How To Remove Coffee & Tea Stains From Mugs & Teapots

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If that favorite coffee mug of yours is getting a nasty brown ring inside, here are a few different methods for getting rid of the stains and making it look brand new again (each point is a single tip).

ExampleNote: After successfully removing the marks, rinse and wash well before using.

Scrubs/Pastes:

  • Wet a cloth then rub with bicarb or salt.
  • Try a paste of corn starch and vinegar, apply and let sit for several minutes first before scrubbing.
  • Baking soda & lemon juice.
  • Salt and vinegar (leave on surface then wash off a few hours later).

Soaks:

Directions: Top up with boiling water, leave for several hours or overnight.

  • Baking soda.
  • Bleach OR vinegar (do not dilute these with water).
  • 2 spoonfuls of dishwasher detergent.
  • 2 denture tablets.

Title

Directions: Toss in the ingredients (each line is a single method), fill pot with boiling water then leave overnight.

  • Squeeze the juice from a wedge of lemon (1/4) and throw in the peel, add 2 TBS of bicarb.
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup Realemon juice.
  • A couple denture tablets.
  • 4 TBS dishwasher detergent.
  • 1/4 cup of washing soda.

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Published: March 22, 2007
Updated: October 8, 2012

What Readers Are Saying:
48 Comments to “How To Remove Coffee & Tea Stains From Mugs & Teapots”
  1. Bret Wingert says:

    Thanks for this hints. We get this question all the time and you have many of the solutions in one convenient place!

    Bret Wingert
    souvia.com/blog

  2. linda brainerd says:

    I tried some of the cup cleaning methods offered here, but found the simplest was to spray the inside of the cup with kitchen 409. The brown stain just sloughed off. I rinsed the cup, washed it out — et voila, ready to go — and my cups were VERY stained.

    • tammy says:

      Green Works natural all-purpose cleaner worked as well.

      • Michelle says:

        I just used the bicarbonate (baking soda) in boiling water soak in a very badly stained tea cup, an it worked like a charm. All I had to do was let it sit there in the sink for 2 hours, and then I wiped it out with a sponge. Piece of cake.

        I prefer not to use bleach, or other cleaning chemicals because I don’t want any remnants of that in my food/drinks.

  3. Patricia says:

    Hi! I have used hot water with a little bleach, filling the cup and letting it set while I wash the rest of the dishes, or I have also used hot water with a bit of ammonia in the same manner. (Remember to NEVER mix bleach and ammonia! Do not use ammonia for stainless steel pots and pans or tableware). Wash your cups very well after the soaking. I also add a lid full or two of bleach to sudsy dish water (use rubber gloves to protect you hands) to disinfect and make glasses sparkle. Rinse well with hot water. The gloves will protect you hands from heat as well. I hand wash dishes, so apparently I have already gone green!

    • Green? says:

      Ugh… hand washing uses more water than most modern dishwashers… so no. You haven’t gone green.

      • Diane says:

        That depends how much water you use when hand washing. Just because you heard a general statistic somewhere does not make it true. Some people can wash dishes with a sink full of water.

        • Arthur says:

          A modern dishwasher washes and rinses clean(most people don’t rinse soap scum from the dishes,more chemicals ingested), a days washing in water too hot for the average hands( so less germs) in about 18ltrs of water.
          For those that dry their dishes with a tea towel try this.Smell the towel first!
          Cockroaches just love getting a snack from a wet tea towel from the wash before!

          • Andrew says:

            Many of us still use traditional teapots that were made long before dishwashers were around and do not have a strong glaze over the pattern; a dishwasher is likely to remove the pattern, as will vigorous scrubbing. Be gentle.

  4. Nancy says:

    I know it’s a purchased product but they work great on any stained dishes and many other surfaces that are stained; thoes magic erasers that can be found in grocery store cleaning ailes and at many “dollar” type stores.Using one rescued my counter top from what I thought was a permanent stain.

  5. HuwOS says:

    Just use some sugar in the mug and use a damp cloth to get all the stains with it.

  6. Vicky says:

    I always use SOS pads (steel wool). Quick, no fumes. Never noticed any damage, even to nice porcelain (rub gently on any gold rims etc.). Great for tea strainers and stainless steel sinks too (though there are gentler products out there made for sinks, which don’t scratch…but that’s only if you have a fancy sink you really care about!).

