You don’t have to be a barista to know the struggle against a coffee stain is real. Whether it’s on your clothes or your carpet, coffee just seems to have a way of jumping about in your mug to find its way onto the lightest and most absorbent surfaces.
Coffee stains on carpet can be some of the worst.
It can be as simple as a bump of the mug and a splash of coffee lands promptly onto your living room carpet, leaving an unsightly stain.
Maybe you recently purchased a new home and, during the course of your remodeling, discover a few coffee stains that were disguised by the previous owner’s furniture.
Or perhaps you’ve had a coffee stain you thought you conquered, only to find it reappears a few days later – often with a vengeance!
Old or new or raised from the dead, coffee stains can be a challenge to tackle.
Whether your carpet is light or dark, a coffee stain is an unwelcomed mess, not to mention a tragic loss of your morning cup of Joe.
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Related: How to get more stains out of carpet
So why are coffee stains so difficult to remove?
In addition to its dark color, which never pairs well with a light-colored carpet, coffee contains a substance known as tannin, which is a vegetable dye and astringent.
Tannins are what helps to give your coffee its characteristic bitter taste.
While this may make your coffee taste great, it can make removing a coffee stain seem nearly impossible.
If you’ve had a coffee stain disappear only to re-appear several days later, tannins may be the cause.
In addition to tannin, coffee is also often paired with flavoring agents, such as milk or sugar, to help dull the bitter taste from tannin.
While these additives can help to smooth and sweeten your coffee drinking experience, they can pose an added and unwanted challenge when it comes to a coffee spill on carpet.
If the milk in your coffee is not absorbed immediately from your carpet once the spill occurs, it may make getting the stain out more difficult. That’s because milk contains a protein, which hardens as the milk dries.
If you have a set-in coffee stain that contained milk or cream, you may find it particularly challenging and time-consuming to address, as dried milk is actually difficult to re-hydrate.
Other challenges coffee poses include the presence of artificial coloring agents, as well as its hot temperature.
Artificial colorings can often stain, which may be challenging to remove, while the spilling of a hot beverage can cause your carpet fibers to open up and absorb the liquid – and the stain! – even more deeply than if you had spilled a cold or room-temperature beverage.
Indeed, coffee can be one of the more challenging and stubborn stains to tackle, but that doesn’t mean your carpet’s fate is sealed.
If you’re wondering how to get coffee out of carpet, there are a number of options available at your disposal.
But when it comes to the unfortunate pairing of coffee and carpet, time is of the essence, so let’s not waste any more time talking about why coffee stains – let’s get it out!
Start with blotting
As with most freshly spilled liquids, it’s important to respond to a coffee stain quickly, as soon as it happens.
Grab a white cotton terry cloth, or even a paper towel will do, and begin to blot at the liquid, pressing down firmly, but taking care not to use a rubbing or scrubbing motion.
As you blot the liquid, it will absorb into the cloth.
It’s likely you will still need to apply some sort of product – whether natural or chemical – to vanquish the stain entirely, but blotting will work well to absorb a decent amount of the liquid and reduce the amount of stain remaining to treat.
As you blot, replace the cloth or use an unaffected spot on it to avoid re-depositing any of the absorbed liquid into your carpet.
Using a white or light-colored cloth is important, as this will allow you to monitor whether or not any liquid is still being absorbed.
Once the cloth no longer appears brown as you blot, it’s likely you’ve absorbed as much of the liquid as you will be able to for now. This could also indicate that the stain has dried too much, and applying a small amount of color water may help to re-hydrate the stain and allow more liquid to be absorbed.
Once you have finished blotting up as much of the stain as possible, you have several options, both natural and chemical, to choose from to begin tackling the remainder of the stain.
While there are a number of natural, DIY coffee stain remover options that you can attempt using products you may already have around your home, one option that may be recommended as a first start is the use of a dish detergent.
A dish detergent can be helpful toward removing some of the other ingredients in your coffee – such as milk and sugar – as well as targeting the tannins.
Acid-based detergents, such as those with citric acid, may work well in particular to target the tannin stain.
One potential option may be the Lemi Shine Natural Concentrated Liquid Dish Soap, which is a non-toxic cleaning solution that is designed for use on tough stains.
Avoid using regular soap products on your coffee stain, as this may cause some of the ingredients to become more deeply embedded in your carpet’s fibers, rather than working to lift them out.
Mix a small amount of the detergent with cold water, apply to the stain, and then blot.
