How To Remove Coffee Stains From Cups? (The Best Solutions)

Last Updated on June 27, 2023 by Barry Gray

If you are anything like me, you have a favorite coffee cup you like to drink your coffee out of in the mornings. One cup in particular has been with me for years.

I’ve bought more expensive cups and some of them have just not hit the mark. 

Yet, I do alternate my coffee cups, and I must admit that they don’t have any stains, but some cups seem to get that irritating yellow splotch you can’t get rid of. 

So, how do you get rid of those coffee stains from your cup?

There are different ways to remove coffee stains from your cup. Caused by tannins, items such as baking soda, vinegar and even salt or ice has the potential to remove those annoying stains. However, cleaning your coffee cups the correct way with these methods will certainly make life easier.

Now, I’m not saying you will always end up with those brown stains. However, if you drink as much coffee as I do, then there’s always the risk that your coffee cups will stop looking quite as pristine as you had hoped. 

But luckily, you do have several options to choose from when it comes to removing the stains. I’ve tried and tested each option I mention below, and I’m quite happy to recommend the methods to you.

But here’s the thing.

I know any particular method may not always work. That’s why I’ve included several approaches, so if you are unhappy with one method, at least you won’t be out of ideas.

With that in mind, let’s start working through the different options.

coffee cup with stain

Why Is Your Favorite Coffee Cup Brown Inside?

Before I go through the different methods of removing coffee stains that have worked for me, perhaps it’s best to understand what those brown stains are in the first place.

The reasons cups sometimes acquire stains are partly due to the tannins in coffee, which are the natural pigments that give coffee its distinct dark color and flavor. So we want to keep tannins! 

Without them, your coffee would taste horrible. So, while they may be our enemy when it comes to that sparkling coffee cup, we would be lost without them.

The downside of tannins is that they can bind to the surface of the cup and can be difficult to remove once they take hold. That is why tackling it straight away is key to those clean cups.

If you leave it, it builds up more. Before you know it, you have a collection of grubby coffee cups on the shelf, and to be honest, it doesn’t look great when serving guests or even yourself a coffee, for that matter!

I know it won’t do anything to your health. It’s more about the visual appeal rather than something else.

How Do I Get Rid of Tannin Stains?

coffee cup with stains on sides

The good news is several methods exist that work well at removing tannin stains. I should know as I’ve tried each one over time, and I’ve loved the results I was able to achieve.

But here’s another positive point.

Most of the methods I’m going to discuss will not only be effective, but they also do not involve using any chemicals for you to worry about. 

Also, I don’t have a favorite method out of those listed below. To me, as long as something works and does the job it was intended for, then it’s a good method.

So, what’s the first option? Baking soda.

Baking Soda to Remove Coffee Stains

baking soda

It seems as if baking soda has this amazing ability to clean pretty much anything, and removing coffee stains from cups is certainly in its list. 

Baking soda, with its natural, gritty composition, is a natural abrasive, and it’s that abrasiveness that will help make a difference.

To use baking soda, sprinkle some on the stain and add a few drops of water to make a paste. I promise you won’t need much as we are only dealing with a small area.

Scrub the paste into the stain with a sponge, then rinse it with warm water. I have paper towels and a sponge as it gives a bit more grip, which is what we are looking for. 

If you use this method before the tannin stain has the ability to build, then it won’t take much effort on your part. However, even more stubborn stains will vanish if you use this baking soda method.

Using Vinegar to Remove Coffee Stains

cleaning coffee machine with vinegar

Vinegar is another effective way to remove coffee stains. I find vinegar a miracle worker in the kitchen, and cleaning cups is no different. 

I think out of the different methods, that using vinegar is the one that is the least surprising. After all, people use it for all sorts of things, and if you want to remove those coffee stains, then this is the approach that I found best.

I take my coffee cup, and I fill half of it with white vinegar before topping it off with some hot water. Then, it’s a waiting game.

This mixture should be left in your coffee cup for somewhere in the region of 10 minutes. After that, empty out the solution and start scrubbing with a sponge.

If you got the solution correct, it should mean the stain comes off. It’s a great cleaning method.

But you then need to ensure you rinse the cup well, and do so repeatedly. It helps remove the smell of vinegar as that type of scent seems to linger.

Using Salt and Ice to Remove Coffee Stains


This method is a bit more unorthodox but can effectively remove stubborn coffee stains. I know it wasn’t the first combination I thought of when trying to get my coffee cups clean.