  7. Pat Hill says:

    To remove tea stains from cups.Very easy. Happens instantly. Pour a small amount of toilet bowl cleaner on a dish rag. Wipe stains . Poof gone. You are welcome . Wear rubber gloves. Rinse everthing incold water. You are welcome.

    • GK says:

      Pat,

      I question cleaning anything I’m going to eat or drink out of with something you recommend I should where gloves for. Your welcome.

  8. Clara says:

    WOW! thanks so much, HuwOS… the sugar suggestion worked FANTASTIC! no soaking necessary… no animal-tested, polluted-factory produced chemicals or products necessary! amazing, i tell you… absolutely amazing! (cleaning my dishes with bathroom cleaner just sounds wrong anyway. no offense.)

    • Marie says:

      I totally Agree!!! The sugar worked wonders, no need to soak and no need for chemicals, instant removal of the stains!! Worked great!

    • Rebekah says:

      I must admit, I was skeptical at first about the this, but I thought I’d try it anyway. It worked so great! I just dumped a small pack of sugar (the kind you get at restaurants) into a dry, stained mug, and then used a damp, hot washcloth to scrub the stains. It required a little elbow grease, but it worked a lot better than I expected it to. A+ for creativity and practicality!

  9. GK says:

    Why would you want to clean a well seasoned coffee mug? It’s a labor of love when your coffee mug has that beautiful brown seasoning inside. It makes the coffee taste so much better.

    I bet REAL coffee drinkers around the world are cringing, much like I did, reading this.

    • Leah says:

      I agree. My white cup is washed daily, but it still contains tea stains. I left it at my neighbor’s one day and she bleached it. It took me a month or more to get the stains back in it so it would have the right taste. If its not broke don’t try to fix it.

  10. Gerda says:

    About using bleach to remove tea stains from cups/mugs – be aware bleach will weaken the finish and stains will be harder to remove. The finish inside the cup will also deteriorate over time. My mom used to do that, and that’s what happened.

    I do appreciate and enjoy all the tips here – thanks to all who contribute!

  11. Erica says:

    I never had much success withthe bleach method. I have never heard of wanting your mugs to be stained brown. I much prefer sparkling. I have usually just cleaned mine with a SOS pad, lightly no scouring.

  12. Joe says:

    The baking soda method worked great. Thanks for posting!

  13. Aileen says:

    fill the mug with water and put a little washing up liquid in it then microwave it for 10 minutes, the mug will clean, the microwave will clean and you can use the hot soap to clean stuborn stains~!

  14. Jamie says:

    You can also use salt just like the sugar method…just apply and rub with a damp cloth. If that doesn’t work, apply equal parts salt and vinegar, rub, and let sit for a little while and it should come off.

  15. Jim says:

    I don’t know about coffee stains because I don’t drink the stuff, but I’ve been using bleach for years to remove tea stains, and I’ve never noticed any change in the finish of the cups, not even to cheap cups (which is about all I have). I suspect full strength bleach might be harmful, but I just put a tablespoon or so in the cup, then fill with water to the rim. Takes five to twenty minutes to work, depending on the grunge factor, and the cups are like new. No scrubbing at all, just rinse well.

  16. Carolyn says:

    Up until recently my mugs with daily tea stains were cleaned in the dishwasher and the stain would be gone. bought a new box of detergent, same brand, and now the stains don’t wash out. I know about soda and bleach but I want them destained in the dish washer not by hand. I called the manufacturer and her suggestions haven’t helped and I have used this brand over others because it did work. Help! What brand works best for you?

    • Linda says:

      Sorry, Carolyn. You have just been affected by the environmentally correct police. Even though the phosphates in dish soap are a miniscule amount of the total pollution (most is from animal waste in feedlots and fertilizers), they have been removed from the product. The lack is more apparent in some areas due to the mineral content of the water.

  17. Corrin says:

    Thanks 2 the gal that posted the SUGAR remedy!!
    I only have one mug & I love this thing, a week ago it got a terrible stain that I couldn’t scrub out for
    the life of me, & I’m sorry — I wasn’t about to bleach or
    toilet cleanse something I knew I’d be drinking out of — anyhow, the sugar & water scrub worked
    great, good as new! Thank you :) PS– ladies it’s just not right to
    have “seasoned” mugs — dirty dishes are very un-lady like. Consider how you’d feel drinking from a dirty mug at a restaurant… – the sugar & hot water rub works wonders, please give it a whirl :)

  18. Gabriel says:

    Ok I just tried a toothbrush and some toothpaste. Took me 2 minutes to completly clean my mug to like new condition.

