Coffee Stain Removal – Myths and Reality

You can spill coffee on almost anything. Luckily, here are these expert-backed coffee stain removal tips.

What are coffee stains?

Before you fret over a spilled cup, the good news is that coffee stains aren’t permanent. As long as you know how to remove these and act quickly. Whether in your car, on your clothes, your furniture or carpets – experts agree that treating stains quickly increases the chances of success significantly.

Are coffee stains permanent?

The good news is that coffee stains can almost always be removed from most fabrics. The brown color in coffee is caused by tannin pigments bound to water molecules.

If you examine the coffee stain under high magnification, it becomes clear that the tannin pigment binds only very weakly to the fabric fibers as the water evaporates. Therefore, when the stain is removed, the brown tannins usually dissolve in the water, making it easier to remove.

Fresh coffee stains

Fresh coffee stains are the easiest to remove as the coffee particles have not yet settled into the material. If there are coffee stains on your clothes, immediately rinse the stain with cold water to dilute it.

Do not rub as this will only damage the material. Running water over a fresh stain will remove the coffee in a minute or two. If this method is unsuccessful, move on to the dry coffee stain method.

Note that removing fresh coffee stains from upholstery and carpets using the same method requires more effort.

Dry coffee stains

For dry coffee stains, use water, a clean cloth or paper towel, dish soap, and white vinegar (if it’s a stubborn case). If you have a dry coffee stain on your clothes, dampen the stain, add a few drops of detergent and gently rub the stain with your fingers. Leave the solution on for five minutes and then rinse off.

If the stain persists, repeat the process by mixing a few drops of white vinegar with the detergent to form a paste. Use a soft-bristled brush to gently rub the mixture onto the stain and leave for another five minutes before rinsing off.

What you need to combat coffee stains

  • Toothbrush
  • Liquid detergent
  • Detergents in powder form
  • White vinegar
  • Stain remover
  • Dishwashing liquid (optional)
  • Oxygen bleach detergent (optional)

How to remove coffee stains from cotton

Check the clothing care label and test any detergent or cleaning solution on an inconspicuous area first. Make sure it doesn’t stain the fabric. While most cleaning methods are gentle enough for a wide range of fabrics, understanding an item’s specific care requirements can help you choose the best stain removal option.

Rinse with cold water

For a fresh stain, run cold water from the tap over the back of the fabric to prevent the coffee from soaking into the fabric. Run cold water over the back of the stain for 10-15 minutes, or until the water that runs out is completely clear.

If the stain is not completely removed or the stain is old, continue to the next step.

Apply liquid detergent

Rub the coffee stain with liquid detergent or liquid dish soap solution and a little cold water. Leave this on for three to five minutes.

For old coffee stains, soak clothes in water after rubbing with liquid detergent.

Every five minutes, gently rub your thumb and fingers over the stained fabric to loosen the stain. After soaking in cold water for 30 minutes, check the stained area. If the stain persists, try soaking it in warm water for five to 15 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.

Try a powder detergent

If the stain doesn’t go away, mix some dish soap with equal parts white vinegar and water to make a paste. Try it on your clothes to make sure the fabric doesn’t get discolored. Use an old toothbrush to clean the stains. Rinse the cloth well.

Pre-treat and wash

Spray anti-stain spray or gel on the coffee stains. You can also use a detergent with oxygen bleach as a stain remover. Let it sit for five minutes. Wash your clothes as usual.

Check and dry

Check if the coffee stain has been completely removed. If stains remain, repeat the treatment step before drying. Allow the garment to air dry (do not heat dry the garment or it will stain). If you are treating stains by drying the garment, double check. Make sure all traces of discoloration are completely removed. If the fabric is still discolored, repeat the steps with powder detergent, wash again and dry again.

Tips on stains on cotton

  • A paste made from water and baking soda is sometimes recommended for removing coffee stains. This works. Note, however, that baking soda is abrasive, so rubbing on the stain can damage the fabric. Liquid soap is generally a safer substance to use on clothing fabrics.
  • In some cases, surfactants in detergents can remove coffee stains better than liquid detergents because they form a paste.
  • A gel stain remover coats both sides of the stain and penetrates the fibers of the garment.
  • If the stain stays on pure white, try mixing 1/4 cup bleach and 4 liters of water. Soak for five minutes, rinse and then wash.

How to remove coffee stains from synthetic fabrics.

Synthetic fabrics such as acrylic, modacrylic, nylon, polyester, spandex and olefin are generally more stain resistant and therefore easier to clean than natural fabrics such as wool, cotton or linen. Again, it’s important to treat the stain as soon as possible, as a fresh, still-damp stain is easier to remove than a dry, hard stain.

Vacuuming up excess coffee

Use a clean, dry cloth to blot up as much coffee as possible. If necessary, replace the cloth and press firmly until the soiled part is as dry as possible.