Yet, I was pleasantly surprised by just how good it was at getting even tough stains off the surface. 

But you should know that it does involve quite a lot of salt.

So, this is how I use the salt and ice combination to remove those stains.

First, I crush some ice. You don’t need a lot of ice to do this, so get a couple of cubes and smash them up.

Next, half fill your coffee cup with salt. I did tell you that it takes a lot of salt, so hopefully you use small cups.

Once you have done this, add the ice to the cup and cover the cup with some plastic wrap. You need to do this as the next part involves you shaking the cup allowing the salt and ice to thrash around the cup.

The way this works is the salt acts as an abrasive while the ice helps to loosen them off. It’s a basic idea, but it’s also brilliant at the same time.

But what if you prefer to use some sort of commercial cleaner that is capable of removing coffee stains? Well, I have a suggestion that most people will be familiar with.

Using Bar Keepers Friend to Remove Coffee Stains

Bar Keepers Friend is a commercial cleaner that can remove coffee stains from your mug. While it’s not my go-to solution, I do find it to be highly effective at what it does.

To use Bar Keepers Friend, sprinkle some on the color and add a few drops of water to make a paste. Scrub the paste into the stain with a sponge, then rinse it with warm water.

This is very easy to do, and I found it to be particularly quick at removing the stains. 

Avoiding Coffee Stains in the First Place

coffee cup ready to be washed

The best way to avoid coffee stains is to prevent them from happening in the first place. It certainly saves you a lot of problems later on.

But I have a few tips that should make a difference, and I suggest you try them out yourself.

  • Wash your mug immediately after using it.
  • Use a mild dish soap that won’t scratch the surface of your mug.
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals on your mug.
  • If you have a ceramic mug, avoid using a microwave to heat your coffee. The heat can cause the glaze to crack, making it easier for coffee stains to form.

Using The Correct Dish Soaps to Avoid Scratching Your Mugs

I spent some time looking into why some coffee cups appear to be worse for getting stains, and I found that it’s not always the cup. Instead, it can be the dish soap you use.

But how would dish soap cause problems? After all, it’s supposed to clean things and not make your life harder.

Well, it’s because some dish soaps are more abrasive than others. That abrasive nature can, at times, slightly damage the top layer of the ceramic in your mug or cup.

If you have small scratches appearing on the surface, the stain has something to effectively cling to, and that makes it way more likely a stain will appear in the first place. 

But if you are wondering about dish soap you can use that won’t cause damage, here’s a short list of names you may be familiar with.

  • Dawn: Dawn is a classic dish soap known for its grease-cutting power. It is also free of harsh chemicals and abrasives, making it safe for mug use.
  • Seventh Generation: Seventh Generation is a natural dish soap with plant ingredients. It is also free of harsh chemicals and abrasives, making it safe for mug use.
  • Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day: Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day is a natural dish soap made with essential oils. Essential oils have been used in cleaning for centuries. 
  • Palmolive: Palmolive is a classic dish soap known for its gentle formula. It is also free of harsh chemicals and abrasives. 
  • ECOS: ECOS is a natural dish soap made with plant-based ingredients. 
  • Method: Method is a natural dish soap made with plant-based ingredients. It is gentle on ceramic and porcelain. 
  • Blueland: Blueland is a dish soap that comes in tablet form. It is free of harsh chemicals and abrasives, making it safe for mug use.
  • Dropps: Dropps is a dish soap that comes in pod form. It is free of harsh chemicals and abrasives, making it safe for use on mugs.

My Favorite Coffee Cup

I have a favorite coffee cup that I’ve had for years. 

It’s a ceramic mug with a bright rim; I don’t care about the pattern. It’s just that my coffee always tastes fantastic in it. 

Over the years, this mug has accumulated a few coffee stains. But I don’t mind. They add character to the cup and make it even more special.

Some people might be bothered by coffee stains on their mugs. But it’s all part of the charm of owning a well-loved coffee cup. 

I can always break out the fancier, cleaner-looking cups and mugs for guests. 

Basically, if it’s just your own coffee cup that only you use, then I wouldn’t stress too much about all of this. 

My Conclusion

Coffee stains are a fact of life for coffee lovers. But there are a few simple ways to remove them and keep your mugs looking their best. 

I tend to not sweat the small stuff; it is a personal preference, but if you hate stained cups, these tips should work for you. If not, it might be time to buy a new mug.