How to get out gentian violet or purple stains

Updated November 21, 2016

Gentian violet is a common remedy used by breastfeeding mothers to treat thrush in the mouth, nipple or diaper area. Gentian violet is a purple dye that kills the fungi and bacteria responsible for thrush and is safe in extremely small doses and amounts for both the mother and the baby. However, gentian violet stains skin and clothing easily and must be handled carefully. If the stains get onto clothing, fabric, skin or surfaces, removing the stain will require some tools that may be purchased at many hardware or grocery stores.

Spray the stained fabric with aerosol hairspray and rub the sides of the fabric together to saturate the stain. Wash the fabric with standard detergent, then examine the stain. Repeat if the stain remains. Do not place the item in the dryer until the stain is gone, as the heat will set the stain into the fabric permanently.

Wash stained items with colour-safe bleach for additional stain removal.

Apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol to a cotton ball and wipe on skin immediately after staining. Avoid using rubbing alcohol on the face, nipple or sensitive areas of the baby's body.

Apply a small amount of vodka to a cotton ball and wipe gentian violet stains on the baby's face or the mother's nipple area. Wipe away the vodka with a clean, damp cloth immediately to remove traces of vodka.


Apply gentian violet to the afflicted area with a cotton swab to reduce the amount of staining. Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly or olive oil to the baby's mouth before swabbing gentian violet to reduce the amount of staining. Remove clothing from the baby and mother prior to use to reduce the chance of staining the clothing.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Vodka
  • Hairspray
  • Colour safe bleach
  • Washing powder
  • Cotton balls
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About the Author

Meredith Jameson writes early childhood parenting and family health articles for various online publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from San Francisco State University.