Washable, Non-staining Stage Blood by the Gallon

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Introduction: Washable, Non-staining Stage Blood by the Gallon

About: Jack of all trades, master of a couple. Eclectic interests combined with a short attention span make me just knowledgeable enough to be really dangerous.

For our recent stage production of The Revenger's Tragedy, I needed to come up with an economical and effective way to make several gallons of realistic stage blood. Normally, I would have used one of the many corn syrup based recipes that have been popular for decades, but the Technical Director wanted to avoid sugary recipes due to the risk of attracting ants and other nasty creatures into the theatre.
In addition, the costume designer needed to be able to wash the blood completely out of the costumes between performances, the set designer wanted to prevent staining the set, and (since there was a possibility of splashing the audience) we needed to be able to assure audience members that their clothes would not be ruined. This pretty much meant no red food coloring could be in the recipe either.
Furthermore, the blood would have to be visible on both light and dark surfaces and work in several different delivery devices, including air cannons, pneumatic squibs, squeeze bulbs, blood bags and a trick knife. (For a truly excellent pneumatic squib, see Crosius' phenomenal Instructible here: https://www.instructables.com/id/Pneumatic-Squib-Tutorial/)
After experimenting with several formulas I came up with this one, which met all of the needs listed above very well, and only costs about $13.00 a gallon. Compared to some commercial blood at $60.00 a gallon or more, this is quite a bargain. If you need buckets of blood for any reason, give this a try.

Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients and Tools

For this recipe, you will need:

Ingredients:
Four 28 oz. bottles of orange or red ultra-concentrated dish detergent (the red frequently contains bleach - do not use any detergent with bleach)
One small bottle of ultra-concentrated Dawn dish detergent (blue)
1.5 cups of creamy sugar-free peanut butter (regular will also work)
One 16 oz. bottle of washable red poster paint
Blue washable poster paint
Black washable poster paint
Sugar-free chocolate syrup

Tools:
Large pot or mixing bowl
Gallon-sized jug or pitcher
Spoon
Strainer or cheesecloth
Funnel
Microwave oven

Step 2: Make the Detergent Base

Pour all four bottles of orange detergent into a large bowl or pot. Add 8 oz. of blue Dawn. Mix well. The blue detergent helps to tone down the orange color. When done mixing, you should have a big bowl of caramel colored goo.

Step 3: Nuke the Peanut Butter

Put 1.5 cups of peanut butter into a microwave-safe container and heat for 45 seconds at 30% power. You may need to adjust this based upon your microwave's power. You want to warm the peanut butter up, not melt it. This makes the peanut butter easier to mix in the next step.

Step 4: Add the Peanut Butter to the Detergent Base

Stir the peanut butter into the detergent mixture. This will take a while. To avoid whipping air into the detergent and making a big bowl of foam, use a spoon, not a whisk or an electric mixer. Keep mixing until you have a semi-smooth beige-ish glop. Some of the peanut butter will not combine, which is OK. We'll be straining out the undissolved peanut butter in a later step. Just try to get it as smooth as possible. The peanut butter adds opacity to the mixture and gives the red paint in the next step something to bind to.

Step 5: Make It Red

Dump in approximately 13 oz. of the red poster paint and stir until the color is evenly distributed. Make sure this is well-mixed, as the next step is to adjust the color to look more like real blood than the bright red paint.

Step 6: Make It Bloody

Add blue and black poster paint and sugar-free chocolate syrup to adjust the color of the mixture. The exact amounts will depend on the look you want, but 2 oz. of each is a good place to start. Mix well, then add more as needed.
If the blood is too red, add a little more blue, or a little more Dawn, if you prefer. If it needs to be darker, add more black. If it lacks a certain undefinable "richness", add more chocolate syrup.
When adjusting the color, go in small increments to avoid overcorrecting, mixing well at each increment. If you do overcorrect, try adding some of the remaining red paint left over from the previous step. If you have seriously overcorrected, you may be able to salvage the mixture by adding another bottle or two of orange detergent and more red paint. Otherwise, you'll have to scrap the whole thing and start over.

Step 7: Feeling the Strain

When you have gotten to a blood color you like, strain the blood into a gallon-sized container for storage, using a wide-mesh strainer or cheesecloth to remove the chunks of undissolved peanut butter. The mixture is very thick, so strain small amounts at a time. You will probably need to stop about halfway through to clean the strainer or replace the cheesecloth.

Step 8: Let It Bleed

The blood is now ready to use.
As I mentioned in the intro, this formula has been successfully used in a large variety of effect devices, including air cannons, pneumatic squibs, squeeze bulbs w/ tubing, blood bags and a trick blood-squirting knife. I had some initial reservations about foaming, especially in the air cannons, but testing showed that my reservations were unfounded.
For all these applications, we used the formula without diluting it. If you need a higher flow, the blood can be cut with water, but be careful not to use too much. Excessive dilution will cause the blood to tend to bubble and foam when ejected through the delivery device, and will probably require additional paint to maintain the correct color.

