How to get tea stains out of mugs

Tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world, enjoyed by people of all ages and cultures. Whether it’s a relaxing morning cup of Earl Grey, a rejuvenating mid-afternoon matcha latte, or a cozy evening mug of chamomile, tea has a way of bringing people together and providing a moment of calm amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life.

However, the downside of this beloved drink is the pesky tea stains that can build up on our favorite mugs over time. These unsightly brown or yellow marks not only detract from the aesthetic appeal of our kitchenware, but they can also be surprisingly stubborn and difficult to remove.

get tea stains out of mugs

If you’re someone who loves their tea but dreads the thought of scrubbing away at those stubborn stains, fear not! In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore a variety of effective methods and natural remedies to help you get your mugs sparkling clean and looking as good as new.

Tea Stains

Before we dive into the cleaning techniques, it’s important to understand what causes tea stains in the first place. Tea contains tannins, which are natural compounds that can bind to the surface of a mug, creating those persistent discolored marks.

The intensity and stubbornness of the stains can vary depending on a few factors:

  1. Tea Type: Different types of tea, such as black tea, green tea, and herbal teas, contain varying levels of tannins, which can affect the severity of the stains. For example, black tea and oolong tea tend to have higher tannin content, leading to more stubborn stains, while white tea and green tea have lower tannin levels and may be easier to clean.
  2. Water Temperature: Hotter water can cause the tannins to bind more strongly to the mug’s surface, making the stains harder to remove. Brewing tea at lower temperatures, such as 195-205°F (91-96°C), can help minimize the staining.
  3. Usage Frequency: The more frequently you use a mug for tea, the more opportunity the tannins have to build up and create a stubborn stain. Mugs that are used daily for multiple cups of tea may require more frequent cleaning.
  4. Mug Material: Porous materials like ceramic or porcelain tend to hold onto tea stains more easily than non-porous materials like glass or metal. Glazed ceramic mugs, for example, may be more prone to staining than a stainless steel travel mug.

Understanding these factors can help you tailor your cleaning approach and choose the most effective methods for your specific needs.

Natural Cleaning Methods

When it comes to removing tea stains, many people prefer to start with natural, eco-friendly cleaning solutions before resorting to harsher chemicals. Here are some tried-and-true natural methods to consider:

  1. Baking Soda: Baking soda is a versatile and gentle abrasive that can help lift and dissolve tea stains. Simply make a paste with baking soda and water, apply it to the stained areas, let it sit for a few minutes, and then scrub with a sponge or soft-bristled brush. Rinse thoroughly afterwards.
  2. Vinegar: The acidity in vinegar can help break down the tannins that cause tea stains. Mix equal parts white vinegar and water, and use this solution to soak your mugs for 30 minutes to an hour. Scrub and rinse clean.
  3. Lemon Juice: Similar to vinegar, the citric acid in lemon juice can be an effective tea stain remover. Squeeze fresh lemon juice directly onto the stained areas, let it sit for a few minutes, and then scrub and rinse.
  4. Salt: A simple mixture of salt and water can also work wonders on tea stains. Make a paste with salt and water, and use it to gently scrub the stained areas. The abrasive nature of the salt can help lift the stains.
  5. Baking Soda and Vinegar: For a more powerful natural cleaning solution, try combining baking soda and vinegar. Make a paste, apply it to the stains, let it sit for a few minutes, and then scrub and rinse. The fizzing reaction between the two ingredients can help break down the tannins.
  6. Hydrogen Peroxide: This household staple is a mild bleaching agent that can effectively remove tea stains. Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water, and use this solution to soak your mugs for 30 minutes to an hour before scrubbing and rinsing.

When using any of these natural cleaning methods, be sure to thoroughly rinse your mugs and allow them to air dry to avoid any lingering tastes or residues.

Commercial Cleaning Products

If the natural methods aren’t cutting it, there are also a number of commercial cleaning products specifically designed to tackle tough tea stains. Here are some options to consider:

  1. Denture Tablets: Yes, you read that right! Denture tablets contain a mild abrasive and cleaning agents that can be effective in removing tea stains. Simply drop a tablet or two into your stained mug, fill with water, and let it soak for a few hours before scrubbing and rinsing.
  2. Oxalic Acid-Based Cleaners: Products containing oxalic acid, such as Bar Keepers Friend or Zud, can be highly effective in breaking down and removing tea stains. Follow the instructions on the packaging, and be sure to rinse thoroughly afterwards.
  3. Enzyme-Based Cleaners: Enzyme-based cleaners, like Biokleen or Seventh Generation, use natural enzymes to break down organic stains, including tea. These gentle but powerful cleaners can be great for sensitive mugs or frequent use.
  4. Specialty Tea Stain Removers: There are also a number of commercial products on the market that are specifically designed to tackle tea stains, such as Dip-It or Teapot Magic. These often contain a combination of cleaning agents tailored to the task.

When using any commercial cleaning products, always read the instructions carefully, test on a small, inconspicuous area first, and be sure to thoroughly rinse your mugs afterwards.

