Photo: Masum-al-hasan

Going to a temple or participating in festivals like Dipavali (Deewali) or Navaratri often seems to result in a bit of the red powder or paste staining your clothes, and it can be really hard to remove.

Part of the problem is that using soap or detergent or lemon juice, etc just sets the stain. Leaving the item in the sun with lemon juice will eventually fade it out, but it takes a long time. Then there’s always bleach, but both of these methods are really only good for white clothes. So what to do?

First, brush as much of the dried paste or powder off as possible. If the item is washable, the easiest and most effective way to remove it is with plain hot water (preferably boiling hot). Pour it from a height so you get a bit of pressure, then rub it as vigorously as possible. Repeat a few times until the stain disappears.

If the fabric is delicate, try to only wet the stained area, then rub gently. If hot water isn’t an option, just use plain cold water without any cleaning agent. However, many people advise pretreating and soaking, but that seems unnecessary to me.

This works well for cotton, linen, hemp, and washable silk. If you try it with wool or anything that will shrink too easily, use hot water only on the stain and don’t rub; or else use cool water and rub very gently. I’m not sure if this method works as well on synthetics as I only wear natural fibers.

With really delicate fabrics or ones you just aren’t sure of, take a wet cloth and rub it gently on the stain. Just try this on a small bit of the stain to test whether it is going to work and whether it might damage the fabric or cause colors to run. If you have a bit of the original powder/paste, apply it to a small bit of similar fabric and test it.

Disclaimer: There are different ways of making sindoor, so this is not likely work on some of them.

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