Allow the detergent to sit for several hours before applying cold water and blotting with an absorbent cloth in order to remove the remainder of the detergent. You want to make sure that you rinse the detergent out of your carpet thoroughly, as it will leave your carpet looking clumpy and dirty, rather than soft and smooth.
Because of the dark nature of a coffee stain, some may recommend combining a small amount of hydrogen peroxide with the dish detergent, as hydrogen peroxide works as a bleaching agent, helping to lighten the dark colored stain.
If you attempt this, however, take a few precautions.
First, make sure your detergent does not contain any bleaching agent, as bleach and hydrogen peroxide can create a dangerous chemical reaction.
Second, test the mixture first on a small, non-visible area of your carpet to ensure it will not leave your carpet bleached. You may also want to contact your carpet’s manufacturer or the retailer you purchased the carpet from to ensure there is no issue with using this solution on your carpet.
Salt and Lemon
Another option that may work well for lifting a coffee stain and lessening its hue can be the combination of salt and lemon juice.
You can attempt this on a fresh or dried stain, though if the stain is dry, be sure to take a small amount of cold water and dab it into the stain, as the stain should be moist whenever you attempt any cleaning method.
Squeeze a small amount of fresh lemon juice, or pre-bottled lemon juice, onto the area affected by the stain. Lemon is acidic, which can be helpful in attacking some of the dark stains left by the tannins.
Then, pour a small amount of salt over the entire stain-affected area. The salt works to absorb any remaining coffee liquid in your carpet, working to draw it out of the carpet fibers.
If you don’t have salt on hand, or if you prefer to use another option, the baking soda may also work well as a salt substitute. This can also have the added benefit of helping to absorb any coffee odor remaining in your carpet.
Whether you opt for salt or baking soda, you can allow the solution to set for several hours as it works to absorb as much of the liquid as possible.
Once the solution is dry and has been allowed to set for several hours, you can use your vacuum cleaner to draw up the remaining salt or baking soda from the carpet.
If you used lemon juice, you will also want to apply cold water (once you have drawn up the salt and baking soda with the vacuum) to remove any remaining lemon juice in your carpet.
Vacuuming following this treatment can also prove helpful for smoothing out your carpet and restoring it to a more fluffy, smooth appearance.
For an easy and natural stain fighting approach, consider the use of vinegar and water. Be sure to use only white vinegar for this solution – avoid apple cider vinegar, as it can leave an additional stain.
Vinegar is a great natural cleaning agent and may work well particularly on older, set-in coffee stains that have already dried.
Combine three parts vinegar and one part water into a spray bottle or glass and then gently apply to the stain affected area. Dab it with a soft sponge or a soft cloth. Reapply as needed.
Use of an alkaline spotting agent, such as ammonia, can help if your coffee spill contains milk or cream. Ammonia is useful at dissolving fats and plant-based ingredients.
Certain carpet fibers are not compatible with ammonia, however, and you should not use this product on a wool carpet.
If you spilled coffee with cream, or you suspect cream or milk may be in a dried stain, then one potential option may be the use of an enzymatic laundry detergent.
You can find plant-based options, such as Puracy Natural Liquid Laundry Detergent, which uses plant-based enzymes to provide a non-toxic way to target tough stains, like those caused by milk.
Commercial Carpet Cleaners
If you’ve exhausted all of the methods above, or if you’d prefer to skip the natural, DIY options in the first place, it may be useful to try a commercial carpet cleaner, as there are a number of good options that may work well for coffee.
One option that may be particularly useful when it comes to darker stains from spills like coffee is Brown Out Carpet Neutralizer and Stain Remover.
This product is designed specifically to target brown stains left by coffee and tea. It may even prove helpful for removing any remaining residue from the detergent or any other solution you previously applied.
Even after you have achieved success in removing that pesky coffee stain, it’s possible your carpet may still not look its best. The combination of dabbing endlessly at the stain and applying products that may cause clumping can leave your carpet looking dull and drab.
As you apply any of the solutions discussed above, be sure rinse the area thoroughly with cold water.
Because the area will be wet, it’s important to ensure the area dries thoroughly. This requires more than just dabbing with a dry cloth, although that’s a good start.
Set up a fan and blow in the general direction of the area with the setting on low. This will help to ensure the roots of the fibers, which lay close to your floor, will dry quickly and thoroughly, helping to avoid mold or mildew from growing.
After the area is sufficiently dry, run a vacuum cleaner over the area to leave your carpet looking fluffed and finished.