How to Remove Wilton Food Coloring from Carpet


Karen asked: How do you remove food color from carpeting? I had some Wilton’s food coloring for a wedding cake. The jar rolled off the table and made a mess on the carpet. The dye was burgundy and of course my carpet had to be beige. HELP! I tried the carpet cleaner and a spot cleaner and it’s pink now.

Food colorings are a type of dye and therefore can permanently color fabrics and clothing. Unfortunately, red is one of the biggest culprits and most difficult to remove. Fortunately, with a light colored carpet, you may have more options since you won’t have to worry as much about discoloration of the carpeting. According to the Wilton guidelines for removal, if the coloring contains Red 3, it should first be broken down with an acid and then cleaned. As always, the sooner it is cleaned, the easier it will be to remove. Follow these steps to get rid of the stain.

You Will Need:

  • Lemon juice or white vinegar
  • Commercial carpet cleaner or spot cleaner
  • Borax
  • Wet spotter (combine the following in a spray/squeeze bottle)
    • 1 part white dish detergent
    • 1 part glycerine
    • 8 parts water
  • Soft cloths or sponges
  • Cold water
  • Old toothbrush
  • Vacuum

How to Remove the Stain:


These steps utilize several methods that can be used to tackle food coloring stains. Once the stain is removed, skip to step 14.

  1. Begin by blotting the stain with lemon juice or vinegar. The acid in these products will help to break down the red food coloring in the stain so that it can be removed.
  2. It’s very important to BLOT throughout this entire process DO NOT SCRUB. Your goal is to “lift” the stain, not rub it into the fibers. Working from the outside of the stain towards the center will keep the stain from spreading.
  3. Blot with a clean cloth to remove as much of the stain as possible. As you are blotting you will notice the dye transferring onto the cloth. Switch to a clean piece of the cloth regularly to keep from reapplying the dye to the area.
  4. Spray the area with lukewarm water and continue to blot to remove.
  5. Allow the area to dry completely.
  6. Clean the area with a commercial cleaner designed for your specific type of carpet.
  7. If the stain persists, moisten the stain with the wet spotter.
  8. Dab on a small amount of vinegar on top of the wet spotter.
  9. Blot with clean cloth moistened with the wet spotter.
  10. Continue to moisten with spotter and vinegar and blot with moistened cloth until the stain is removed.
  11. If the stain persists, cover the stain with borax.
  12. Use an old toothbrush to gently work the borax into the stain.
  13. Blot with clean cloth. Repeat as necessary with a clean cloth each time until no more stain appears on the cloth.
  14. When the stain is removed, rinse the area completely by blotting with clean water. If the cleaning solutions remain on the carpet, they may cause extra wear and/or the residue may lead to quicker dirt build up.
  15. Allow the area to dry completely, and then vacuum the area to restore the fibers to their normal texture.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • Avoid using alcohol on carpeting as it will deteriorate the adhesives that hold the carpet together.
  • If the carpet is light in color, it may be possible to bleach the stain away. Always test a small area first to check for unwanted discoloration effects.



  1. Kaley says:

    The other day, I spilled red food coloring. It was the size of a dime. I started scrubbing it with water and it spread. It’s been three days since it happened. What do I do? I tried lemon, but it doesn’t work.

  2. Melanie says:

    For red food coloring, ammonia is recommended instead of vinegar. Make a solution with a tablespoon of liquid dish soap and ammonia in two cups of water, pour the mixture on the stain and blot the area. If you don’t have any ammonia available, you can try using Windex, which contains ammonia.
    If the stain remains, move on to step 6: a commercial carpet stain remover, or step 11: Borax.

    Source: HowStuffWorks – How to Get Food Coloring Out of Carpet

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