Now That I’ve Killed My Character, How Do I Get the Blood Out?

When it comes to knowing how to make movies, we don’t often think of the cleanup, especially when it comes to fake blood.

Halloween is almost here. When it’s finished we’ll all be coming down from the sugar high, looking at our costumes and thinking things such as: “Ugh, maybe a vampire wasn’t the best idea. How the heck do I get the fake blood out of that shirt?”

Our wonderful make-up artist on The Umbrella and The Out of the Woods Project, Jennifer Holt, always says, “Don’t get it on your clothes, it is a pain to get out. Don’t get it on your clothes.”

So I got to thinking, how would I get it out? There’s the usual store-bought stain remover and washing machine, but what else could work? Baking soda? Vinegar? Shaving cream?

Time for an experiment. The fake blood I used in this experiment was made up of red and green food colouring and 100% pure maple syrup. I used two polo shirts, one was 100% cotton and the other was a cotton/polyester blend, and one 100% polyester sports shirt. I also found a cotton t-shirt and the results were the same across all the shirts regardless of fibre content.

Option 1: Baking Soda

Materials Required:

1 box Baking soda

Water (a sink or bathtub is the best place to do this)

1 old Toothbrush (or other brush to scrub with)

1 teaspoon (or measuring cup, depending on how much you are making)

1 small bowl

I thought I should use the magic cleaning product, that is, baking soda. It’s gentle enough and safe for the environment, so it was the first thing I tried. I use it to clean tea and coffee stains out of their pots so it should be good for red food colouring, right?

I mixed up a baking soda paste by combining baking soda and water at a ratio of 1:1, in this case, I started with one teaspoon of each and stirred. I thought it was too thick so I added a bit more water until it spread nicely.

I made sure the fake blood was damp, not the whole shirt though to prevent colour running. The first one I did was the cotton shirt. I put some paste on a toothbrush and proceeded to rub it around in circles on the stain.

The baking soda paste seemed to absorb the colour. I didn’t even rub it long. Then I rinsed the spot off with water and the fake blood appeared to be gone. I let it dry and there was still a pink tinge. I was slightly disappointed, but it looked promising so I gave it another try. It took more out, especially as the colour was rinsed out of the toothbrush from the first attempt.

The sports shirt was cleaner after I scrubbed it than it was before in that one spot. It didn’t just get the fake blood out, it got the dirt stain out as well. Note to self, use baking soda on laundry more often.

The cotton/polyester blend was the hardest one to get the blood out of as it required a few attempts and a lot of scrubbing.

Option 2: Vinegar

Materials Required:

1 bottle vinegar

Water (again, best if done over a sink or bathtub)

1 old Toothbrush (or other brush to scrub with)

1 liquid measuring cup

A word of warning: Do NOT use vinegar on animal products, aka wool, alpaca, etc. This is what I used when I dyed my own yarn with food colouring to set the dye. It will set beautifully.

I used plain white vinegar and decided to dilute it to 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar (1/4 cup vinegar to ¾ cup water). I decided if that was not enough I would add more vinegar. Better to start weak and not wreck the clothing any more than it already is.

I dipped the toothbrush in the vinegar water and tried scrubbing. It didn’t really work, so I poured it on instead and rubbed it together with my hands.

The vinegar was too strong for the fabric on the cotton so it damaged the material, and it didn’t have any effect on the polyester. I even added a bit more vinegar to the solution just to make sure it was strong enough.

The vinegar result was disappointing. Maybe if I had let it soak in vinegar overnight or made it stronger that would have helped. Something I can try next time it comes up, as I’m sure it will again.

Option 3: Shaving Cream

Materials Required:

1 can shaving cream

Water (a sink or bathtub is the best place to do this)

1 old Toothbrush (or other brush to scrub with)

I read from a costume designer that shaving cream works on fake blood, however, I had no access to any at that moment. I ran to all the guys in the office, but since none of them live really close to here it wasn’t looking good.

Before I could despair too much, another guy I know had some with him and he kindly let me use some.

You don’t need much shaving cream for a small area, just a dab. I applied it and rubbed and scrubbed.

It turned out to be a futile effort. I don’t know if it was the type of shaving cream but it did virtually nothing, and the fake blood was freshly applied, too. I got more out of the shirt by pouring water on it than all the scrubbing. Believe me, there was a LOT of scrubbing. The toothbrush, my hands rubbing the fabric. It was to no avail, that blood was not coming out, just helping make the shirt a lovely pink colour.

Option 4: Washing Machine and a Stain Remover

You can try a washing machine and a stain remover without trying any of the above, but it doesn’t always work; especially on gentle fabrics.

If you try this method, let the stain remover sit on it for a while to soak into the stain and help remove it easier. Then scrub it to rub the stain remover into the stain itself.

In my experience, with other stains, this method, while easiest and less time consuming, doesn’t always work. I tend to wash stains out by hand and then put them in the wash.

Definitely, do NOT put it in the dryer until you have completely removed the stain as the heat will set it. You don’t want to run the risk of setting the stain. Once the stain is set in the fabric it’s not coming out anytime soon and is even more work to remove.

What have I learned from this experiment? The easiest thing is to just prevent fake blood from getting on your clothes unless you are intending to throw them out.

If you really want to use the fake blood on your clothes, the next best thing to do is use a baking soda paste and a softer brush that you scrub the stain with. Rinse and scrub again until it is gone, then into the washing machine to clean the clothes well.

So get out there, have fun, and don’t worry. It will wash out in the end.



  • Hilary Dorst is a writer, director, and teacher living in British Columbia, Canada. When she’s not working on movies she is trying to get to the nearest beach and being crafty. She thinks life is about all the small stuff that people forget to look at and enjoy.


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