Don’t stress over spills with these expert tips on how to remove coffee stains | CNN Underscored

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We can’t always prevent our favorite morning beverages or afternoon pick-me-ups from spilling, so it’s good to know how to remove coffee stains for whenever life hands them to you.

Maryna Gray, curator and director of coffee at the coffee subscription Bean Box, has a philosophy when it comes to these stains. “T.S. Eliot may have measured out his life in coffee spoons,” she says, “but as a coffee professional, I have measured out my life in coffee stains. I’ve found that an ounce of prevention goes a long way!”

With the help of coffee and cleaning experts, we’ve rounded up the best products for treating fresh, dried, old and set-in coffee stains on all types of surfaces, from clothing to furniture. And since coffee and tea are both mostly water, you can follow the same steps for removing tea stains.

How to remove fresh coffee stains

If you catch a coffee or tea stain as it happens (or soon after), there’s a simple trick to remember: “I try to tackle them with cold water and a touch of whatever hand soap or dish soap is available,” Gray says. “Since coffee is mostly water, most stains that have not set in yet will lift pretty easily.”

While coffee and tea are mostly water-based, add-ins can complicate matters. “Coffee and tea stains are tannin based, meaning they come from the earth,” says Wayne Edelman, president of Meurice Garment Care. “But if there is milk and or sugar present, it becomes a combination stain.”

Still, treating coffee and tea stains is a fairly straightforward matter. “Pre-treat [the] stain and then wash,” Edelman says. “Coffee and tea stains are not permanent — pre-treatment works for a good-as-new garment.”

Essential products for removing coffee and tea stains

Shout Triple-Acting Laundry Stain Remover

Shout Laundry Stain Remover Trigger Spray Amazon

If you’re going to wash a coffee- or tea-stained garment, “stain treatment should be done first before washing,” Edelman says. “A general all-purpose laundry pre-spot spray such as Shout can be used prior to washing.”

$3 at Amazon $4 at Target $3 at Walmart

Carbona Stain Devils #8 Coffee, Tea, Wine & Juice

Amazon

There are also specialty stain removers designed for coffee and tea. They’re a good choice for people who frequently find themselves spilling their morning cup. (No judgment here.)

$10 at Amazon $3 at Walmart

Wine Away Red Wine Stain Remover

Amazon

Wine Away is one of our favorite stain removers because it is surprisingly versatile: Not only does it work wonders on red wine stains, but it is also great at removing stains like cranberry and pomegranate as well as, you guessed it, coffee and tea.

Read our review

$12 at Amazon $10 at Sur La Table

AspenClean Unscented Oxygen Bleach Powder and Color Safe Stain Remover

Amazon

The experts we spoke to said that oxygen bleaches are good for treating set-in coffee and tea stains. “Create a solution using equal parts of warm water and oxygen bleach,” Alicia Sokolowski, a co-founder of AspenClean, says, then “apply it to the stained area and gently rub it in. Allow it to sit for 10 to 30 minutes to help lift the stain.”

$20 at Amazon $19 at AspenClean

Tide Ultra Stain-Release Liquid Laundry Detergent

Amazon

Many liquid laundry detergents are formulated with common stains like coffee in mind, and can be used to pretreat those stains. Dab a small amount of liquid laundry detergent on the stain before laundering, allow 5-10 minutes for it to penetrate and then wash as usual.

$21 at Amazon $21 at Walmart

Puracy Laundry Stain Remover Brush

Amazon

When treating set-in stains, or stains on items like mattresses or furniture that cannot be washed, a laundry brush can be helpful. “A good spotting brush is a wonderful tool to have around,” Edelman says. “The brushing creates mechanical action which moves the soap and detergent into the fibers.”

$10 at Amazon $10 at Puracy

Bissell Little Green Multi-Purpose Portable Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner

Cleaning a mattress, upholstered furniture or carpeting can be tricky if you’re trying to remove coffee stains, especially when they’re dried and deeply set in. But a carpet and upholstery cleaning machine, like Bissell’s Little Green, makes easy work of it.

$124 $98 at Amazon $124 $110 at Bissell $99 at Walmart

Bissell Pet Stain Eraser Plus

Amazon

For homes with limited storage space, this small handheld carpet and upholstery cleaning machine packs a lot of power without taking up a lot of room.

$100 at Amazon $100 at Bissell $100 at Target

How to remove dried, old or set-in coffee stains

Stains that are older and more set-in will require a bit more attention to remove from clothing and other washable fabrics. Follow these steps to remove old coffee and tea stains:

Apply cold water to wet the stain. Apply a small amount of high-quality liquid detergent or a stain remover formulated for tannin stains to the stain and gently brush with a laundry brush. Let sit for 20 minutes. Rinse again with cold water, and blot with a dry rag to remove the stain and water. Repeat until both the stain and detergent residue are removed. Allow the fabric to air-dry.

How to remove coffee stains from mattresses, furniture and carpeting

To remove coffee or tea stains on carpet or upholstery, use the following expert-recommended method. “Use a clean microfiber cloth to blot the spill,” Sokolowski says. “We recommend that you avoid rubbing it, as this can spread the stain further.”

Before applying a stain remover, check the care tag or perform a spot test. “Always perform a patch test in an inconspicuous area to ensure the solution won’t damage the material,” says Sokolowski.

Small stains on mattresses, furniture and carpeting can be removed by using a technique called spot treating.

Apply a small amount of stain remover or liquid laundry detergent to a damp rag, and dab it onto the stain. Blot the stain until it’s gone, taking care not to scrub the material, as friction can abrade or otherwise damage the fabric. When the stain is gone, gently dab the area with a cloth dipped in clean water to remove residual detergent.

For larger or more set-in coffee and tea stains, however, it is best to use an upholstery cleaning machine for the job.

Expert-approved tips for treating coffee stains

The experts we spoke to also offered some general tips for treating coffee and tea stains:

Take care with to-go cups: “In my experience,” Gray says, “stains happen less during brewing and more during drinking. Paper to-go cups with plastic lids are the worst culprits, where drops of coffee can seep between the cup/lid barrier and drip down the side of the cup. Usually, when I get coffee to go in one of these cups, I’ll run a napkin around the bottom of the lid after I’ve put it on the cup, and then I’ll wrap a napkin around the cup and carry it that way so the napkin collects any drips before they hit my clothing.” Blot, don’t rub: “Always blot the stains,” Sokolowski says, “do not rub them, as they can spread further into the fabric.” Check the care label: “Many coffee stains can be treated successfully at home,” Edelman says, “but it depends on what material the stain is on. As a rule of thumb, if you can care for the garment at home according to the manufacturer’s care label then you can try to treat the stain at home.” Call on the professionals: “When in doubt,” Sokolowski says, especially when dealing with a coffee or tea stain on furniture or carpeting, “ask for the help of a professional.”