Soak the fabric

Mix a solution of 1 liter of warm water, 1/2 teaspoon of commercial dish soap, and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Soak the stained fabric in this mixture for 15 minutes.

Wash out fabric

Rinse the fabric in warm (not hot) water. Check the fabric for stains. In some cases, a simple soak and rinse can be enough to completely remove the stain.

Remove remaining stains

Use a sponge and isopropyl alcohol to remove any remaining stains from the fabric. In the case of sensitive fabrics, you should not rub, but dab.

Wash the fabric immediately after drying using a wash cycle suitable for the type of fabric.

Check and repeat (if necessary)

After washing, check the fabric while it is still damp. If the stain persists, repeat the above steps until it is gone. With synthetic fabrics, it is particularly important not to tumble dry the fabric until all traces of the stain have been removed.

How to get coffee stains out of sofas and upholstery

Tools needed

  • Dry cloth or paper towel
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Vinegar

Removing coffee stains from upholstery or sofas is similar to treating clothes. First, blot the stain with paper towels or a dry cloth to remove as much of the liquid stain as possible. “Always avoid rubbing the stain as this can damage the fabric.”

Then use the wet-dry method: Make a solution of one tablespoon of dish soap, one tablespoon of vinegar, and one cup of water. Apply the solution to the upholstery with the rag. Then dry the area with absorbent towels. Repeat the process until the stain is removed.

How to get rid of coffee stains in the car

If possible, try to treat the stain as soon as possible.

  • Blot up excess liquid with paper towels or rags. Dab, don’t rub. Repeat the process until as much liquid as possible is absorbed (old stains may not have excess liquid).
  • Apply cold water to the stain with a clean paper towel. Dab the water and leave it on the stain for a few seconds. Simply use another cold, dry paper towel to wipe away excess water and extracted coffee.
  • Now you can decide what to do with the rest of the stain. Liquid detergent or baking soda work well for new stains. Put a small amount of detergent or baking soda on a paper towel with some cold water.
  • Pat gently to create a foam on the surface. Leave the baking soda on the stain for up to 30 minutes. Pat dry with a fresh paper towel. Repeat as needed.
  • We recommend using a neutral or pH neutral detergent for leather car seats. Just wipe off, don’t use a brush (it would wear down the seat). Baking soda works best on vinyl seats.
  • It works best on light cloth seats. You can also use a mixture of white vinegar and water. The ratio should be one to one or more water than vinegar.
  • Add a small drop of dish soap and rub it onto the coffee stain with a paper towel.
  • You can also apply it to the stain with a stiff brush and leave it on for 30 minutes. Baby wipes can also help remove coffee stains, especially if the stains are fresh.
  • Keep baby wipes in the car for quick access when needed. Finish with a protectant or sealer.
  • If you have leather or vinyl seats, use a leather conditioner. This will ensure the stain does not wear down the material and prevent future stains.

Common solutions for coffee stains

Cold water

It may sound simple, but Lauren Haynes, cleaning expert at Star Domestic Cleaners says it works. “Rinse the stain with cold water, front and back, until you can get it out,” says Haynes. If the stain is fresh it should work fine.

Shaving cream

When you’re trying to figure out how to get rid of coffee stains, you probably don’t think of shaving cream. “Shaving creams contain active ingredients like surfactants and detergents that are also found in other household soaps,” says Haynes.

“To remove coffee stains with shaving cream, simply scrub, rinse with water and repeat as needed.”

Toothpaste exfoliates and can be used to remove coffee stains, says Haynes. Use an old toothbrush to gently apply the toothpaste to the cloth, then rinse. Just make sure the toothpaste you use is white.

Baby powder

Apply baby powder to the stain and leave it on for a few minutes. Then wipe it down with a damp cloth, says Haynes.

Egg yolk

This stain remover may surprise you, but many people rely on it. Whisk together the egg yolk and apply to the stain, then blot the coffee stain with a towel for about a minute. Rinse with water and the stain should be completely gone.

Natural Soaps

If you have a bar of soap lying around, wet it and rub it on the coffee stain, says Haynes. Leave on for an hour and then rinse off with water. baking powder, baking soda as well

Toothpaste is an abrasive and can easily remove stains.

Navarrete recommends mixing water and baking soda, or if the stain is really bad, using detergent and baking soda and then rubbing the stain until it goes away. Try these great cleaning tips from professional cleaners.


It might seem whimsical to use beer to remove coffee stains from a carpet, but it actually works. Put beer or ale on the stains, says Brian Stoddard, director of Homewares Insider. Gently rub the beer into the fabric and the stain will disappear. You may have to repeat the process several times to remove all traces of the stain.

When should you consult a professional?

If the soiled material is a very sensitive fabric or if the stain cannot be removed with the methods presented, then we recommend consulting a cleaning expert.