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How to remove curry stains

Curry is delicious, but its ingredients have the annoying ability to turn everything it touches yellow. Our tips will help you remove even the worst curry, turmeric and saffron stains.

Updated

Bowl with curry, spilled curry on a table cloth

Known for its fiery flavour and rich, creamy sauce, curry is a favourite of takeaway enthusiasts and discerning gastronomes alike. However, as anybody who has ever missed their mouth will tell you, curry stain removal can be a tough task.

Vivid ingredients such as saffron and turmeric have the ability to stain clothing, surfaces, furniture, and table coverings. These vibrant spices make it incredibly useful to know how to remove curry stains from a variety of fabrics and materials.

How to remove curry stains: 3 quick hacks

The key to curry stain removal is to act fast. The quicker you can attack a stain, the easier it will be to remove it. The colours and oily base of curries and spices such as turmeric can permanently dye a piece of fabric, so try and treat it while the stain is fresh.

Watch our video below for three easy hacks on how to get a curry stain out of clothes:

Has your lifestyle during the Covid-19 lockdown affected the type of stains you get on your clothes?

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The natural remedy: a lemon

Half a lemon in front of a stained top

As well as adding a mouth-watering zing to your Balti, lemon is a handy ally in the battle against curry and turmeric stain removal. Here’s how:

  1. Slice a lemon in half, and squeeze it onto the stain
  2. Leave it overnight. 
  3. Wash your garment normally, following the directions on the label of your detergent.

The simple homemade solution: toothpaste

Hand applying toothpaste to a top stained with curry

If you’ve none of the other ingredients mentioned here chances are you will have a tube of toothpaste in your home.

  1. Gently dab on a drop of toothpaste onto the stain.
  2. Leave for a couple of hours to allow the toothpaste to work its magic.
  3. Wash the garment as usual.

The way to clean hands: baby oil

It’s easy to get curry or turmeric powder over your hands, but you’ll want to get it off as soon as possible to avoid the risk of spreading to your clothes.

  1. Squeeze some baby oil onto a cotton wool pad.
  2. Use the pad to wipe your hands and nails. 
  3. Use as many pads as you need to get all the curry stains off.
  4. Wash your hands afterwards using soap and water.

How to get curry stains out of clothes

Using a knife to remove curry residue

For those curry stains that find their way onto your clothes (particularly sleeves and laps), try these effective, easy-to-apply solutions.

Make sure to test any method on a small area first, and to follow the directions of any commercial product you may be using, as well as on your garment’s care label (take a look at our handy guide here to find out what those washing symbols mean).

The first thing to do in all cases is to remove any excess curry still on the fabric. Use an implement with a clean edge (like a spoon or knife) to gently lift off any residue. Then, blot the stain to remove the majority of the moisture, being very careful not to scrub and smear it further and deeper into the fabric.

Top tip: When treating the stain, ideally place a clean cloth or wad of paper towels underneath the stain, so the saffron, turmeric or other ingredient doesn’t spread onto the fabric underneath.

Reach for the laundry detergent

Good laundry detergents are simple to use and are a go to in your armoury of how to remove curry stains.

  1. Apply a bit of liquid laundry detergent, like Persil, directly on the stain and gently rub it in. It’s important to start at the edges of the stain and work your way into the centre. This way, you won’t spread the stain further outward.
  2. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes, or as long as directed on the product label.
  3. Is the stain still there? If so, repeat. You may want to allow the stain remover to sit on the fabric for longer – a few hours or even overnight.
  4. Wash the garment on a lower temperature (ideally 30oC).

Mix up a glycerine solution

Glycerine makes for a useful cleaning agent and it is easy to create a mixture at home.

  1. Wet the stain thoroughly with warm water.
  2. Mix an equal solution of glycerine and water and apply to the stained area.
  3. Rinse again and then machine wash as usual with a biological detergent.

Also remember that if the stain isn’t fully out when you put it in a dryer after washing, chances are the heat will set the stain for good.

How to get curry stains out of white clothing

Make up a mixture of hydrogen peroxide to get the worst stains out of white clothing.

  1. Fill a spray bottle with one part 20-per-cent-volume hydrogen peroxide and nine parts water.
  2. Spray liberally onto the stained area.
  3. Leave to soak for around four hours.
  4. Machine wash the garment with detergent, as directed on the care label.
  5. If possible, allow to air dry using sunlight, which will help with the bleaching action (though leaving a garment for too long in the sun can cause discolouration, so be careful).

Read our comprehensive guide here for more hints on how to get stains out of clothing.

How to remove curry or turmeric stains from surfaces

To tackle curry stains on kitchen tops, floors, or any other hard surface, use an anti-bacterial spray. Check the label for proper instructions, but where possible leave the spray on for a few minutes before working at the stain with a cloth.

Alternatively, you can try to remove the stain with a homemade cleaning paste – just be sure to test the solution on a small, inconspicuous area, as these can be slightly abrasive.