Here are some additional commercial cleaning products that can be effective in removing tea stains:

Affresh Mug and Carafe Cleaner– Specifically formulated for removing tea, coffee, and other beverage stains
– Contains oxalic acid and other cleaning agents
– Safe for use on ceramic, porcelain, and glass mugs
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Stain Remover– Plant-derived, biodegradable formula
– Helps break down and remove tea, coffee, and other stubborn stains
– Works on a variety of surfaces, including mugs, pots, and dishes
Bakeeper Mug Cleaner– Professional-strength formula specifically designed for tea and coffee stains
– Contains oxalic acid and other cleaning agents
– Safe for use on ceramic, porcelain, and other mug materials

Preventative Measures

Of course, the best way to deal with tea stains is to prevent them from building up in the first place. Here are some tips to help keep your mugs looking their best:

  1. Rinse Immediately: As soon as you finish your tea, give your mug a quick rinse with hot water. This can help prevent the tannins from setting in and staining the surface.
  2. Use a Mug Brush: A small, soft-bristled mug brush can be a game-changer for gently scrubbing away any residue before it has a chance to set.
  3. Avoid Letting Mugs Sit: Don’t let your used mugs sit around for hours or days before washing them. The longer the tannins have to adhere to the surface, the harder they’ll be to remove.
  4. Choose the Right Mug Material: For tea drinkers, opting for mugs made of non-porous materials like glass, stainless steel, or enamel-coated ceramic can help minimize the risk of stubborn stains.
  5. Use a Tea Bag as a Scrub: After finishing your tea, you can use the leftover tea bag to gently scrub the interior of the mug. The tannins in the tea bag can help lift any residual staining.
  6. Invest in a Mug Warmer: Keeping your tea at the optimal brewing temperature can prevent the tannins from binding as strongly to the mug’s surface.
  7. Consider Protective Coatings: Some mugs are coated with a protective layer, such as a silicone or ceramic glaze, that can help prevent staining. Look for mugs with these types of coatings for added protection.

By adopting these preventative measures, you can help keep your mugs looking their best and make the occasional deep cleaning a breeze.

Tough Stain Removal Techniques

Even with the best preventative measures, sometimes tea stains can become so stubborn that they require a bit more elbow grease to remove. Here are some advanced techniques to tackle those persistent stains:

  1. Baking Soda and Vinegar Paste: For really stubborn stains, make a thick paste with baking soda and vinegar, and let it sit on the affected areas for 30 minutes to an hour before scrubbing. The fizzing reaction can help break down the tannins.
  2. Boiling Water: Bringing your mugs to a boil in water can help loosen and dissolve the tannin bonds. Fill your mugs with water, bring to a boil on the stovetop, and let them soak for 10-15 minutes before scrubbing.
  3. Dish Soap and Baking Soda: Create a paste with dish soap and baking soda, and use it to scrub the stained areas. The combination of the soap’s degreasing properties and the baking soda’s abrasiveness can be a powerful stain-fighting duo.
  4. Denture Tablets and Vinegar: For an extra-strength cleaning, try soaking your mugs in a solution of denture tablets and vinegar. The effervescent reaction and cleaning agents can help tackle even the most stubborn tea stains.
  5. Lemon and Salt: For a natural, abrasive scrub, try cutting a lemon in half, dipping it in salt, and using it to scrub the stained areas. The citric acid and salt can help lift those tough marks.
  6. Commercial Stain Removers: As a last resort, you can turn to specialized commercial stain removers like Bartender’s Friend or Bar Keepers Friend. Always test these products on a small, inconspicuous area first, and follow the instructions carefully.

Remember, when tackling tough tea stains, it’s important to be patient and persistent. Sometimes it may take a few rounds of cleaning to fully remove the stubborn marks.

Caring for Your Mugs

Maintaining the cleanliness and longevity of your beloved tea mugs is an ongoing effort, but with the right care and attention, you can keep them looking their best for years to come. Here are some additional tips for caring for your mugs:

  1. Avoid Abrasive Scrubbers: Steer clear of steel wool, scouring pads, or other abrasive tools that can scratch and damage the surface of your mugs over time. Opt for soft-bristled brushes, sponges, or clean cloths instead.
  2. Dry Thoroughly: Make sure to dry your mugs completely after washing to prevent water spots or residual moisture that can lead to mold or mildew.
  3. Store Properly: When not in use, store your mugs upside down or on their sides to prevent dust and debris from settling inside.
  4. Consider Mug Liners: Specialty mug liners or coasters can help protect the interior and exterior surfaces of your mugs from staining and scratches.
  5. Rotate Your Mugs: If you have a collection of favorite tea mugs, try to rotate their use to prevent any single mug from becoming overly stained or worn.
  6. Avoid Microwaving: While convenient, microwaving tea mugs can sometimes lead to faster staining and discoloration. It’s best to stick to heating water on the stovetop or using an electric kettle.
  7. Regular Cleaning: Establish a regular cleaning routine for your tea mugs, such as a weekly or monthly deep clean, to prevent stubborn stains from building up over time.

By following these simple care tips, you can help extend the life and appearance of your tea mugs, ensuring that you can continue to enjoy your favorite hot beverage in style for years to come.


Tea stains can be a frustrating and persistent problem for tea lovers, but with the right cleaning methods and preventative measures, you can keep your mugs looking their best. From natural solutions like baking soda and vinegar to specialized commercial products, there are plenty of effective options to tackle even the toughest tea stains.

Remember to be patient, persistent, and to choose the cleaning approach that works best for your specific mug material and tea drinking habits. With a little elbow grease and the right techniques, you can restore the sparkle to your beloved tea mugs and continue to enjoy your favorite hot beverage in style.

So, the next time you notice those pesky tea stains creeping up, don’t despair – grab your cleaning supplies and get to work. Your mugs will be looking good as new in no time, ready to be filled with your next delightful cup of tea.

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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.