🦷 Toothpaste Method

blue and white plastic toothpaste tube
Photo Courtesy of 莎莉 彭

Since toothpaste is a mild abrasive, it has many uses beyond cleaning our teeth. And yes, that includes stain removal caused by the food coloring.

Regardless of the brand, here’s how to get food coloring out of hands with toothpaste:

1️⃣ Choose your toothpaste 

Although it doesn’t matter what toothpaste you use, some work better than others. I suggest using toothpaste with baking soda as it’s more robust and efficient. These kinds of toothpaste just deal with stains better. 

2️⃣ Wash your hands regularly

Wash the food coloring stains with plain, warm water and soap. Make sure to rub the affected areas with soap to achieve a decent lather. Doing this removes some of the hues, making it easier to get rid of with the toothpaste. 

Keep your hands damp after washing, and don’t dry them off just yet!

3️⃣ Apply the toothpaste

Put a dab of toothpaste on the stained areas on your hands, and begin rubbing. I recommend doing it following a circular motion to get into the dye better. Once the stain visibly lightens, rub your hands like you would when washing with regular soap. 

You may also apply it using a clean washcloth if you’re not comfortable with the method above. 

4️⃣ Keep rubbing 

Continue rubbing the toothpaste on your skin for at least a minute or two. Doing so lets the toothpaste deal with the more prominent stains away more thoroughly. 

If your toothpaste begins to dry, it’s best to sprinkle some water to keep it moist. At this point, the food coloring stain should start to fade. 

5️⃣ Rinse, rinse, rinse

Once the stains disappear, rinse your hands with plain, warm water. However, you may also use some soap if your hands feel sticky from the toothpaste. And, you’re done! 

If you still see some visible stains on your hands, repeat the process if necessary. But this time, use more toothpaste and water for better results. You don’t have to worry about repeats as deep-set food dyes often need more treatments. 

But once your skin begins to feel raw, I suggest taking a break and doing the process again after a couple of hours. 

👶 Baby Oil Method

baby oil drops on hand
Photo Courtesy of Christine Hume

Thanks to the baby oil’s slickness, it makes for a good absorbent. With this, it’s become an excellent agent in removing food coloring stains.

It can pick off the tiniest debris, keeping your hands clean and color-free. 

With that said, here’s how to remove food dye from your hands with baby oil:

1️⃣ Wash your hands regularly

Before anything else, wash off some of the food coloring stains by washing your hands with soapy water. Be sure to give it a decent lather to remove as much dye as possible. It makes the process easier and faster!

2️⃣ Apply the baby oil

Once you’ve washed your hands and dried them off, apply some drops of the baby oil on the stained areas. I recommend placing a few drops on a clean, dry cotton ball to help you scrub on the dyed regions better. 

It’s best to rub the baby oil-soaked cotton ball over the stains for at least two minutes. Once your cotton ball absorbs as much dye as possible, replace it with a new one and repeat the process. 

3️⃣ Rinse the remaining stains

Once the food coloring stains visibly fade, rinse your hands with warm, plain water and soap. If you see there are still some unusual hues left on your skin, re-do the entire process until they’re gone. 

💯 Rubbing Alcohol Method

white plastic bottles on white plastic container - how to get food coloring out of hands
Photo Courtesy of Giorgio Trovato

Rubbing alcohol is an excellent degreasing agent. It can address the added grease and oil present in food dyes, thoroughly removing them. 

So, it’s capable of getting rid of the toughest stains that soap can’t remove. And this applies to all things, including hands! 

Here’s how to remove food coloring on your hands with good ol’ rubbing alcohol:

1️⃣ Apply the rubbing alcohol

It’s best to soak a cotton ball or paper towel with rubbing alcohol. This way, it’s easier to apply the alcohol to the stained areas. Also, if you’re dealing with huge stains, I recommend using washcloths instead. It’s more convenient and covers more space!

You may apply the rubbing alcohol directly on your stained hands, but this isn’t as effective. 

2️⃣ Rub your hands

Be sure to rub the stained areas with the soaked cotton ball, paper towel, or washcloth. The motion helps the alcohol dissolve the pigments in the food coloring better. And this alone should be enough to remove most of the food dye on your hands. 

