Coffee is an early-morning savior. It helps lift brain fog and spark motivation, but sometimes it makes a mess. A coffee spill might feel overwhelming or embarrassing, especially after some of that heavy-eyed first sip splashes on your shirt or a pothole sends half a cup flying during a morning commute. Luckily, as far as cleaning the stains is concerned, most of the time, it’s not too tricky if you know the tricks!
The most important thing after spilling coffee is a quick reaction. As a general rule, you want to avoid letting the liquid dry and absorb. That can be easier said than done. Maybe you’re driving on the highway or halfway through takeoff on a plane. Whatever the case, you don’t want to avoid dealing with the problem for longer than necessary. With coffee spills, being proactive often leads to a quick solution and sidesteps a hard-to-remove stain from setting in.
Grab a paper towel or a rag, lightly run it under cold water, and gently blot the stain. Avoid intense scrubbing, as that can spread the stain and make it harder to remove. Instead, dab at the affected area for about a minute and reevaluate. This works well on small spills on clothing.
It seems simple, and it is, but it’s effective—once you've recovered from the shock of hot water, of course. Don’t overcomplicate the problem. Choose the most straightforward route first.
Baby wipes are another great way to deal with small coffee spills. Use the same method as above: Attempt to keep the coffee spill from setting into a stain by gently blotting the area. Thanks to their intended purpose, baby wipes are gentle and work great on clothes and shoes. They’re not heavy-duty stain removers, so they’re not the end-all-be-all, but they can work well in a pinch.
Sometimes the first phase of being proactive does not conquer the problem. The spill was a little worse than you thought. Try moving a step above plain water. Mix equal parts white vinegar and water, dip a cloth into the liquid, and use it to gently blot the area. The acidic nature of white vinegar helps dissolve a coffee stain.
Apply cold water to the area after using this method to help remove the residue and smell. Do a spot test before using this method to determine if the vinegar might damage the clothing.
Another home remedy is to mix baking soda with a few ounces of water in a small bowl to create a thick paste. Spread a light layer of the paste onto the stain and let it sit for about 15 minutes, then remove the paste with cold water. Baking soda is generally safe to use on clothing, but avoid applying it on delicate, natural fibers like silk, wool, and cashmere, since it might damage those materials.
When in doubt, use a spot test. Baking soda can also be used to enhance laundry detergent if you're a regular contender in the coffee stain olympics. Add half a cup to your standard detergent.
Numerous brands sell effective on-the-go options that come in the form of compact pens, wipes, sponges, and sprays. Whether you’re on the road for business or pleasure, these will give you the confidence to pack light. They’re also great to just have around the house because they provide fast action.
If the stain seems deep, it’s time for the washing machine. For persistent coffee stains, there are several high-powered laundry detergents that attack the affected area. By using specialized formulas featuring enzymes and surfactants, these detergents can break down and dissolve the stain.
Make sure that what you buy is color safe if the stain is on dyed clothing (which is most of our clothes, usually). Be sure to check for allergens and be aware of those with sensitive skin.
You’ve tried everything, but to no avail? Maybe you knew from the beginning that this is a really bad coffee stain. It could be covering the vast majority of your favorite piece of light-colored clothing. That means it’s time to hand the problem to the pros. A dry cleaner pre-treats clothing and then uses chemical solvents and specialized machines to deep clean.
What if you accidentally spilled some coffee inside your bookbag or purse? After soaking up the liquid, turn the bag inside out. That will make it easier to clean via the methods described above and also help air out the smell. After treating the problem, put a few drops of lemon essential oil into a spray bottle filled with water, and apply it. Leave the bag inside out overnight.
Maybe you’re not a natural ballerina and sent an entire cup airborne on a causal stroll through the living room. It now looks like a java hurricane on your carpet. First off, resist the urge to just rub it in with your sock foot.
For carpet, you can use the majority of the options above for small coffee stains. If it’s really bad, or you got busy and didn’t address the problem immediately, consult a professional carpet cleaning company.