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A few days after I started doing homestay in Tokyo, I sat down for a meal with my host family, picked up a morsel of food with my chopsticks, and promptly dropped it onto my shirt. “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to using chopsticks soon enough,” they encouragingly told me, but the fact of the matter is that I’m just an incredibly messy and clumsy eater.

My choice of utensil doesn’t really seem to make much of a difference. Curry, for example, is eaten with a spoon in Japan, and I’ve still managed to spill spicy roux on myself plenty of times, usually when I’m wearing a new shirt. Thankfully, though, there’s apparently an easy way to get curry stains out: sunlight.

Twitter user Saitama no Tanuki recently shared the tactic. “Curry stains are weak against ultraviolet rays, so they’ll disappear with sunlight,” he explained, adding that long ago an Indian friend clued him in on the simple solution. “First, wipe the curry off with a tissue, and hang your shirt in the sun without making it wet…My friend’s advice has bailed me out a bunch of times when I wear white while eating curry.”

S&B Foods, one of Japan’s biggest curry producers, backs this up, explaining that it’s due to the turmeric used in curry. The spice contains a compound called curcumin, which gives curry its distinct yellowish color.

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Although it’s resistant to dissolving in water, curcumin breaks down relatively easily in exposure to sunlight. Unlike Saitama no Tanuki, S&B recommends lightly washing the affected area first, with detergent or hand soap, before drying in the sun. In the case of the latter, the alkaline nature of the soap will cause the stain to turn red once it comes into contact with the acidic curcumin, but the stain should disappear completely with the next washing.

On the other hand, S&B cautions against trying to get curry out with bleaches. While that probably will cover up the stain, it’ll also discolor the surrounding area, and while you could argue that a white patch in the middle of your blue t-shirt looks better than a yellowish-brown one, it’s really not much of an improvement.

Of course, you could sidestep the whole problem by either giving up curry entirely, or by dressing yourself exclusively in earth tones that match the color of the particular type of roux you’re feeling like eating that day.

▼ Or wear a t-shirt that already has curry on it.

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But if those plans are too extreme for you, remember that when you’re fighting curry stains, the sun is your best friend.

▼ It’s also your best friend when fighting vampires, but that’s an article for another day.

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Source: Jin, S&B Curry
Top image: Okayama Kanko
Insert images: Precision Nutrition, Rakuten, Asia Biomass Office