How To Get Coffee Stains Out Of Clothing

Learn the best methods for getting coffee stains out of clothing without going to a dry cleaner. 

You’d be surprised at how many everyday household items can double up as coffee stain removers. The acidic properties of vinegar, for example, make it a powerful tool against old coffee stains, especially when combined with water and a bit of dish soap. As another option, laundry detergent can be directly applied to the stained area, creating an effective pre-wash treatment before running your clothes through a regular cycle. So, with some quick thinking and these handy tips, coffee stains don’t stand a chance!

I am a relatively recent coffee drinker, having discovered my love of the beverage after trying cold brew coffee. Unfortunately, I am also a bit messy, meaning my morning Joe doesn’t always go where it should. There have been many instances where my haste to get out the door results in coffee on my shirt. 

Thankfully, after a few incidents, I decided to learn how to get coffee stains out of clothing. I’ve discovered a few tried and true methods, which I will share with you today. Never let coffee ruin your outfit again!

A woman wearing a white shirt, with Laundry Detergent
Coffee stains are tough to get out

Removing a Fresh Coffee Stain

As with any other kind of spill, the best time to clean it up is immediately after it happens. The longer you wait, the more your clothes will absorb the liquid, making the stain so much worse. If possible, follow these steps to get coffee out of your clothes before it becomes a significant problem. 

  • Step 1. Remove your clothing – Obviously, if you’re at work or in a compromising situation (i.e., driving), don’t attempt this step. 
  • Step 2. Run cold water BEHIND the stain – I emphasized the word behind because you want to push the coffee out of the fabric, not further in. Flip your clothing inside out and start rinsing. You may need to do some light rubbing to get all the liquid out. Do this for about 10 or 15 minutes until the coffee is gone. 

Ideally, you’ll be able to get rid of the stain before it sets. The type of clothing you have can also make a huge difference. For example, cotton absorbs liquid much faster than polyester. However, since this method isn’t always feasible, let’s move onto alternative options for when the coffee isn’t going anywhere. 

Removing a Dried Coffee Stain

As a rule, the longer a stain has set, the harder it will be to remove. These tactics should work for most coffee stains unless they have been on your clothes for weeks (or months) already.

Feel free to try multiple methods to see which one works best for your clothing. Again, the materials you wear will affect the stain, so some strategies may be better than others. 

Liquid Laundry Detergent

If you’re going to use liquid detergent, I recommend doing this the same day as the spill. Otherwise, a powdered detergent will work better. 

Stain and Detergent
Pour liquid detergent to cover the coffee stain
  • Step 1. Apply detergent and cold water – Rub enough solution to cover the stain completely, but not so much that it will seep into the rest of your garment. Start with a little bit and work your way up if you’re unsure about the right dosage. Then, soak the stain with a bit of cold water. If the stain is old, you’ll need to submerge the clothing. 
  • Step 2. Rub the detergent – Let the soap sit for a few minutes, then rub it gently into the fabric every five minutes or so. In most cases, you’ll see a noticeable difference after about 30 minutes. 
  • Step 3. Rinse – Once the stain is gone, rinse off any excess detergent and air-dry your clothing. 

Powder Detergent

You can use powder detergent if you don’t have liquid or if the stain is more than a day old. The benefit of powder is that it will agitate the fabric, which helps loosen the coffee. Follow the same steps as above, but use a fresh toothbrush to rub the detergent into the clothing. Don’t rub too hard, or you could damage the fabric. 

Detergent and Powder
Powder detergent will help loosen the coffee stain

Stain Pre-Treatment

You can use a stain solution if you’re looking for a quick and easy method of getting coffee stains out of clothing. Pens or specialized detergents allow you to pre-treat the garment before putting it into the wash.

Stain and Image
Quick and easy of getting coffee stains out

If you go with this option, keep in mind that you may have to run your clothes through multiple cycles to eliminate the stain. If it is fresh, one wash should suffice. 

Another point to consider is that you should never machine-dry your stained clothing. If you do, the stain will set and be much harder to remove. In that case, you better get used to stained clothes because they’re not getting clean. 

White Vinegar

Vinegar can be a useful tool for stain removal, coffee or otherwise. For best results, follow these steps: 

A plastic bottle on a table
White vinegar is useful in coffee stain removal
  • Step 1. Mix vinegar and dishwasher detergent – The solution should be one quart of warm water, 1/2 a teaspoon of dishwasher detergent and one tablespoon of white vinegar. 
  • Step 2. Soak the clothing – Pour the cleaning solution onto the stain and let it sit for about 15 minutes. 
  • Step 3. Rinse – If the stain is still visible, try steps one and two again. Once the stain is gone, you can wash the clothes regularly. 


If you spilled coffee on white clothes, you might want to bleach them instead of messing with different cleaning tips. Just make sure to bleach the whole garment, so there are no patchy white spots. Also, check the bleach label for any fabric restrictions (i.e., silk or Lycra). 

Image and Bleach
Bleach is best used to remove coffee stains on white clothes

The Final Word on How to Get Coffee Stains Out of Clothing

While it would be nice to believe that you’ll never spill another cup of coffee again, life has a funny way of making fools of us all. Now that you know the top methods for cleaning coffee stains, be sure to have these solutions on hand so you can act swiftly and confidently. Overall, unless you leave a stain for days on end or heat it in the dryer, you should be able to get it out.  Want to learn more about what to do after your coffee? Read our guides:

How to Dispose of Coffee Grounds

Can You Stain Wood With Coffee? 5 Simple Steps

FAQs About How to Get Coffee Stains Out of Clothing

Are coffee stains permanent?

If you machine-dried your clothing without removing the stain, it will be virtually permanent. The more times you dry the garment this way, the less likely you can get the stain out. Otherwise, coffee is relatively easy to get out of most clothing materials. 

Does all coffee stain the same way?

As long as the beverage is made with coffee beans, it will stain. Even if you add milk and sugar, the coffee itself can make its mark. If you do spill creamy coffee, you also have to worry about curdled milk creating a nasty odor. 

How can I remove coffee stains from other surfaces like upholstery?

Fortunately, most of the cleaning methods we discussed should work on other materials. Again, the sooner you react, the better your results. Keep in mind that coffee is acidic, so it could leave permanent marks on some surfaces like wood if you don’t clean it immediately. 


  • Jonathan

    Jonathan is an avid coffee drinker, although he's known to knock back a few energy drinks too. He's been a writer for over seven years, which is why caffeine runs through his veins. Find Jonathan on WriterAccess.