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This Is the Best Way to Get Rid of a Coffee Stain

Besides, you know, not drinking coffee.

September  2, 2019

Coffee stains are a fact of life if you a) drink coffee and b) weren’t born with the balance of a gymnast. And since I drink coffee almost every day of my life and have no sense of balance to speak of, the number of times I’ve spilled coffee on myself, or something in my immediate environment, numbers in the thousands, if not more.

And since these coffee stains usually happen to me in the wild—on my way to the office, on the train, in the middle of a restaurant meal—I usually don’t have the option of tossing something in the washing machine until the end of my day. Not to mention, if all stain removal were just a matter of doing a load of laundry, none of us would need hacks on how to remove them.

For coffee stains, the best thing to do is to start with cold water, as heat will set the stain into the fabric. Wash out as much of the stain as possible, and then use liquid dish detergent over the stain to create a lather. Then, use white vinegar to rinse out the soap, and your stain should be gone. Per the University of Illinois, which has a whole section of its website dedicated to stain removal (I don’t know why, but we could probably use it), the college-approved method is to soak your stained items for 15 minutes in that mixture — dish detergent, white vinegar, and water, but I find that applying my cleaning “ingredients” one by one to be more effective.

If you’ve got a more serious coffee spill on your hands, your work isn’t done. Use a sponge to apply rubbing alcohol to the stain, working from the center. Then, do soak the stain in at least a quart of water with a tablespoon of an enzyme cleaner, and then wash as you normally would.

Got an even better way to wash out a coffee stain? I’m all ears.

Are you a habitual spiller like us? What are some of your tricks to remove coffee stains?

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  • Marilyn Taylor
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Karen Lo

Written by: Karen Lo

lunch lady


Marilyn T. September 15, 2019
For any stain that involves any kind of oil, I use 1 part laundry detergent, 1 part water, and several drops of lemon oil - oil dissolves oil. I use a squeeze bottle and cover the stain, then next time I do the laundry, it goes in with everything else. This also works really well for sweat stains, which I normally treat as above as I'm putting shirts into the washer.
janet V. September 15, 2019
Even old sweat stains? If so, count me in!
janet V. September 15, 2019
I often use white banquet tablecloths for catering meetings and events. There's always that coffee spiller present! As soon as possible, (though sometimes it's days later) I liberally spray the stains with Shout, no other spray cleaner is as consistent. Then I launder with copious amounts of bleach and detergent, along with a double rinse. I do not put in the dryer as this will set any stain. For colored table cloths I would just eliminate the bleach. For clothing, I will for sure try your method. BTW, blue Dawn is the dish detergent I would use. It is an amazing spot remover for stains on clothing, especially grease.