How to remove tea stains from white clothes

Tea is a beloved beverage enjoyed by millions around the world, but those tea-drinking habits can come with an unwanted side effect – unsightly tea stains on our white clothing. Whether it’s from accidental spills or sweat mixing with residual tea on the fabric, tea stains can be frustratingly difficult to remove, leaving our once bright and fresh white clothes looking dull and discoloured.

But have no fear, there are several effective methods to help remove those pesky tea stains and restore your white fabrics to their original pristine condition. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the best techniques and products to tackle tea stains, as well as provide some preventative tips to help stop them from happening in the first place.

remove tea stains from white clothes

So, if you’re ready to bid farewell to those unsightly tea-coloured splotches, let’s dive in and learn how to get your whites looking bright and fresh again.

Tea Stains

Before we get into the stain removal methods, it’s important to understand what causes tea stains and why they can be so stubborn. Tea stains are categorized as tannin-based stains, meaning they are created by the tannins naturally present in tea leaves.

Tannins are a type of plant-based polyphenol compound that helps give tea its signature bold flavour and deep colour. When tea is spilled or comes into contact with fabric, the tannins bind to the fibres, creating a stain that can be tricky to remove.

The type of tea can also impact the difficulty of the stain. Black teas, which contain a higher concentration of tannins, tend to leave behind more stubborn stains compared to lighter teas like green or white. Additionally, the temperature of the tea can play a role, with hotter tea more easily penetrating and setting into the fabric.

Another factor that can complicate tea stain removal is the type of fabric. Natural fibres like cotton, linen, and silk are more absorbent and susceptible to staining, while synthetic fabrics like polyester may be easier to clean. The age of the stain is also a consideration, as fresher tea stains are generally easier to treat than old, set-in stains.

With an understanding of what causes tea stains, let’s explore the various methods you can use to tackle them and get your whites looking brand new again.

Removing Fresh Tea Stains

The key to successfully removing a tea stain is to treat it as soon as possible before it has a chance to fully set into the fabric. Here are some effective strategies for dealing with fresh tea stains:

  1. Blot and rinse: As soon as you notice the tea stain, act quickly. Gently blot the area with a clean, absorbent cloth or paper towel to soak up as much of the excess liquid as possible. Avoid rubbing, as this can push the stain deeper into the fabric. Then, rinse the affected area with cold water to help dilute the tannins.
  2. Use cold water: Warm or hot water can set the tea stain, making it more difficult to remove. Always use cold water when treating a fresh tea spill.
  3. Apply a stain remover: There are a variety of commercial stain removers specifically formulated to tackle tannin-based stains like tea. Look for products containing ingredients like hydrogen peroxide, oxalic acid, or enzyme-based cleaners, which can help break down the stain. Apply the stain remover according to the product instructions, let it sit for the recommended time, and then rinse. Here are some recommended stain removal products for fresh tea stains: Product Features Persil ProClean Stain Fighter Contains hydrogen peroxide to lift tannin-based stains OxiClean MaxForce Spray Enzyme-based formula that penetrates and breaks down stains Shout Advanced Stain Remover is Specially formulated for tough stains like tea, coffee, and red wine
  4. Try baking soda or vinegar: For a more natural approach, you can create a simple stain-fighting solution using baking soda or white vinegar. Make a paste with baking soda and water and gently rub it into the stain, or soak the garment in a mixture of one part white vinegar to one part water. Let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing.
  5. Launder immediately: Once you’ve treated the stain, be sure to launder the garment as soon as possible, using the hottest water recommended for the fabric. The heat can help set the stain-fighting products and lift the tea stain.

Removing Set-In Tea Stains

If the tea stain has had time to fully set into the fabric, it may require a more intensive treatment. Here are some strategies for tackling those stubborn, set-in tea stains:

  1. Pre-treat with an enzyme cleaner: Enzyme-based stain removers can be incredibly effective at breaking down the tannins in set-in tea stains. Apply the enzyme cleaner directly to the stain, allow it to sit for the recommended time (usually 30 minutes to an hour), then launder as usual. Recommended enzyme-based stain removers: Product Features Biz Enzyme Spray Formulated to tackle tough, set-in stains like tea, coffee, and red wine Puracy Natural Laundry Stain Remover Plant-derived enzyme formula safe for colourfast fabrics Bac-Out Stain+Odor Remover Combines enzymes and botanical extracts to break down stains
  2. Try an oxygen-based bleach: Products containing sodium percarbonate or hydrogen peroxide can help lift set-in tea stains by oxidizing and breaking down the stain compounds. Mix the oxygen bleach with water according to the product instructions and soak the garment for several hours before washing. Recommended oxygen bleach products: Product Features OxiClean White Revive is Designed to brighten and lift stubborn stains from white fabrics Clorox 2 Stain Remover & Color Booster Contains hydrogen peroxide to penetrate and remove set-in stains Persil ProClean Stain Fighter Oxygen-based formula that helps break down tannin-based stains
  3. Use a citric acid solution: The acidic nature of citric acid, found in lemon juice or tartaric acid, can help dissolve tannin-based stains. Make a solution of one part lemon juice or tartaric acid to three parts water, soak the stained item, then launder.
  4. Employ the power of sunlight: Exposing tea-stained fabrics to direct sunlight can help break down the tannins and lift the stain. Place the item in direct sunlight for several hours, then launder as usual.
  5. Repeat the process: For particularly stubborn stains, you may need to apply the stain removal method multiple times, allowing the product to fully penetrate and work on the stain before rinsing and laundering.

Preventative Measures

While removing tea stains can be a hassle, there are some proactive steps you can take to help prevent them from happening in the first place:

  1. Blot spills immediately: As soon as you spill tea on your clothing, act quickly to blot the area with a clean, absorbent cloth or paper towel. The faster you can soak up the excess liquid, the less chance the stain has to set.
  2. Use a stain-resistant fabric: When possible, opt for white clothing made from synthetic fabrics like polyester or nylon, which are less absorbent and more stain-resistant than natural fibres.
  3. Apply a fabric protector: Invest in a fabric protector spray or wash-in product that can help create a protective barrier on your white clothing, making it more resistant to stains. Recommended fabric protectors: Product Features Scotchgard Fabric Water Shield Repels water and oil-based stains, including tea Kleen-Guard Fabric Protector Helps protect against a variety of stains, including tea and coffee Teflon Fabric Protector Provides a durable, stain-resistant barrier for white fabrics
  4. Treat stains promptly: Don’t let tea stains linger – as soon as you notice one, use one of the stain removal methods outlined above to address it before it has a chance to set.
  5. Launder frequently: Regularly washing your white clothing, even if they don’t appear stained, can help prevent tannin build-up and make future stain removal easier.

By following these preventative tips and employing the right stain removal techniques, you can keep your beloved white clothing looking bright, fresh, and free of unsightly tea stains.


Tea stains can be a frustrating challenge, but with the right knowledge and tools, you can successfully remove them from your white fabrics and keep your clothes looking their best.

Remember, the key is to act quickly, using a combination of blotting, rinsing, and targeted stain removal products. For set-in stains, don’t be afraid to try more intensive methods like enzyme cleaners, oxygen bleach, or citric acid solutions.

And don’t forget the importance of prevention – taking steps to protect your fabrics and address stains promptly can go a long way in keeping your whites looking their whitest.

With a little elbow grease and the strategies outlined in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to banishing tea stains for good and maintaining a fresh, crisp wardrobe. Happy cleaning!

Sharing Is Caring:

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.