5 Things to Know About Coffee Stains

published Jan 4, 2017
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(Image credit: Gillian Vann/Stocksy)

A daily cuppa may be an essential waking-up ritual, but one false drowsy move as you reach for your mug or take your first sip from an overfull paper cup and … stain disaster! Follow this advice and you won’t ever have to curse your java addiction.

1. Water is your first defense.

As soon as you spill on your shirt, pants, or dress (washable or dry-clean only that won’t be further damaged by H20), flush it immediately with cold running water, or dab at it with a wet cloth using a dry cloth underneath the material to absorb any excess moisture, says Nancy Bock, senior vice president of consumer education at the American Cleaning Institute.

If you have some laundry detergent or spot remover handy, give it a dab with that and then rinse with water again. (Laundry products, rather than hand or dish soap, typically have enzymes that can break down organic stainers like coffee.) Then, get the item to the washing machine or dry cleaner as soon as possible. On materials like leather or fur, blot up what you can and then leave the rest to the pros.

2. Heat is the enemy.

Hot water may boost the flavor of your brew, but it won’t get out its stains — quite the opposite, actually. A not-so-fun-fact: Heat will set any type of organic stain, including coffee, tea, and blood. Wash in cold water and make extra-certain the stain is gone on your favorite sweater before you put it in the dryer for a tumble.

3. On hard surfaces, speed matters.

Coffee won’t have much time to stain if you catch it quickly. After you’ve wiped up the liquid on a countertop or table, Bock recommends a pass with a disinfecting wipe containing bleach to zap any remaining stain. Buff cleaned unsealed stone and wood with a dry cloth to be certain those surfaces are no longer damp.

Because coffee is acidic, it can stain and pit porous natural stone, so you need to be certain you’ve sucked all that coffee out; pile on some baking soda, salt, or a powdered poultice material designed for the job. To lighten any yellow or brown staining that forms despite your best efforts, try mixing up a paste of poultice powder and 12 percent hydrogen peroxide and letting it sit on top until the stain is gone.

4. Coffee with milk stains just as much.

Sure, that creamy drink looks lighter in color, but those dark-brown pigments are still in there — plus milk can leave behind a foul smell if you don’t get it all out. When dealing with coffee (milked or not) on furniture, carpeting, or car upholstery, keep blotting with clean damp cloths or paper towels, working on the outside in so the stain won’t spread, until you come back with no coffee color at all on your cleaning cloth. Then thoroughly wash with an appropriate upholstery cleaning product.

5. Your teeth could use a little help, too.

Even if all your coffee ends up safely inside your mouth, you have one other potential staining problem to contend with: the un-pearly-ing of your pearly whites. To keep your teeth from turning yellow from your cup-a-day habit, consider sipping it through a straw (which will keep it off your teeth to a decent extent), and rinse your mouth with water after you finish your cup. Just don’t immediately reach for your brush: Surprisingly, research shows that brushing your teeth within a half hour of eating or drinking something acidic can actually cause worse damage.