How to Remove Tea and Coffee Stains from Clothes, Carpet, Upholstery

Coffee Spill
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Whether you're having a hot cup of tea, an iced coffee or a fancy Irish coffee, removing the stains can be tricky.

How To Remove Tea and Coffee Stains From Washable Clothes

A tea or coffee spill is a tannin stain from a plant compound that often shows as a color in the final product. Depending on the concentration, coffee and tea can even be used as permanent dyes for fabric. Add the greasy stain from cream and there's even more reason to treat the stain as soon as possible.


If you have a tea or coffee spill while on the go, blot away the moisture with a plain white paper towel or cloth. Unless the fabric is silk which can watermark, flood the area with plain cool water. If possible, flush the area from the wrong side by holding the stain under a faucet of cold running water. Or, sponge the stain with a white cloth dipped in cool water. If any color remains, you can use a stain remover pen. Just remember, that the stained garment will still need to be washed as soon as possible when you get home.

Before washing the drink-stained item, pretreat with a bit of heavy duty liquid detergent like TideWisk or Persil (these are leading high-performance brands) or a stain removal spray or gel like Zout or Shout or Spray 'n Wash.

Gently work in the stain remover with your fingers or a soft-bristled brush and allow it to work for at least ten minutes (20 is better) before washing.

This step is particularly important if the coffee spill contained cream or other added flavorings. Then wash following care label directions using a good detergent and the hottest water recommended for the fabric.

Never use natural soap in a bar or soap flakes like Fels-Naptha or Zote on a coffee stain because the soap can make tannin stains more difficult to remove.

If the tea or coffee stain is older or has not been removed properly, it may need to be treated with bleach. Chlorine bleach can be used on white garments and linens by following product directions. For colored clothes, mix a solution of warm water and oxygen-based bleach like OxiClean or Clorox 2 or Tide Stain Release. Completely submerge the stained garments and allow them to soak for at least four hours or overnight. Then wash as usual.

How to Remove Tea and Coffee Stains from Dry Clean Only Clothes

When a tea or coffee stain happens on a garment labeled as dry clean only, blot the stain with a dry white cloth. Sponge lightly with a white cloth damped with plain cold water and blot dry. As soon as possible, head to the cleaner and point out and identify the stain to your professional dry cleaner.

If you are using a home dry cleaning kit, be sure to treat the stain with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the dryer bag.

How to Remove Tea and Coffee Stains from Carpet

When that drink hits the carpet, use a white paper towel or old white cloth to blot up as much of the liquid as possible. Keep blotting until no more moisture is transferred from the carpet to the cloth.

It's important to go ahead and treat the stain completely to prevent staining that is more difficult to remove later.

Mix a solution of two teaspoons of dish washing detergent in two cups of warm water. Dip a clean white cloth, sponge or soft bristle brush in the solution. Working from the outside edge of the stain toward the center to keep it from spreading, work the cleaning solution into the stain. Blot with a dry cloth to absorb the solution, Keep moving to a clean area of the cloth as the stain is transferred. 

Finish by dipping a clean cloth in plain water to "rinse" the spot. This is especially important because any soapy residue left in the carpet will actually attract more soil. Allow the stain to air dry away from direct heat. Vacuum to lift the carpet fibers.

If the stain is older, mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach - OxiClean or Tide Oxi - in cool water following package directions.

 Dip a clean cloth into the solution and working from the outside edge of the stain toward the center, work the solution into the carpet. Do not over wet.  Allow the solution to remain on the stain for at least 30 minutes before blotting away.

Use a dry clean white cloth to blot away moisture. Allow to dry completely and vacuum to restore pile of carpet.

How to Remove Tea and Coffee Stains from Upholstery

The same cleaning solutions and techniques recommended for carpet can be used for coffee stains on upholstery. Take care not to overwet the fabric because excess moisture in the cushions can cause problems.

If the upholstery is silk or vintage, it is best to call a professional cleaner. Home cleaning may result in water spots.

For more stain removal tips: Stain Removal A to Z