  1. Mix water and bicarbonate of soda together to form a paste. (For more cleaning hints with bicarbonate of soda see our uses and tips here.)
  2. Apply the solution to the stain and rub gently with a soft cloth.
  3. Rinse and repeat as necessary.

Top tip: If you’re cooking your curry from scratch and have spilled some dry turmeric powder on a surface, it’s best to try lifting as much of the powder as possible with tape before getting it wet.

How to remove really stubborn curry stains

Stained top soaking in a basin

If you’ve tried any of the above methods and the stain is still there, you may have to move on to soaking the stain in a bleach-based mixture. Always check garment care tags before you start using bleach on fabrics.

  1. Mix a solution of water and oxygen-based bleach (look for the ingredient ‘sodium percarbonate’ on the label to know you have the right product). Also, if your fabric is coloured, you will want to use a bleach that is designated as colour-safe. 
  2. Follow the instructions on the oxygen bleach for mixing the solution. When handling bleach, take care to follow the safety guidelines on the product and wear protective clothing.
  3. Completely soak the garment in the bleach for up to 8 hours (but no longer than the product instructions direct).
  4. Check the stain. If it’s no longer there, launder in the washing machine as usual.

How to remove curry stains from furniture and upholstery

Having a curry night in the comfort of your own home runs the risk of a few spillages and furniture stains. If possible, it’s best to remove any stained covers and launder them according to the manufacturer’s instructions, but if not, follow the steps below to leave sofas looking their best again.

Using a clean knife or back of a scrape off as much curry as possible from the stained area. Be careful not to rub the stain in any further. Take a liquid biological detergent and rub a small amount directly into the stain. Leave for a minute or so. Dab the mark gently with a cold, wet cloth to flush out the stain. Rinse the cloth, and repeat until the stain has gone.

If you’re in a hurry and can’t get hold of a biological detergent, you can also try this homemade cleaning solution:

  1. After scraping the worst of the stain off, mix together two cups of cold water, one tablespoon of a good quality washing up liquid, and one tablespoon of white vinegar.
  2. Apply the solution to the stain with a clean cloth.
  3. Soak up the excess liquid using a sponge.
  4. Repeat steps 3-4 until the stain is a bygone memory.

Alternatively, if you are a curry fanatic, you can invest in a specialist furniture cleaner – just follow the instructions on the label.

How to remove curry stains from table coverings

Bowl on top of a tablecloth stained with curry

As the most likely place to find curry stains, the humble tablecloth is the ultimate test for curry stain removal techniques.

  1. Dip the tablecloth in lukewarm water.
  2. Apply a bio detergent.
  3. Rinse thoroughly with cold water.
  4. Rinse once more, and then wash as normal.

How to get curry stains out of a carpet

If your curry happens to hit the carpet rather than your mouth, all is not lost. Just act fast, following these steps.

  1. Carefully scrape off any large bits of curry.
  2. Take one tablespoon of washing up liquid and one tablespoon of distilled white vinegar and mix together in 500ml of cold water.
  3. Apply the solution to the stain, making sure to use a clean cloth.
  4. Leave for a few minutes. Then blot with a dry cloth (rotating the cloth so you are always using a clean area).
  5. Repeat until no colour is picked up by the cloth.
  6. Use a clean cloth dabbed in hot water to remove any remaining solution.
  7. Finally, dab out any wet spots with a dry cloth or paper towel. Leave the carpet to air dry.

How to remove curry stains when eating out

If you have a mishap at a restaurant, don’t panic. It’s still possible to rescue your garment:

  1. Gently blot the stained area, being careful not to smudge it (work from the outside in). 
  2. Squeeze the juice of a lemon or lime over the stain. Most restaurants will have a plentiful supply of these fruits for serving with drinks or meals, so don’t be afraid to ask. 
  3. Alternatively, ask for a small amount of white vinegar and apply that to the stain. 
  4. Whichever you opt for, once applied leave for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Blot dry with a (clean!) napkin.
  6. Wash with detergent when you get home (try to do this within 48 hours).

Eating in a state of high alert isn’t fun for anyone. Luckily, with these tips you can enjoy a delicious curry and relax, knowing that you’re prepared for anything.

Are curry stains permanent?

No, not necessarily. Using one of the methods above to tackle any curry mishaps should remove most stains. However, remember that you need to act quickly. Once the dye in the likes of turmeric and saffron have set they are next to impossible to remove.

How do you remove turmeric stains?

Turmeric is often found as an ingredient in curry. It is a bright spice that contains the yellow pigment, curcumin (which is also used as a clothing dye). Following the most suitable method for your fabric type above will provide a guideline on how to remove a turmeric stain.

Got a grease rather than a curry stain on your clothing? Check out how to remove grease stains from clothes in our comprehensive guide.

Originally published