Once your cotton balls, paper towels, or washcloth absorb too much of the dye, replace them with a new one. It’s not advisable to reuse old ones as you’re just putting the stain back onto your hands. 

So, toss out the used cotton balls, washcloth, and paper towels and whip up freshly soaked ones! Continue rubbing your hands until most of the food coloring fades. 

3️⃣ Rinse it off

Once you’ve removed most of the food dye from your hands, rinse them off with plain water and soap. But if you still see some stains left, scrub it off with more rubbing alcohol. Just make sure to rinse it off afterward. 

4️⃣ Apply hand lotion

Although optional, I recommend doing this even if you don’t have sensitive skin. After all, rubbing alcohol is highly drying, making your hands feel crusty afterward. 

So, it’s better to apply some hand lotion after removing the food coloring stains. 

🪒 Shaving Cream Method

man shaving in front of mirror
Photo Courtesy of Supply

Aside from reducing razor burns and rashes, shaving cream is one potent stain remover! And this is all thanks to its natural soapy and foamy consistency.

As a result, it works wonders in lifting stubborn stains, including those from food coloring. 

Here’s how you can remove food dye on your hands with shaving cream:

1️⃣ Wash your hands regularly

I suggest washing your hands with plain, warm water and soap to make this method more efficient. After all, this motion helps you remove some of the dye, making it easier for the shaving cream to finish off the job. 

2️⃣ Apply the shaving cream

Lather a few dollops of shaving cream over your hands. I suggest rubbing them in a circular motion for a couple of minutes for the best results. Usually, the longer it is, the better it allows the peroxide in shaving creams to lift the dyes out. 

3️⃣ Rinse it off

Rinse off the shaving cream with water and soap once you don’t see any more food dye on your hands. If you can still see some of the food colorings on your skin, repeat the entire process. 

➕ Vinegar and Baking Soda Combo

Free Flour in a jar Stock Photo
Photo Courtesy of Kaboompics

Baking soda and vinegar are kitchen staples that do wonders in removing food dye! After all, when you mix the two, it releases potent carbon dioxide gas that lifts stains.

With this, it’s become a popular combination in removing food coloring stains on the skin. 

But be warned as this combo can be harsh to the skin.

Either way, here’s how you can get rid of coloring on your hands with baking soda and vinegar:

1️⃣ Wash your hands

Like most food coloring removal methods, it’s best to start by washing your hands. It makes it easier to get the food dye off your skin.

If you don’t have access to running water, you can soak a washcloth and rub it from there. 

2️⃣ Soak a washcloth with pure white vinegar, then rub

After soaking some white vinegar on a clean washcloth, proceed to rub the stained areas on your hands. If you can feel the vinegar burning your skin, make it milder by mixing it with water. Doing this dilutes the kitchen staple, making it hurt less. 

As you continue to rub your hands, the washcloth should absorb more of the dye as time passes. If so, you don’t need to replace the cloth. You can rinse it with plain water and re-soak it again with white vinegar. 

3️⃣ Add some baking soda

If rubbing your hands with vinegar didn’t remove most food coloring, it’s time to add some baking soda. Create a paste from the kitchen staple by mixing 1:1 baking soda and water. 

Once done, spread the baking soda paste over the dyed areas on your hand. And like you did with the washcloth earlier, rub the paste following a circular motion. But this time, only use your fingers! 

However, avoid rubbing too hard. After all, baking soda is highly abrasive. That means it can burn your skin or make it feel raw fast. 

4️⃣ Rinse it off

Once there are no food dyes left on your hands, rinse the baking soda and vinegar off with water and soap. The former doesn’t rinse off quickly, so this might take a while. Regardless, continue to wash your hands until they don’t feel gritty any more. 

If you still see visible stains after this, repeat the treatment until they disappear. 

🧪 Hydrogen Peroxide Method

person holding yellow plastic spray bottle
Photo Courtesy of JESHOOTS

Hydrogen peroxide works similarly to vinegar when it comes to stain removal. However, hydrogen peroxide is more robust as it can remove all types of stains from the skin. It eliminates stains by breaking up chemical bonds, making the dyes colorless!

In other words, hydrogen peroxide can make stains invisible. And even if it doesn’t remove them entirely, it sure does make your hands look a lot cleaner. 

