We have a large granite (I think) mortar and pestle, and while keeping it clean generally doesn't seem too difficult, I have absolutely no idea how to avoid it staining when it's used with turmeric powder when cooking curries.

Generally, we'll ground the spices then add garlic and a little water to create a paste which is then fried; the only solution I can think of to avoid the yellow stain is to add the turmeric separately to the pan and leave it out of the mortar entirely. Would this work satisfactorily, or is there a way to get the colour from the mortar?

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    Funny, I had the same exact issue this weekend with a plastic white spatula that is now a plastic yellow spatula, and I can't for the life of me figure out how to remove the color short of diluted bleaching (which is probably what I'll end up trying). Can't wait to see what the community has to suggest! Sep 27, 2010 at 15:28
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    For cleaning granite, check out the tips (and what not to do) at this resource.
    – justkt
    Sep 27, 2010 at 15:35
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    I would leave the turmeric stain in. It would not affect the flavour of any future mixture I wish to pestle. Because turmeric is a food known to reduce risk of dementia, I would want it to seep into everything I eat.
    – Cynthia
    Oct 27, 2013 at 22:03

6 Answers 6


Turmeric is an intense stain. I would use a little bit of bleach, let it sit until the stain disappears, then wash the mortar very thoroughly. Another option is just to accept that the mortar may develop colors over time, and think of it as character.


if you're worried about extra tumeric getting into your spice mixes, i'd recommend adding a little bit of water (like 1 tsp) and grinding salt into the mortar. this should remove most of the extra bits of the spice, but it may still leave a little bit of color.

if the color STILL bothers you, the only thing i can think of that isn't mentioned above is making a poultice like i do for my granite countertops. here's a site with some pretty easy-to-follow instructions: http://www.mrscleanusa.com/en/cleaning-tips/stain-removal/granite-stain-removal.html


Apparently, if you washed the mortar with a mild soap and water, and let the mortar dry out in direct sunlight or a sunlamp for 5-10+ minutes, the stain will "magically" fade or completely disappear.

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    It may take longer than 5-10 minutes, but sunlight makes excellent bleach.
    – Eclipse
    Sep 28, 2010 at 16:43
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    yeah likely... the longer you leave it, the more it will fade... fixed that above.
    – CokoBWare
    Sep 28, 2010 at 18:32

curcumin (the colour compound in turmeric) is broken down by UV light. If the stain is the main issue here, leaving the mortar outside where it can receive sunlight directly (without going through a glass window) may be enough


Let it soak in vinegar for a day or two, then scrub. Repeat process if there is still color remaining or let it sit for longer periods altogether (if nothing else, throw in a pinch of baking soda as well.] this worked when i needed to remove a ginger stain. But vinegar is considered acidic, so please use it as a last resort!


you might try soaking it in lemon juice or ammonia, too.

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    As mentioned at the site that justkt linked, it's probably not a good idea to use any kind of acid on granite, as it will tend to etch the surface.
    – Taeraresh
    Sep 30, 2010 at 20:14

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