How to get coffee stain out of white shirt

Spilling coffee on your favourite white shirt can be a real bummer. Whether you’re rushing out the door in the morning or enjoying a mid-day caffeine break, those pesky brown splotches can seem impossible to remove. But don’t despair – with the right techniques, you can get your shirt looking fresh and stain-free again.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the best methods for getting coffee stains out of white fabric, including pre-treating, hand-washing, machine-washing, and even some DIY stain-removal hacks. We’ll also cover tips for preventing coffee stains in the first place and caring for your white shirts to keep them looking their best.

get coffee stain out of white shirt

So next time you end up with a coffee-stained shirt, don’t reach for the trash can – read on to learn how to save the day (and your favourite top)!

What Causes Coffee Stains on Clothes?

Coffee stains can be tricky to remove because they’re caused by a combination of factors. The main culprits are:

  • Tannins – Coffee, tea, and other dark beverages contain tannins, which are plant-based compounds that can deeply penetrate and discolour fabric fibres. As the tannins oxidize, they turn the stain brown or yellowish.
  • Oils – Coffee also contains natural oils that can leave greasy, stubborn stains behind. These oils bind to the fabric, making the stain harder to lift.
  • Sugars – Many people add sugar, sweeteners, or creamer to their coffee, and the sugars in these additives can caramelize and set the stain over time.
  • Acidic pH – The acidity in coffee (around 5 on the pH scale) can also contribute to the staining process by altering the structure of the fabric fibres.

The longer a coffee stain sits, the more time these elements have to soak into the fabric and set. That’s why it’s important to treat coffee spills as soon as possible for the best chance of removal.

How to Get Coffee Stains Out of a White Shirt

Ready to get that coffee stain out of your favourite white shirt? Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Blot the Stain – As soon as you spill coffee, grab a clean, absorbent cloth or paper towel and gently blot the stain. Don’t rub – this can push the stain deeper into the fabric. Blot until no more liquid is coming up.
  2. Run Under Cold Water – Rinse the stained area under cold, running water. Avoid using hot water, as this can set the stain. The cold water will help dilute the coffee and prevent the tannins from binding to the fabric.
  3. Apply a Stain Remover – Next, apply a stain remover specifically formulated for coffee and tea stains. Look for products containing enzymes or oxalic acid, which are effective at breaking down these types of stains. Spray or dab the remover directly onto the stain, making sure to cover the entire affected area.
  4. Let It Soak – Allow the stain remover to sit for 15-30 minutes, following the product instructions. This gives the active ingredients time to penetrate the stain and start lifting it out of the fabric.
  5. Wash in Cold Water – After soaking, machine wash the shirt in cold water. Avoid using hot water, which can set the stain. You can also handwash the shirt in a sink or tub of cold water if you prefer.
  6. Air Dry – For best results, line dry or lay flat to dry the shirt instead of putting it in the dryer. The heat from the dryer can reactivate and set any remaining coffee stain.
  7. Repeat as Needed – If the stain is still visible after washing, repeat the process until it’s completely removed. You may need to try a few different stain removal methods to get stubborn coffee stains out.

Effective Stain Removal Methods

In addition to the basic steps above, here are some other proven techniques for getting coffee stains out of white shirts:

  • Baking Soda Paste – Make a paste by mixing baking soda and water, then gently rub it into the stain before washing. The abrasiveness of the baking soda can help lift the coffee out of the fabric.
  • Vinegar – Soak the stained area in undiluted white vinegar for 30 minutes before washing. The acidity in the vinegar helps break down the coffee tannins.
  • Laundry Detergent – Use an enzyme-based laundry detergent, which can be especially effective at tackling coffee and other organic stains. Let the shirt soak in the soapy water for a while before washing.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide – Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water, then dab the solution onto the stain. Let it sit for 30 minutes before washing. The peroxide helps bleach out the coffee discolouration.
  • Lemon Juice – The citric acid in lemon juice can also help dissolve coffee stains. Simply squeeze fresh lemon juice directly onto the stain, let it sit briefly, then wash as usual.
  • Dish Soap – The grease-cutting power of dish soap makes it a handy stain remover for coffee. Rub a small amount of dish soap directly into the stain before washing.
  • Salt – Make a paste with salt and water, then gently rub it into the stain before washing. The abrasiveness of the salt can help lift the coffee out of the fabric.
  • Cornstarch – Sprinkle cornstarch directly onto the stain, let it sit for a few minutes, then brush or wash it away. The cornstarch helps absorb the oils in the coffee.

Preventing Coffee Stains

Of course, the best way to deal with coffee stains is to prevent them in the first place. Here are some tips for keeping your white shirts pristine:

  • Use a lid or cup with a tight-fitting lid when drinking coffee, especially while on the go.
  • Carry a stain remover pen or wipe in your bag for quick touch-ups.
  • Tuck a napkin or handkerchief into your shirt collar to catch any drips.
  • Avoid adding milk, cream, or sugar to your coffee, as the dairy and sweeteners can make stains harder to remove.
  • Launder coffee-stained shirts as soon as possible, before the stains have a chance to set.
  • Choose higher-quality, tightly woven white fabrics that are less prone to staining.
  • Apply a fabric protector spray to your white shirts to create a barrier against liquid spills.

Caring for White Shirts

To keep your white shirts looking their best and minimize staining in the long run, follow these care tips:

  • Wash Regularly – Wash your white shirts frequently, even if they don’t look dirty. Letting them go too long between washes can allow stains to set in.
  • Use the Right Detergent – Look for a laundry detergent that’s specifically formulated for white fabrics. These usually contain optical brighteners and bleaching agents to keep whites looking crisp.
  • Avoid Bleach – While bleach can be tempting for getting whites extra bright, it can break down and yellow the fabric over time. Stick to oxygen-based whiteners instead.
  • Air Dry When Possible – Line drying or laying flat to dry helps preserve the integrity of white fabrics and prevent colour transfer from other clothes in the dryer.
  • Store Properly – Hang or fold your white shirts carefully to prevent creasing, which can lead to discolouration over time. Avoid storing them in direct sunlight as well.

With these tips and techniques, you can tackle even the toughest coffee stains and keep your favourite white shirts looking fresh, clean, and ready to wear. No more hiding in the back of the closet – your go-to white tops will be ready to shine.

Top Stain Removal Products for Coffee Stains

Here are some of the best stain removal products specifically designed for tackling coffee and other beverage stains:

Persil ProClean Stain Fighter– Powered by the cleaning strength of oxygen
– Lifts out even the toughest stains
– Safe for colours and whites
Puracy Natural Stain Remover– Plant-based, non-toxic ingredients
– Effective on coffee, tea, wine, and more
– Safe for delicate fabrics
OxiClean MaxForce Laundry Stain Remover– Specialized formula for coffee and tea stains
– Penetrates deep into fabric fibres
– Safe for whites and colorfast fabrics
Shout Advanced Stain Remover– Targets and lifts out stubborn stains
– Works in both hot and cold water
– Gentle enough for daily use
Carbona Stain Devils #5 Coffee & Tea– Specialized formula for coffee and tea stains
– Penetrates deep into fabric fibres
– Safe for white and colorfast fabrics

Remember to always test stain removers on an inconspicuous area of the fabric first to check for any discolouration or damage.

With the right stain removal products and techniques, you can keep your white shirts looking fresh and new, even after the occasional coffee spill. Happy laundering!

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.