Here’s how to remove food coloring from your hands with hydrogen peroxide:

1️⃣ Apply the hydrogen peroxide

Soak a cotton ball, paper towel, or washcloth with hydrogen peroxide and apply it to the affected areas. I don’t recommend rubbing the stains as hydrogen peroxide can make your skin feel raw fast. So, a quick dab should do it. 

2️⃣ Let it sit, and rinse

Allow the hydrogen peroxide to sit on the stains for a couple of minutes. After this, you should see the food coloring starting to fade off. Rinse your hands off with plain, warm water and some soap. 

🍋 Salt + Lemon Combo

halved lemon and some salt on a plate - how to get food coloring out of hands
Photo Courtesy of Selena Morar

Because of the high acidity of lemons, they’ve become a great agent in removing stains. And yes, this includes food coloring! Aside from this, it’s 100% safe to use on your skin. 

Adding salt to the mix helps you remove more deep-set stains as it’s an excellent natural abrasive.

With this, you should be able to get rid of the toughest food coloring stains on your hands!

Here’s how to remove food coloring on your hands with salt and lemon:

1️⃣ Wash your hands

Give the water and soap a respectable lather to eliminate as much food dye as possible early on. Your lemon and salt combo should have no issue removing the rest of the stains. 

Alternatively, you can wash your hands with lemon juice and scrub off the stains with some salt. However, this can be harsh to those with sensitive skin. If so, proceed to the next step. 

2️⃣ Make a salt and lemon paste

Mix three tablespoons of salt with five tablespoons of pure, concentrated lemon juice. Thoroughly stir until you form a paste. You may use apple cider vinegar as an alternative to lemon juice.

3️⃣ Apply the paste

Spread the paste over the food coloring stains on your hands and rub them circularly. The abrasiveness of the lemon and salt paste should quickly lift the dyes. So, continually rub until all the food coloring disappears. 

4️⃣ Rinse it off

Once there are no stains left, wash your hands off with plain, warm water. However, use soap if you feel a little sticky from the lemon and salt paste. 

🧼 Soap Method

person holding bubbles from hand soap
Photo Courtesy of Matthew Tkocz

A simple yet effective method of removing food coloring on the hands is washing them off with soap. Sometimes, it only takes repeatedly washing your hands with plain, warm water and soap. It’s safe, simple, and easy to do. 

So, I recommend initially washing off some of the stains with soap and water. And if you’re sticking to this technique alone, you’re going to have to dedicate some time to it. After all, soap only strips off pigments little by little. 

Also, you can use an exfoliating sponge to help out your handwashing. However, I don’t recommend this for those with sensitive skin as it can damage your hands over time. If not, prepare to lather up and scrub off some food coloring!

An alternative to exfoliating sponges is a toothbrush. It can reach even the skin under your fingernails! So, use this for more thorough washing. 

🧴 Hand Sanitizer Method

hand pumping a hand sanitizer
Photo Courtesy of Kelly Sikkela

Since the primary ingredient of most hand sanitizers is alcohol, you can use them to get rid of stains. You can trust them to eliminate food coloring from your hands. 

Also, since they have gentle formulas, hand sanitizers are safer for those with sensitive skin.

Here’s how to eliminate food dyes on your hands with hand sanitizers:

1️⃣ Wash your hands

Begin by removing as much food coloring dye on your hands. And the safest way to do this is by washing your hands with plain, warm water and soap. 

2️⃣ Apply the hand sanitizer

Place a couple of drops of hand sanitizer into a cotton ball and rub it on the affected areas. Repeat the process until the food coloring begins to fade visibly. 

Remember to toss out discolored cotton balls and replace them with new ones if needed. After all, you’re just going to re-stain your hands if you use a stained cotton ball. 

3️⃣ Rinse it off

When you don’t see any more food dye left, rinse your hands with water and soap. 

✔️ Leave it Be

food dyes on hands
Photo Courtesy of Sandra Seitamaa

Finally, an unusual yet acceptable way to get food coloring out of hands is by leaving it be. Most food dyes fade away on their own as you go on about your daily tasks. After all, you’re likely to wash your hands, take a bath, or shower throughout the day. And this, in turn, speeds the fading process. 

Generally, it can take between 24 hours and 36 hours for food coloring to disappear from your hands.

