Does Coffee Stain Clothes? How To Get Rid Of Coffee Stains

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stained t-shirt coffee stain

Say you just spilled coffee on your favorite shirt, or on that pair of pants you just bought.

You’re probably asking yourself: does coffee stain clothes?

Are coffee stains permanent?

Can you get that stain out?

The short answer is that yes, coffee does stain clothes, but you shouldn’t worry because you can definitely save your favorite shirt.

I’ll explain why coffee stains and how you can get rid of them in this article.

Let’s dive in!

Does coffee stain clothes?

Coffee does stain clothes, though those stains aren’t always a cause for worry.

Coffee contains tannin, a natural dye that gives coffee its bitter taste and somewhat dry mouthfeel.

Tannin is also found in wine, which contributes to wine’s dry feel and makes wine stain clothes too.

Coffee stains will look dark and brown. And honestly, coffee will stain just about anything, from clothes to carpet to your favorite mug.

Are coffee stains permanent?

Usually not.

Coffee stains are like most other kinds of fabric stains. With a little work, even the oldest stains should come out of your clothes and other fabric.

Heat sets coffee stains, so acting fast with cold water is the first line of defense.

Cotton and synthetic fabrics act almost identically with coffee stains. While cotton might stain easier than some synthetics, all fabric has the potential to stain.

The good news is that you can treat both cotton and synthetic fabrics the same when trying to get coffee stains out. Simply follow the options below with any kind of fabric and you should be able to remove the stain.

How do you get rid of coffee stains?

Getting rid of coffee stains isn’t too difficult, and with a little time and effort even the toughest stains should come out.

Here are some general rules of thumb to follow:

  1. Act fast. Before the spill has a chance to set, grab a towel and dab any excess coffee that hasn’t seeped into the fabric.
  2. Run cold water through both sides of the stain so it doesn’t have to get all the way through the fabric.
  3. If the stain is gone, launder as you normally would and your clothes will come out unstained.

Using cold water is important in the first steps as hot water can cause the stain to set faster and prove harder to remove.

These steps should ensure that most of the spill doesn’t stain your clothes. But sometimes we don’t notice a stain until someone points it out or we’re doing laundry.

In the case of stains that have already set in your clothes, I’ve found the best ways to remove them, from regular dish soap to homemade remedies.

Stain Remover

Sometimes, especially for cotton clothes, simply using a stain remover will be enough.

Stain removers work best on fresh stains that haven’t completely set.

Use a stain remover pen or liquid stain remover as you normally would, and wash as usual! This should get the stain out, but in the case it doesn’t, keep reading for more options.

Liquid laundry detergent

Rinse as much of the spill out as possible, and make sure the fabric is still damp or wet.

Rub some liquid laundry detergent onto the spill and let the soap do the work. After fifteen minutes or so, rinse the fabric again.

Repeat these steps until the stain is removed.


Sometimes regular laundry detergent just won’t cut it. You need something more acidic to work into the stain.

The acid in vinegar helps break down the stain, making it easier to remove.

Use a mixture of 1 part white vinegar to 2 parts water. Soak the stained area for up to a half hour.

After that half hour, use a clean rag or towel to gently scrub at the stained area. Once all of the stain is out, wash as usual!

Baking Soda

baking soda in a bowl

Baking soda is abrasive, meaning that if you mix it with warm water and apply it to the stain, you should be able to get the stain out.

To make a baking soda stain remover simply add 4 tbsp baking soda with ¼ cup of water.

Apply the mixture to the stain and let it sit for up to half an hour before taking a damp cloth and scrubbing lightly.

If the stain is removed, wash as usual and enjoy your stain-free clothes.

If the stain is extra tough, mix equal parts baking soda and white vinegar and use in the same way.

Dry Cleaner

If all else fails, try taking your stained clothes to the professionals

This maybe shouldn’t be your first option. But if a stain proves too tough for a home remedy, taking your favorite shirt or pair of pants to a dry cleaner can be a good last effort.

General Rules for Stain Removal

While there are many options for getting rid of tough stains, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Act fast! I can’t stress this enough. If you don’t give the stain time to set, it will be much easier to get rid of most of the stains.
  • Rinse thoroughly. Before trying stain remover or vinegar, make sure to rinse the stain from both sides to remove any excess coffee that hasn’t seeped into the fabric yet.
  • If you do have an old stain and choose to use one of the above options, patience is key. Don’t assume the stain is too tough after trying one option, try something different!
  • Let the mixture sit. Stain removal takes time, so treat the coffee stain with one of the options above and let it work before scrubbing and washing your stained clothes.
  • Don’t dry until the stain is gone. Heat sets coffee stains, so make sure the stain is actually gone before you toss your clothes into the dryer. Drying your clothes before the stain is completely gone will make it harder the next time you go to remove the stain.


We all make mistakes and we all occasionally spill coffee on our clothes.

If you find yourself spilling while on your morning commute, it might be time to invest in a coffee thermos to keep your clothes safe while on the move.

And yes, coffee will stain your favorite shirt. But that’s not the end!

Coffee stains clothes. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get them out. Now you’re armed with the tools and knowledge to fight those coffee stains.

Go through this guide next time you have a coffee stain, and I can almost guarantee the stain will come out!

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Craig Carey
Craig spent a year as a barista in Denver's specialty coffee world. He spends his days rock climbing, cycling, drinking espresso, and hanging around the Rocky Mountains. He still lives in Colorado.