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Dr Doug with Turmeric Stains

How to Remove Turmeric Stains

How to Remove Turmeric Stains

Imagine living and working with turmeric on an everyday basis. At Tilbury’s Tonics they deal with over 20 kg of fresh turmeric in an average session in the kitchen. So you would expect Guy Tilbury would have a few good pointers on how to remove turmeric stains. He shares some of his favourite tips here……

Fresh Turmeric ready to go in the pot.

“Living in Tropical North Queensland in Australia we are spoilt by having an abundance of fresh turmeric to work with and we do, but when we do …. what a mess!  Even the powdered variety leaves quite a stain on everything.

So, How do we clean it up!  

At Tilbury’s we work with hundreds of kilos of fresh Turmeric a month. As you can imagine after we have ground and pounded 20kg of turmeric we have a little more residue than most other people!  I would like to tell you there’s a simple, easy and natural cleaning solution, but I  won’t lie…..there is no easy or natural solution for this amount of turmeric.

Turmeric seems to stain everything.

Turmeric has a fairly high natural oil content which is intertwined with the curcuminoids (the good stuff) it’s this coloured oil that stains and sticks to everything .

In my experience as a chef there are three ways to remove oily or fatty residues

  1. Dissolving with solvent
  2. Using detergent
  3. Adding a caustic agent to create a saponification reaction. In other words, creating a soap with the oily residue.

We’ve tried them all………

Method 1 is out being toxic, unfortunately Method 2 is also out because ordinary detergents just don’t cut it, and only commercial corrosive detergents will cut through the Turmeric oil, but they are savage on your skin and clothing.

The Most successful Method is;

Ordinary clothes washing powder

Sprinkle a little at a time from a heaped tablespoon into your washing up water and sprinkle a little onto cutting boards, pans, bench tops etc, then moisten with water and a sponge or rag and let sit a few minutes before getting vigorous with a scourer .

Don't panic if the washing powder turns things a bright red colour.

It’s very possible that everything will turn bright red, don’t panic, that doesn’t mean it will stain more.

Try using the same method with stained clothing or rags, but if they are ‘ fashion ‘ items you might like to do a test patch first. And please note that with washing powder there usually contains some caustic* element.

Bleach (a mild solution)

Bleach is a solution of sodium hypochloride, sometimes (but incorrectly called chlorine). Bleach in the water will also have the same reaction as caustic (or sodium hydroxide) with the added effect that after the water has turned blood red it will then bleach back to clear.

Add bleach cautiously and as per instructions on the pack. You can also add it to the water when using the clothes washing powder for a better, faster effect (just use less washing powder if you choose this option).

On benchtops try a small test section first, though all modern benchtops should not be effected by the small amount of bleach used.

*Note: Neither of the above products should be feared, in small amounts of course, lots of the products we use today, soap , shampoo and hair conditioner have caustic soda in them (in very small amounts) and both our drinking water and swimming pools amongst other things are sterilised with sodium hypochloride.

Small amounts is the key.

Badly stained cloths and clothes can be soaked using a laundry soaker, followed by normal washing (separately of course). We have experimented with the expensive oxygenated bleaches sold for nappys etc and ‘home brand’ products but have found the best results come from  the cheapest soaker found in several of the cheaper variety stores.

The key ingredients in the product we find best are; Sodium Percarbonate  30 % and Sodium Tripolyphosphate 30 %. A quick Wikipedia search shows both these products as fairly benign.

One of the finished turmeric products at Tilbury's

Happy cleaning!

Story by Guy Tilbury from Tilbury’s Tonics

Images by Kate Richards

How to Remove Turmeric Stains for Smaller amounts.

Doug English‘s recommendation is that “Alcohol, as in methylated spirits (rubbing alcohol) works far better” for lifting turmeric stains.

If the stain is from dry powder you will need to first use oil or alcohol.  If it is from the Golden Paste, it already has oil added – so go straight to the steps below (you can apply some Methylated Spirits/rubbing alcohol beforehand if you want).

Bench-tops and plastics – Use undiluted dish detergent. Rub detergent in and allow to sit for 10 minutes then rinse off.

Clothes – as above and allow to sit for 30 minutes,  then throw into a cold wash – sunlight should take care of the last remains of colour.

For your hands and fingernails, massage in some veg oil (baby oil or moisturiser will also do it) then wash off with warm soapy water

Carpet is a tricky one. Jill Moore’s (TUG Admin) recommendations are as follows:

“If the carpet is a good one, call in a stain specialist. DO NOT use bi-carb soda (baking soda) as it reacts with turmeric and produces a reddish stain which is hell on earth to remove!

For wool carpet try blotting the stain with some warm water, a little dish detergent and some methylated spirits/rubbing alcohol mixed in a bucket. Rinse with clean water and blot dry.

Nylon carpet is harder. It seems to want to suck up all that turmericky goodness! If you want to have a go, I have been told (but not tried) that blotting with lavender oil will lift the stain. Blot with water to rinse out and blot dry.

If you have mostly removed the stain but there is still a faint bit there, spritz lightly with a 3% hydrogen peroxide and leave for 24 hours. TEST FIRST on an inconspicuous spot.”

Please Note:– Using methylated spirits in Tilbury’s kitchen is NOT an option because of the amount of turmeric they use (too many fumes created).

Have you had to remove turmeric stains? How did you do it? Any tips you’d like to add?


  • Seems using food grade gloves may help eliminate some of the issue.
    (We make tumeric paste for our dogs .)

    Mary Kay Wetzel on

  • I used a steel wool soap pad on my stainless steel pot and the stain came out pretty easily. I used Seventh Generation disinfecting multi surface cleaner on the kitchen counter and the stove, and again it came out pretty easily

    William Zitsch on

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