But since this can be impractical, I don’t recommend it unless you stay at home all day. 

Additional Tips on Food Coloring Stain Removal

Here are a few of my proven tips to keep in mind when removing stains caused by food coloring:

  • Wash it off. A few home products such as vinegar may feel raw after rubbing them on your hands for a while. So, if your skin ever feels a little tingly, wash it off immediately. 
  • Be gentle. Abrasive food coloring removal techniques might feel painful when overdone. If so, being gentle is the solution here. For instance, gently rub salt and lemon juice on your hands to avoid injury. 
  • Go for something mild. If you’re aware that you have sensitive skin, I suggest skipping harsh solutions. For instance, vinegar can be harmful to the skin, so opt for baby oil instead. 
  • Stay moisturized. Some home products like vinegar can make your skin feel dry. I recommend applying hand lotion to the before-stained areas to keep your skin healthy. 

Preventing Future Food Coloring Stains

Although you can easily remove food coloring, it can be a huge hassle, especially if you’re new to meal prepping. It can get messy fast! So, it’s best to practice preventive measures to avoid stains in the future. 

Here are a few tips to take note of to keep your hands clean and color-free:

✅ Use Hand Gloves

A simple way to prevent getting stained by food coloring is using hand gloves. I recommend using gloves when directly handling the food dye. So, whether you’re using it for baking or other purposes, gloves keep your hands clean and tidy! 

In short, using hand gloves let you use food coloring without worrying about dyeing your skin. 

✅ Wear Tops with Long Sleeves

Wearing protective clothing like tops with long sleeves can go a long way with food coloring. They serve as a barrier from the food dye, keeping your arms free from stains. Using this alongside hand gloves keep your entire upper body safe from food coloring. 

✅ Cover Unused Food Coloring

Although it can be a hassle to cover your food coloring containers repeatedly, it goes a long way. After all, it keeps the dye safe and your hands stain-free. Plus, it prevents accidental spills on your workspace! 

So, no matter how annoying it might be, remember to cover your food dyes when not in use. 

✅ Supervise the Kids

If you’re letting your kids help you cook a dish that involves food coloring, supervise them at all times. If your child is too young (around three years old or below), I recommend adding the food dye yourself. 

Otherwise, you’ll end up with a very colorful dish. And this is on top of the stain you must remove on you and your child’s hands!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is it safe to use food coloring?

A: Food coloring made from natural ingredients is safer than its artificial counterparts. Many studies about it indicated that many have serious side effects. And these range from mild hyperactivity to more severe cases like cancer. However, some artificial food dyes are considered safe, but due to the lack of research, it’s difficult to say if food coloring, in general, is safe. But if you’re planning on using it, I suggest doing it in moderation. 

Q: Can food coloring stain my hands or skin?

A: Food coloring can stain your skin, especially your hands, as they’re the ones handling it. However, no matter how tough it is to remove, it won’t stay on your skin forever. You can remove it by washing your hands usually. But for persistent and tough-to-remove food coloring stains, use more vigorous methods. These include using vinegar and baking soda or toothpaste. 

Q: Does food coloring stains on the skin go away on their own?

A: Since you use your hands a lot throughout the day, food coloring stains should go away by themselves. It rubs off the food dyes, making your hand clean in no time. However, this can take a while, usually around two to three days. So, I recommend removing it early on. 

Q: Can vinegar cause my hands to smell after using it to wash off food coloring stains?

A: Vinegar is a common remedy for food coloring stains, but it can leave a nasty smell on your hands. I suggest washing your hands thoroughly after using vinegar to remove the stain. Make sure to use soapy water for cleaner and odor-free hands. 

 Q: Is consuming too much food coloring dangerous?

A: Consuming too much food coloring, especially those with contaminants, is dangerous. But the effects shouldn’t be fatal, debunking the claims of food coloring causing cancer. Still, I don’t recommend using too much of it. It’s best to use it occasionally. 

Final Words

Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or want to have some fun, food coloring is a great way to make any dish livelier, brighter, and more colorful! However, it can also leave us with multicolored hands. Luckily, my guide on how to get food coloring out of hands can help you get rid of even the most stubborn hues in no time.

Try any of the methods mentioned for cleaner and stain-free hands!

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