How to Remove Coffee Stains From Clothing

A man in a cafe drinking coffee

Tara Moore / Getty Images

If you've ever dealt with a coffee stain, you know how difficult that light brown color can be to remove. To truly remove old coffee stains, you'll have to soak the clothing. Prepare yourself for a lot of soaking. However, for fresh stains, a little cold water might do the trick. If you get to a fresh stain quickly, you may not even need any detergents, stain removers, or cleaning products.

Steps to Remove Coffee Stains From Clothing

The tactics needed will depend on whether or not the stain is fresh.

  1. For fresh coffee stains, first, try cold water. Run cold water through the back of the stain. This will keep the coffee residue from penetrating more of the cloth. Continue to run cold water through the back of the stain for 10 to 15 minutes or until the water running out is completely clear. If the stain isn't fully removed, or your stain is old, move on to the second step. 
  2. Rub liquid laundry detergent and a little cold water into the coffee stain. If you don't have liquid laundry detergent, you can use liquid dish soap. Allow fresh stains to sit for three to five minutes. You can let it sit for longer, but don't let it dry. For old coffee stains, you'll need to soak the clothing in water after you've rubbed the liquid detergent in. Every five minutes, gently rub the stained fabric with your thumb and fingers to loosen the stain. After 30 minutes of soaking in cold water, check the stained area. If the stain remains, try soaking for five to 15 minutes in warm water before rinsing thoroughly.
  1. If the stain is still there, try mixing some powdered laundry detergent with equal parts white vinegar and water and turn it into a paste. Test it on the garment to make sure it doesn't discolor the fabric. Use a toothbrush to scrub the stain and then rinse.
  2. Apply a stain remover spray or stain remover gel product to the coffee stain. Let it stand for five minutes and then wash normally. A gel stain remover coats both sides of the stain and penetrates into the fibers of the clothing.
  3. Check that the coffee stain is completely removed If any hint remains, repeat the steps before drying.
  4. Air-dry the clothing (do not machine dry). Hold the dried clothing up to a light to make sure that any hint of discoloration is completely removed. If it is, wash and dry normally. If it isn't, you'll need to start the stain removal steps over again and avoid machine drying until it is all removed. Continue this process until no stain remains or there isn't any improvement.
Illustration of tips for removing coffee stains
Illustration: The Spruce / Grace Kim

Carpet and Upholstery

The same steps for fresh coffee stains may work for carpet as well. Coldwater is often all that is needed to lift a fresh coffee stain from upholstery and carpet. Just use two clean towels—one wet with cold water and one dry—to alternately sponge cold water onto the stain and blot the area dry. A fresh coffee stain can be very simple to remove and often doesn't need any additional stain remover or products.