Does Coffee Stain Clothes (And How to Treat Them)

coffee spilled on table cloth

Coffee spills are annoying on multiple levels: you have less coffee for yourself, the spill can burn your skin, and your clothes need to be washed. The last one can be the most problematic because not everyone has experience in hand-washing different types of fabrics. Most people prefer throwing clothes in a washing machine or simply rinsing them, which works if something doesn’t stain clothes.

Coffee stains clothes, which is why you need to get as much of it out of the clothes as soon as possible. Using a wet rag to rub away the stain can spread the stain. Getting the right stain remover or detergent and spot-cleaning your clothes can help treat coffee stains.

In this article, you will learn more about treating wet and dry coffee stains. You will discover the degree of effort required for different fabrics, cloth colors, and time periods since the spill. A few solutions for treating each type of stain will be covered in the second half of this post. But first, we must look at the nature of coffee stains, mainly to see if there’s an instance where such a spill would leave a permanent stain.

Are coffee stains permanent on clothes?

It takes a few minutes to realize that a coffee spill has stained your clothes. The dark spot is the most obvious on white clothes, where it is the hardest to remove as well. But can it be removed? In most cases, the shirt you’ve spilled coffee on is useless for at least a day. That doesn’t mean it cannot be cleaned.

Coffee stains are not permanent on clothes, even though they don’t disappear with a simple wash. The stains are harder to wash away in white clothes and easier to remove from colored clothing. Whether the coffee is spilled on a couch or a jacket, handbag, or hat, the article can be restored.

The level of resistance a stain puts up to being washed also has to do with the type of fabric. The cloth color matters because it dictates the prominence of the stain. Coffee spilled on denim isn’t easier to remove. 

It just reaches the acceptable fade in fewer washes. On white clothes, no degree of stain fading is acceptable. The fabric has to be 100% free of coffee stains, which is obviously harder to achieve compared to a pair of jeans that needs a few rinses.

Coffee Stains and Different Fabrics

White denim would actually be one of the hardest materials to clean such stains from. The classic blue and black of the denim reduce the cleaning burden by making faded stains acceptable. The fabric of such clothes has a very Matte finish which allows stains to really take root. 

Think about art canvases for a moment. They’re often made of fabric like cotton or linen and are used to permanently house different colors. From acrylics to oils, canvases provide a solid base to a variety of colors and stains.

Denim is made of highly textured cotton, making it one of the hardest fabrics to remove stains from. All linen and cotton fabrics, alongside high thread-count, matte clothes, are the worst ones to spill coffee on. 

Still, spilling coffee on cotton doesn’t mean the stain is permanent. Coffee stain artwork requires a sealant to be protected from fading, which is good news because you can clean a coffee stain even from the toughest fabric as long it is not sealed.

Of course, it will be much easier to clean from vinyl and microfiber, but these aren’t staples in most wardrobes. Leather and velvet are two fabrics that are easy to clean and are common in most personal capsules. If you luck into having one of those on when you spill your coffee, you are a few wash cycles away from being coffee-stain-free. In all other instances, you need to take specific steps to get rid of coffee stains.

Does Coffee Stain White Clothes Permanently?

White fabric is the hardest to get coffee stains out of, especially when it is matte or features cotton. Some stain removal techniques do not work on such stains, which makes one wonder if the mark is never going to come off. In most cases, it takes several washes.

Coffee stains on white clothes are not permanent; they’re just stubborn. They are less likely to come off completely when you use diluted vinegar. But with a specialized detergent or stain remover, the coffee stains will come off in one or more washes.

The Fading Method – Treat Coffee Stains Over 3 Months

If coffee were capable of leaving permanent stains that would never come off white clothes, it would become one of the most used medium for canvas art. However, coffee stains — while very prominent — fade quickly even without specialized detergents and stain removers. 

If the article on which you have spilled coffee doesn’t need to be spotless within the next three months, you don’t even need to read the rest of this post. Rinse it as long as the water gets pigmented. Once the stain is completely dry, treat the cloth as regular laundry, and add it to every wash cycle with other whites. 

Within 3 months, the stains will be removed completely. This does not work in the short term because coffee stains can be stubborn, especially on certain fabrics. Even stain removers don’t have a universal effect on all fabrics.

What Takes Coffee Stains Out of Clothes?

As mentioned above, some stain removers can fail on certain fabrics. It helps to familiarize yourself with your options before getting into the step-by-step instructions on how to get rid of coffee stains. You need to see if you have at least one of the materials listed below. Only when you have one or more of the following you can proceed to the next section of this post:

  • Carbona Stain Devils – Specializes in tea, coffee, juice, and wine stain removal. Ideal for accidental spills.
     
  • Tide Laundry Stain Remover with Oxi – Removes tough stains and is the perfect solution if you accidentally spill coffee onto white denim or any other stain-conducive fabric.
     
