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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

How to Remove Turmeric Stains



The bright orange-yellow of turmeric. Excellent on food. Bummer on your shirt.
The bright orange-yellow of turmeric. Excellent on food. Bummer on your shirt.

Turmeric is one of the world’s most beneficial spices. Its health benefits range from an anti-inflammatory agent to helping to correct depression symptoms (the latter has not yet been tested on humans, but there are several studies where it has been proven effective on lab rats).

This root is so renowned for its healing powers that there have been more than ten thousand peer reviews documenting how incredible turmeric is for the human body.

That beautiful color…

Aside from its outstanding health benefits, it is also a great ingredient for adding gorgeous color to any dish. Turmeric is one of the staple ingredients for dishes in Indian cuisine.

Do you get your turmeric from Amazon? You probably should.
It’s raw, organic and a full pound.

Another way turmeric is used is to dye fabrics. Its yellow powder is great at permeating fabrics and altering the color. Maybe a little too good in fact, because turmeric is also known as one of the most stubborn stains. Once you get it on your clothing, it is nearly impossible to get out.

Treating turmeric stains

There are a few steps you will have to take when trying to remove turmeric stains. We are going to discuss these steps in detail, so the next time you get one of these stains you will be armed with the knowledge needed to deal with it.

  1. Pre-treat
  2. Remove treatment from garment
  3. Machine wash
  4. Sun dry
  5. Repeat if necessary

While it is challenging to remove these stains, if you catch them in time you will be able to remove them (although it will take quite a bit of work) before it sets in permanently. To treat a stain caused by turmeric powder you must act fast.


The first thing you need to do when you get turmeric on your clothes is remove all excess powder from the fabric. Take a spoon (or anything really) and scrape or wipe away all of powder or sauce that is not already soaked into the clothing. Take care not to let come into contact with any other part of the clothing, or you will have an even larger stain to deal with.

Turmeric is not water soluble so putting water on your clothing will do nothing to help. In fact, hot water will make the stain set in much quicker.

Instead, get some baking soda and put it on the stain. After a while you will see the powder start to soak up the color of the spice, this means it’s soaking up all the moisture. Once you see this, you can move on to step two.

Alternately, you can spray on an enzyme stain remover. I like this one from Amazon.

Remove Powder

Once the powder has been on for several minutes, it is time to start working the stain. Take a soft bristled brush and gently work the stain. Do not scrub the stain, that will do nothing but spread the stain, just use short brush strokes to remove the baking soda, and the stain should come with it. Make sure it is a brush with soft bristles (Amazon) so that you do not wear the fabric down. You may be brushing for several minutes.

The raw turmeric root. Ready to make stuff bright yellow!
The raw turmeric root. Ready to make stuff bright yellow!

Vinegar is good for so much. Here’s how to pickle onions in it.


If the baking soda doesn’t work, or you don’t have any on hand, you can use vinegar, but baking soda is going to be your best option.


The third step is to wash your clothing. At this point, if you went the baking soda route, you could also add a stain remover, such as Shout, Oxi Clean or my recommended Puracy (from Amazon) to the stain then wash as usual. The point here is to throw as much stain fighting agents as you have in your arsenal at the stain. Be sure to wash in warm water and, as always when doing laundry, follow the instructions on the clothing label.

You might like my post about washing kitchen towels.


Step four is to dry the stained article of clothing. By the time your shirt comes out of the wash, you should notice a significant difference in how the stain looks and it should be nearly gone, if not completely. But remember, we are throwing all of our stain fighting power at this stubborn yellow spice, so hang it to dry in direct sun light.

Sunlight is a well-known bleaching agent. It is why the color of your car becomes faded over time. Ordinarily, this is an unwanted by-product of beautiful weather, but we’re going to use this to our advantage in this case.


If you have followed all of these steps and there is still a noticeable stain, repeat the steps over. You may need to do it twice, but in my experience, if a stain is still around after two washes, then it probably isn’t coming out.

Give up? (link to Amazon)

Wrap – Up

These turmeric stains are a real pain to deal with, but with some patience and a lot of work, you’ll be able to combat them. My suggestion is to wear clothing you’re willing to get stains on while cooking. It will save you a whole lot of heartache. But if you do happen to get this spice on your favorite shirt, well, at least you’re armed with the power to remove it.

Let’s get those spices organized! Here are my favorite drawer inserts for spices.

Additional Resources

Kitchen Professor author
About the Author: Alexis DeAnda

Alexis DeAnda is a food fanatic, library card user, and cast iron hunter, in that order. She has been cooking for anyone that will taste it ever since her mom let her make doughnuts on Saturday mornings at the age of 7.

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