Tea is a wonderful beverage that has been enjoyed for centuries. While this drink is known for its myriad of health benefits, there is one thing that does not benefit from long-term exposure to tea—your teapot. Traditional china teapots and cups eventually build up stains after frequent use, as do pots and cups made from ceramic, and even so-called "stainless" steel. So, it won't be long before your favorite vessels show their wear and will need a little freshening up.
While tea stains can be stubborn—perhaps even nearly impossible—to remove, there is one simple and quick solution. With this ingenious trick, you can ensure that your china continues to look its best for many afternoon teas to come.
Why Tea Creates Stains
Green and black tea contains polyphenols, chemical substances (or tannins) found in most plants. These compounds are bitter and astringent in nature, helping to protect the plant from bugs and pests. Polyphenols—along with Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and beta carotene—are also considered antioxidants, which help rid the body of harmful free radicals that could cause disease. But the same tea constituents that keep us healthy, also create stains on our precious drinkware by bonding with solids, like calcium, that are found in water. Hard water contains more of these solids than soft water. And, the longer you leave your tea in a cup, the higher the chances of it staining.
How Often to Clean Teacups and Teapots
Teacups and teapots should be washed with soap and water, and rinsed thoroughly, after each use. This simple washing may help to assure less tea stain buildup. However, a thorough destaining of your fine china or stainless steel should be done once every six months. Items used for daily tea drinking may need a more frequent stain removal protocol.
Before You Begin
While other options—like making a baking soda paste or dabbing the stain with distilled white vinegar—may also clean superficial stains, the secret trick we outline below takes very little elbow grease and can work on even the toughest tea stains. Stainless steel, ceramic, and china teapots and cups can also be cleaned with lemon and cornstarch, though results may vary.
Equipment / Tools
- Soft towel
- Tea-stained cups or teapot
- Denture cleaning tablets
- Hot water
- Dish soap
The process of removing tea stains is not difficult, though it does require patience. You need to allow ample time for the denture-cleaning tablets to do their work and clean the surface of the china. At a minimum, it will take an hour, but stubborn tea stains may require an overnight soak. Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time.
Rinse the Pot or Cup
Take the chill out of the pot or cup by rinsing it with warm water.
Add Hot Water
Use very hot or boiling water to fill the teapot or cup enough to cover the stained area. Be sure that the hot water goes into the teapot's spout so it can be cleaned, as well.
Add the Denture Tablet(s)
For a teacup, cut a denture tablet into quarters and drop one piece into each cup. For a teapot, drop one or two denture tablets into the pot. Allow the tablets to work their cleaning magic for one hour.
Check the Stain
Check to see if the stains are gone. For very stubborn stains, leave the water and tablets overnight to give the solution longer to work.
Wash the Pot or Cup
When the stains have disappeared, wash the teapot in hot soapy water. Rinse thoroughly with warm water to ensure all the cleaner is removed.
Dry the Pot or Cup
Wipe the teapot or cups dry with a soft, absorbent towel.