  19. Sarah says:

    Thank you very much. I’ve been looking for a soaking method for my tea pot – cups are easy because I can just scrub them – FYI, those Magic Erasers & knockoffs are great for tea and coffee stains, no soap required – but pots are hard to scrub inside, especially in the spout.

  20. Dave Mcr says:

    One teaspoon of bio washing powder in a mug of warm water left overnight = gleaming clean mug, nice and white inside

  21. Linda says:

    get a steel wool pad (Brillo) and walla!

  22. Mr. Clean says:

    I have several white porcelain mugs that get quite stained as I am a coffee and tea drinker. About once a week I put a couple of tablespoons of bleach in the largest mug, fill it with cold water and let it set for about 10 minutes. Then I pour its contents into one of the other mugs and so on, refreshing the bleach/water to fully fill each cup as needed.

    I pour the last mug of bleach/water into the garbage disposer which helps sanitize that appliance.

    I rinse all the mugs well with hot water, wipe dry.

  23. Sue says:

    Great tips, but I cleaned my horribly stained tea cups in just about two minutes. I put a teaspoon of oxy-clean (the powder type) in my cup, filled it to the brim with very hot tap water, waited about two minutes and wiped it clean. I tell you my cup sparkled like it was brand new! The second cup I did was even more stained. On this one, I had to do a tiny bit more scrubbing, but really not much (and I only used a paper towel for this, nothing harsh or abrasive)and it too sparkled in no time.

  24. Angelina says:

    Mr Clean Magic Erasers work AWESOME!!

    • Sandy says:

      I totally agree. Magic Erasers are the way to go. The generic brands work too. That’s all I’ve used since they first came out. That way, no chemicals are used and VERY little elbow grease.

  25. Heyu says:

    1.Baking soda and water paste on my fingertip on prewashed always works for me. If necessary,try mixing in “Calgon” and salt.
    2.I have read that Whole Milk is used for brown staining in crazed glazing.
    3.For mugs and teapots with stubborn stains that for some reason have not responded to the above, try a thin wipe of “Softscrub with Bleach”. Allow to dry overnight,wash next day.
    4.If all else fails,find “ZUD” in the cleanser section. Do not worry, it is not a cleanser, and can be safely washed out.

  26. ~Dennis says:

    I have a 15-year-old stainless steel thermos that is used daily for tea; I don’t mind ‘seasoning’ in my mug, but the stain degrades the heat-retention qualities of the thermos. So far I have used a brillo pad on the end of a wooden spoon to scrub it back to fairly shiny, (at least the parts I can reach,) but it takes a LOT of scrubbing and quite a while. I was hoping for a chemical scrub of some kind that would get ALL the inside clean and shiny, (and save my old tennis elbow…)

    • Shelley says:

      Put a denture cleaner tablet inside the thermos with hot water..voila! Also, when storing an empty thermos put a dry herbal tea bag inside and it will stay fresh smelling. Dump it out before using again.

  27. Brenda says:

    None of these worked on my stained Terva mug… It is plastic or acrylic..not sure… help

  28. Hazel says:

    Try two denture tablets with hot water and let it sit over night ,hubby cleans his every week end this way.

  29. Ted says:

    Thanks for the 409 suggestion, I actually tried fantastic and it worked amazingly well, washed mug with soap afterwards and looks brand new

  30. Karen says:

    I rinsed the coffee cup with water to get it wet, put a little baking soda on a sponge and just wiped the stains away from inside the cup. It was a miracle and the coffee cups are sparkling white and look like new again.

  31. Jon says:

    I just tried the warm water and sugar, worked like a charm! biggest issue I had was cleaning the cup in the office where there is no sink… so I had to deal with sticky fingers for a bit.

  32. Peggy Nickolotsky says:

    I have clear Tervis tumblers and used a squeeze of lemon or lime’s in my water. I have put them in the dishwasher but still have spots I guess from the juices. I have tried baking soda, vinegar, etc and still no luck. Directions did not come with them when I bought them. Now too late. I did not think juice would do this but too late now.
    Any suggestions greatly appreciated. I don’t want to use them except with family for they look dirty.
    Thanks

    • Peggy Nickolotsky says:

      Also, part two to the above questions. I have tried stain away that I bought it is a denture cleaner, did not work, tried sugar this also did not work, and again baking soda as a paste which did not work. They are not stains, well they are a smudge like if you would smear lip balm on the tumblers. I am still waiting if you have come up with anything.


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