The morning is progressing too quickly. You were up late preparing for the big meeting. Traffic was horrible and put you in a rush to get to work on time. You prepare a cup of coffee to wake up and get your mind right. Then it happens.
You knock the cup over, and it spills into your lap when reaching for something at your desk. Or you bump into a wall when turning a corner and it splatters on your dress shirt or blouse. The meeting is only minutes away now — what do you do?
Coffee stains are annoying. Coffee stains at work are even more disconcerting.
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to remove coffee stains from clothes at work. By preparing an emergency spill kit and knowing what to do in advance, you can save yourself the embarrassment and frustration of walking into a meeting or dealing with an important client, stain-free.
Preparing for a Coffee Spill
Every coffee drinker will eventually spill the beverage on their clothes. It is inevitable. Most people drink coffee daily, do so when they are tired and not entirely focused, and often rushed in a workplace setting where they cannot relax and enjoy it at a table.
Therefore, it is usually not if a coffee spill will occur but when.
Consequently, it is important to get prepared for the spill to quickly wipe up the coffee stain and not let it destroy your clothes. At home, coffee stains are not a problem because you have quick access to the washing machine and can swap out a shirt or pair of pants.
At work is an entirely different story. You need an emergency stain removal kit, kind of like a first-aid bandage. Considering putting together a kit and keeping these items at your desk for quick coffee stain removal:
- White cotton towels or cloths
- Cotton swabs
- Soft bristled toothbrush
- Blunt-edged kitchen knife
- Stain removal wipes
- Baby powder or cornstarch
- Denatured rubbing alcohol
If you collect all of these items in advance and place them in one bag, you will have quick access to an emergency kit that can quickly remove stains from clothes either directly at the desk, or with a quick trip to the restroom.
Different Types of Coffee Stains
In general, most people realize they spilled coffee on their clothes immediately. Since it’s a liquid, you will probably feel it first while also possibly burning your skin if the spill is too significant.
However, there are cases where a little bit of coffee may have splattered on a tie or pant leg, and you did not notice it until after the fact — after the stain has dried.
Are fresh coffee stains easier to clean than ones that have already dried? Do you remove the stains differently?
Like any stain, it helps to address it immediately. Plunging the clothing in water and letting it soak is the best option, yet at work, you are not granted the same privilege. You probably do not have another piece of clothing to change into, so you cannot afford to submerge the item entirely.
In fact, if you get to a fresh stain quick enough, a little cold water may do the trick, and you may not even need detergent or stain removers depending on how solid the stain is on the clothing.
How to Remove Coffee Stains from Clothes at Work
Anyone that has ever dealt with a coffee stain at work can attest to how aggravating it is to deal with removing that light brown color from an article of clothing, especially if the fabric is white or another light color.
To remove coffee stains from clothes at work first decide if the stain is fresh or not, this should be obvious. If the stain is still fresh:
- First, try rinsing out the stain with cold water. If possible, run the cold water through the back of the stain. It will prevent the coffee residue from penetrating deeper into the cloth.
- Run cold water through the back of the stain for 10 to 15 minutes, if you have the time. If the water starts to turn more clear it is a good indication it is washing out the coffee residue. However, if this does not do the trick in 10 to 15 minutes (or you are running short on time) consider another course of action.
- Add mild laundry detergent to the stain. Rub the liquid into the stain along with a little cold water. Liquid dish soap sometimes works as a substitute in workplaces if you have not already put together an emergency cleanup kit.
- Let dry and see if the coffee stain diminishes or completely dissolves. You will need to wait three to five minutes at the minimum to notice a difference.
Remove Dried Coffee Stains from Clothes
While it is more challenging to remove coffee stains that have already dried, it is not impossible. If you happen to notice the stain later in the day and want to address it before an important meeting considers doing the following steps to address the issue:
- Add liquid detergent to the stain before rinsing the material with water. It allows the soap to penetrate the stain deeper and try to break the residue free from the fabric.
- After rubbing the liquid detergent thoroughly into the material, run cold water over the stain. Let soak for five minutes.
- Periodically rub the stain again with a finger, cloth, toothbrush, or cotton swab to break up the residue. If the stain continues to remain after letting get close to thoroughly drying, try repeating the process with more detergent then letting it soak in water even longer.
Dealing with Especially Resistant Clothing Stains
Some coffee stains refuse to go away. After immediately dealing with a fresh stain, or trying to scrub one out after it has dried, here are some additional suggestions for especially resistant coffee stains:
- If the stain remains, try mixing powdered laundry detergent with equal parts white vinegar and water. It will create a thicker paste that can be especially effective at eliminating difficult clothing stains. Before you apply the paste, however, test it on another garment to make sure it won’t discolor the fabric. Also, use a toothbrush to scrub the stain for more effective removal. Then rinse after applying the paste.
- Consider investing in a stain remover spray or gel product. These items are relatively inexpensive and make excellent emergency aid, especially at work. Stain removers usually only need a few minutes to dry, and they can get washed normally. They are very effective to use at work after you spill coffee on your clothing.
- Persistence is often the best approach. It may not go completely away the first time you wash and scrub, but repeating the process can eventually work out even the most difficult stains. It just takes a little more time and persistence so try not to get frustrated it the brown color is not immediately removed.
- Always air dry over sticking the clothes in a machine dryer. Air drying is more gradual, and it helps not immediately dry the clothes as fast thus helping slowly wean off the effects of the stain. After the clothes are dried, you will be able to notice if discoloration persists. If so, you will need to repeat the scrubbing, soaking, air drying process.
Most Coffee Stains Are Removable
While you may falsely believe there is no hope in restoring stained fabric, you can try to repeat the dried stain removal steps, and with a little more elbow grease it may get entirely removed the second, third, or fourth time washing it.
So it is important not to lose faith. If you spilled an entire cup of coffee on a white dress shirt, it might be impossible to save entirely. However, in most cases, stained coffee does not need to remain a nuisance, and you can remove it from work clothes.