  • Heinz Distilled White Vinegar – Works when diluted with water on semi-stubborn stains. If you have any bottle of white vinegar at home, it helps to try the vinegar cleaning method before getting a specialized stain remover.

How to Get Coffee Stains Out of Clothes?

To get coffee stains out of clothes, you must dab an absorbant rag in a mix of white vinegar and water and use press it on the stain to transfer the mixture onto the affected area. Let the solution sit for a few minutes, then press a dry cloth on the stain to remove it from your clothes.

That can seem like a whirlwind of activity, which is why I have expanded the instructions below, elaborating each step.

Step 1 – Use the Dry Rag to Remove Wet Pigment

Before you even begin preparing the detergent solution for stain removal, you must get rid of the wet pigment. Use a dry absorbent rag to absorb as much wet coffee as possible. Please do not rub the rag because that will distribute the spilled coffee further across the clean areas of the article, making the stain larger. 

Pressing the dry fabric on the spill will reduce the intensity of the stain but will not entirely remove it. For that, you will need a cleaning solution. I recommend a diluted vinegar solution as it is the strongest stain remover that uses household items.

Step 2 – Dilute Vinegar in Water

Diluting vinegar might be an understatement because you’re diluting it a lot more than the step implies. To be more precise, you should add one teaspoon of vinegar to 4 cups of cold water. Vinegar is too strong and can weaken the fabric, which is why this precise dilution ratio must be maintained for most fabrics. 

For tougher clothes like jeans, you can add one teaspoon of vinegar to 3 cups of cold water. This increases vinegar’s effect, and denim is capable of resisting the substance’s bite. Instead of diluting vinegar, you can use a standard cleaning solution. The action items below do not vary, which is why the rest of this guide will refer to the diluted vinegar as the ‘cleaning solution.’

Step 3 – Wet an Absorbent Rag in the Cleaning Solution

You would need a spray bottle to transfer the solution to a blanket or a carpet, but with clothes, the best way to transfer it economically without drenching your clothes is to use a clean, dry rag as the transfer medium. The material of the rag does not matter as long as it is absorbent. Dab or dunk a portion of the rag into the cleaning solution.

Step 4 – Press the Wet Rag on the Stained Spot

Just like you initially pressed a dry rag to absorb coffee without spreading it, you’ll use the wet rag to transfer the stain-removing solution to the spot you need to clean. Depending on how strong the cleaning solution is, you might see immediate pigment transfer to the wet rag. 

If that’s the case, repeat the previous and the current step with different areas of the rag. Ultimately, you want to get as much of the stain out as you can with the wet rag.

Step 5 – Let the Cleaning Solution Sit

After a while, you’ll notice that pressing a rag wet with the cleaning solution onto the stain does not transfer any pigment. This is the stage where the stain pigment that could come off immediately has been removed from your clothes. However, your clothes aren’t 100% stain-free. 

In order to dislodge the remaining coffee marks from your clothes, the cleaning solution needs time. Leave the faded stain in the excess cleaning solution for ten minutes, then proceed to the next step.

Step 6 – Use a Dry Rag to Absorb the Cleaning Solution

Once the cleaning solution has had enough time to mobilize the stubborn coffee marks, it can be removed from the clothes alongside the coffee stain. But you need to be careful not to smudge the marks. 

Even though our idea of cleaning involves wiping, using a dry cloth to wipe the mobilized stain will make it spread. Once again, you must press down on the spot to “pick up” the pigment.

Step 7 – Know When to Stop

As soon as you get the cleaning solution and coffee marks out of the clothes, you’ll start noticing residual marks. This might inspire you to dunk a rag in the cleaning solution once again and repeat the previous steps. Doing so isn’t good for the fabric’s integrity as excessive cleaning action can be tough on the cloth’s fibers. 

More importantly, the “stain” that you see towards the end of the process is just water, which seems like a stain on white clothes. Let the clothes air dry, and you’ll notice the mark vanish. If it does not vanish, then you will be left with a very light coffee stain that is completely dry.

How to Get Dry Coffee Stains Out of Clothes?

Dry coffee stains can be a lot more stubborn than fresh stains, but they aren’t permanent either. You can use bleach as the last resort measure to remove stains, but it is not the only solution to get rid of stubborn coffee marks. You can strengthen the cleaning solution and take the steps covered above. Here’s how you can make the cleaning solution stronger.

To get dry coffee stains out of clothes, you should add two teaspoons of white vinegar and three spoons of stain-removing detergent in four cups of cold water and use the solution to spot-clean the stain with a rough rag or a brush.

Final Thoughts

While coffee stains clothes, it doesn’t leave a permanent mark. For loungewear, underwear, and undervest, you can let the natural laundry cycles get rid of the coffee marks over the months. But if the stain is on your outerwear, you should get rid of it while the spot is fresh. A cleaning solution made of vinegar or a coffee-specific stain remover will help you get rid of stubborn coffee marks.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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