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How to remove coffee stains from clothes

Posted by Sharannya Mukherji on

There are two kinds of morning people in the world - ones that can function a-okay as soon as they wake up and the other, those that cannot be spoken to unless they’ve gulped down their cup of coffee. They walk begrudgingly towards their little coffee maker, their saviour. For those of you who fall in this second category, you can relate when we say that the first sip is nothing short of divine intervention. The world can wait until then. 

Now, coffee aficionados can also, unfortunately, relate to all the times their favourite drink decided to ruin their favourite dress. An accidental jerk of the table and the disaster that follows, we understand. All it takes is one drop, and you’re already regretting the difficult washing that’s waiting for you.

The main culprit here is a substance called tannin. Tea and wine are the other crowd favourite drinks that contain this troublemaker. Scientifically speaking, tannins are a form of astringent biomolecules that bind to proteins, but that’s of no use to us right now. All we need to know is that tannin is a natural vegetable dye found in bark and plants such as grape skin and now on your shirt. Coffee is generally considered to have about half the tannin concentration as tea but it can still leave that nasty brown stain.

Tannin or better yet, coffee spills can be removed with the right cleaning methodology in place. It’s always better if you try to clean the stains quickly after the spill, whether immediately or within a few days. Acting quickly makes all the difference in the world. However one must keep in mind that coffee stain removal is a trial & error process. We suggest you start with the simplest method and only if it does not work should you move to something else.

For small wet coffee stains

Remember wet coffee comes out much easier than dry, so act fast. If it’s a small stain, perhaps at work, you can do one of two things to control the damage - apply salt on the stain to soak up the coffee or place the fabric under running water. If you have a microfiber cloth, carefully blot the stain as much as you can. DO NOT RUB, we repeat, do not rub. Rubbing fabric can be very abrasive and can spread the stain further than intended. Of course, there is a high chance the discolouration might stay but don’t worry we've got some tricks up our sleeves.

Method 1 - Cold water 

This is for a fresh stain on your garment. Put the garment inside out, and run cold water from the backside of the fabric. This prevents coffee from further penetrating the cloth and washes it away to some extent. You need to run the water for 10-15 minutes until the water runs clear and the stain fades completely. If the stain remains still, move onto the next method. 

Method 2 - Detergent to the rescue

What you will need 

  1. Laundry Liquid 
  2. Toothbrush
  3. White Vinegar 
  4. Dry rag cloth

(Tannin stains require a mild acidic solution to treat, hence the vinegar!)

For wet stains - Take your Natural Laundry Liquid and some cold water and apply to the stain, rub this solution with your fingers or a toothbrush (if your fabric isn’t too delicate). Keep rubbing the stain with the solution and don’t let it dry for at least 5 minutes. You can now toss it in the washing machine.

Alternatively, take one part Laundry Detergent Liquid one part White vinegar and rub onto your stain and let this sit for a while. Rise the fabric. If the coffee stains doest lighten, you need to repeat the process.

For Dry stains - Repeat the above process of washing with cold water but follow it up by soaking it in warm water. The warm water should be mixed with a few drops of Natural Laundry Detergent. Ensure that the cloth stays completely submerged and does not float to the top. You can keep a weight on it to ensure it stays that way. You can even take the fabric out every once in a while to rub the stained bits with your brush. Leave this be for about an hour.

You can now wash the fabric in your washing machine. Take out the cloth and wring it well, you can now put it into your washing machine with your normal load. Add your Laundry Liquid according to the load.

Here are some things you must avoid while treating coffee stains 

  1. Baking Soda - Baking soda is alkaline. As mentioned above, tannin stains require something acidic to tackle it. Baking soda might be your best friend in a lot of stain removal but not coffee. 
  2. Lemon juice - there are two problems here, one it contains sugar which might further stain your cloth and two in some cases it might end up bleaching it. 
  3. Bleach - we’ll never recommend bleach for anything so this isn’t a surprise. Bleach can be super damaging to your clothes, beware. 

We can only hope all your cups of joes go smoothly and stain-free, cheers!

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