Step 9: Precautions

Just a few caveats regarding the formula:

1) Dish detergent is very unpleasant to have in your eye. Take care to avoid getting this blood in anyone's eyes. If the blood does get in someone's eye, flush immediately with water.

2) Likewise, do not use this blood in anyone's mouth.  That would just be nasty. For our recent production we needed several mouth packs, which we filled with corn syrup blood. The actors were grateful.

3) This formula, unlike the corn syrup stage blood, is very slippery. Walk with caution when blood is on a smooth floor. Do not use this blood on the floor in any area where an audience member may walk. A non-skid floor treatment is highly recommended, especially on raised platforms and angled floor surfaces. If sugar content is not a major concern, corn syrup may be substituted for up to half of the detergent, which helps to reduce the slipping hazard without a major impact on the washability.

4) Although this stage blood has been designed specifically for washability and stain-resistance, clean all costumes as soon as possible after exposure to the blood. If costumes cannot go immediately into the wash, rinse immediately under running water and leave to soak in a bucket of water to prevent the blood drying on the costumes. Dried blood is much more difficult to remove, and may stain permanently on certain fabrics.

5) This formula contains peanut butter, so inform all cast members and crew, and verify that no one who may come into contact with it has peanut allergies. If audience exposure is likely, a warning to the audience is also in order.

6) If left to sit too long, the blood will coagulate and potentially clog delivery devices. Clean all delivery devices after use.

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58 Discussions

I might be participating in design for a production of "CARRIE: THE MUSICAL" so this was very helpful. However, we have some cast members who have allergies to peanut butter. Do you have a requested substitute? Thanks!

1 reply

Use a peanut free peanut butter. It's sold in every grocery store I've been to. The label says "School safe" and it's made with roasted soy. My deathly allergic sister loves it.

Tried two batches, both purple trying to problem solve.

First batch used two orange soaps and two red soaps. I followed the instructions to the letter, using the suggested starting amounts of syrup, blue, and black paint of 2oz each. It came out very dark purple.

The dawn I have is of a darker blue than pictured and the red dish soap (great value brand) had a bit of magenta in it.
So, in the second batch I used four orange soaps and only used 4 oz. of Dawn. I also used no blue paint. Still came out purple.

Not sure what is going wrong.

Will this wash out of a white wig? Looking at using it for a staged production where a white wig will be used on the person with a head injury

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GenaiH

2 years ago

Has anyone tried this on carpet?
I have my own blood recipe that did wash out, but took a lot of water and elbow grease. Looking for something a little easier. It won't be a lot or be on for long.

will this wash out of white linnen clothes?

Can anyone please tell me if this still looks good once its dry? I plan on covering myself with it for halloween but dont want it flaking off and such throughout the night

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AJB13

2 years ago

Will this stain a bath tub? I have a play that is based on Elizabeth Bathory and need the actress to soak in a blood full of tub. But the tub needs to not hold any stains as it needs to be used for other productions. Thanks

1 reply

I'd love to know too. I want to do some Bodyparts swimming in blood in my tub

Has anyone used this on a car? For an extended period of time? Does it stain or have an effect on paint?

1 reply

Wondering about this as well I have a white car and I would like to try this out ?

Will this last in your hair for a couple of hours? Will it drip? I'm going for the movie look of Carrie.

I have an extreme peanut allergy to the point where I can die from anyone else eating nuts around me
What would you suggest as a suitable replacement for the peanut butter?

1 reply

I would try a roux or "rue" sauce in it's place; It is used to thicken sauces.

A simple mix of butter/oil, flour and little water. (instructable for Roux) But I Don't know if this would make it stain. Sotesting would be needed.

I read your tips about spreading on the floor. I'm planning a haunted walk for Halloween and am looking for a cheap way to make large amounts of blood to splatter all over the brick walls (possibly covered with vinyl shower curtains) and also the cement floor on the back porch. Do you think this should be okay as long as I avoid the main walkway? Also, could I just hose it off the porch after or would that cause a lot of suds and make the porch very slippery?

This is so cool! Does it irritate sensitive skin though? And it is ok near eyes? If not, would a corn syrup base work as well?

Out of curiosity, has anyone tried almond butter or almond flour and say mineral oil to avoid peanut and rancidity issues? Walnut oil also keeps well IIRC. I wonder about bean flours too, whichever is lowest starch or highest protein/starh ratio. Any ideas?

This stuff is great! Works really well, and I got it out of a white shirt! Looks very VERY real!