How to Remove Coffee Stains from the Couch


A coffee spill on the couch usually leaves a brown stain that gets darker with time. These stains show up darker on light fabrics and can be hard to remove completely. They stain the fibers of some materials and attract dirt particles making them look worse. Some stains are easy to remove and take little effort, depending on the type of material, the strength of the coffee, and how long they sit and absorb into the fibers. That’s why we developed a guide to help remove coffee stains from your couch, with different methods to address a few situations.

Types of couch materials

First, determine what kind of material covers your couch. What is the upholstery made of? The most common types are leather, vinyl, polyester blends, etc. If you are fortunate enough to have a Scotchguard or other protective material, the stain may not have been set, making it easier to remove. In most circumstances, you can save yourself a lot of work by using a clean towel or paper towel to blot up the spill immediately. Sometimes this is all that is needed to remove the liquid before it sets a stain. If this doesn’t do the trick, please continue reading to learn about advanced stain-removing techniques for various types of couch materials.

How to remove fresh coffee stains from the couch

Step 1: Blot the spill

Blot the coffee spill while it is still fresh. Wiping away the excess liquid may remove the stain. Use an absorbent white cloth to wick as much of the liquid out of the cushion and fabric as possible. Start from the outside and blot toward the middle. You can also spray clean water on the stain and continue blotting until the stain is removed completely. Do not scrub the stain because it will drive the coloring deeper into the fibers. Clean water is usually effective in removing fresh coffee stains. Repeat the process until the stain is gone. If this doesn’t remove the stain, move to the next step.

Step 2: Use mild detergent

Minor coffee spills can usually be removed using bottled water and dish soap. All Recipes recommends starting from the outside of the stain and working your way in. Spray small amounts of clean water with dish detergent onto the stain and blot the coffee stain using the same process as above, until the stain is lifted. Continue light sprays with just water, lightly blotting to remove the dish soap. You may use a hairdryer to dry the spot after the stain is removed.

Stubborn coffee stains

Stubborn coffee stains may not come out with blotting, water, or even mild dish soap. When dark stains refuse to budge, it’s time to resort to the next step of the stain removal process. White vinegar is a natural cleaner that helps to loosen stains from delicate fibers. It’s essential to make sure that the upholstery will tolerate the acidity of the white vinegar. You may want to test a spot that is hidden from view, to avoid damaging the fabric.

Vinegar method

Step 1: Pour white vinegar over the stain

Don’t overdo the white vinegar because it has a strong odor, but use enough to cover the stain. Allow the white vinegar to sit on the stain to work on dissolving it for a few moments.

Step 2: Blot the vinegar

Blot the vinegar with an absorbent white cloth. You may follow up with a clear water spray, then blot to remove moisture, and dry with a fan or hairdryer.

Other methods for removing coffee stains from a couch

Salt Method

Salt can help to prevent the spread of a coffee stain. It is also highly absorbent and can help to loosen the stain and pull it from the fibers

Step 1: Pour a thick layer of table salt over a fresh coffee stain. Let the salt sit there for at least a half-hour, to seep into the fabric.

Step 2: Brush the salt from the fabric

Brush the salt from the fabric. If the stain is still there, and if there is any moisture remaining, repeat the process several times until the salt has pulled the moisture with the coffee stain out of the upholstery.

Baking Soda Method

You can use baking soda to remove a fresh coffee stain from a couch. Here are the steps to take right after the coffee gets spilled

Step 1: Immediately blot the coffee with a damp paper towel

Step 2: Sprinkle baking soda on the stain until it is completely covered. Let it sit to seep in.

Step 3: Blot the baking powder away with a dry absorbent cloth. Repeat the process until the stain is removed.

Commercial stain removers

If none of the above methods remove the coffee stain, or if the stain has been there for a while, there are still some ways to get the brown coloring out of your couch. Deep and dark stains may require ramping up the intensity of your efforts. Here are a few commercial stain removers that work well for coffee, but you should test the fabric on a hidden area for each of these products.

Commercial solvents

Hunker recommends using a solvent to loosen old coffee stains. These are heavy-duty stain removers that go deep within the fibers to loosen stubborn stains, and break them up at a molecular level, so they can be washed away.

Tide Go To Pen

A Tide Go To Pen contains laundry detergent for stubborn stain removal. Apply the pen directly to the entire part of the stain, starting on the outside and working inwards. Allow the solution to sit on the stain for a few moments, then blot it away. Spray clean water as needed and continue blotting with a clean absorbent cloth. Repeat the process until the stain is completely removed.

Woolite Carpet and upholstery foam cleaner

Tougher stains that have been set in may require the strength of a foaming cleaner made for upholstery. This cleaner comes with a bristle brush to help work the cleaning solution into the stained fibers of the fabric to loosen them for removal. Apply the foam according to the directions on the label, work it in with the provided bristle brush, let dry, and brush the stain away. Repeat as needed.

Dry cleaning solvent

You may also try dry cleaning solvent to remove coffee stains from your couch. The instructions for application and stain removal vary from one brand to another.

Can you ever rub the stain for removal?

It’s generally not recommended to rub a coffee stain as it drives the discoloration further into the fabric, or even down into the cushion. For some really tough stains, it’s necessary to take dire measures to attempt to remove them. According to Coit, you can rub a stain, as a last resort, but you should do so gently, and with a circular motion. Use a damp sponge, but do not scrub the stain.

How to determine the fabric type on a couch?

Home Guides recommends checking with the manufacturer of your couch for cleaning instructions. If it’s a newer couch, there’s a high likelihood that it will come with a care and cleaning code label. It should be located on the underside of the sofa, or in someplace that is hidden from view. The cleaning codes provide you with information about the best cleaning solution for the fabric and any stain-resistant treatments that may have been applied. The code W or WS means that water-based cleaning is approved, including water-based foams and stain removing agents. The S or X codes mean that you must either clean the couch in accord with the cleaning instructions on the label or have it professionally cleaned.

The composition of coffee and which cleaners work the best for removing stains

Before you decide which cleaners to use on a stubborn coffee stain on your couch, it might be helpful to know about the composition of coffee, how and why it stains, and what works best to remove the compounds within coffee that cause the stains. Coffee contains a compound called tannin. Tannin is also known as tannic acid, commonly used in commercial wood stains. Because it is an acid-based compound, stain removal products that contain acids are best for neutralizing it. You can usually get coffee stains out of upholstery using mild detergents such as dish soap or shampoo, but it’s best to use colorless and scentless versions to avoid imparting more color or scent to the fabric.

Recipe for acid-based upholstery cleaner

You can make your own coffee stain removal cleaner by combining a few of the ingredients. Blend 1/2 tsp dish soap and 1 tablespoon white vinegar. Keep one quart of water nearby. This is a solution suitable for most fabrics approved for water-based cleaning solutions. Here are the steps to follow.

Step 1: Blot coffee stains with clear water until moistened. Use a clean white cloth starting from the outside, and moving to the inside of the stain.

Step 2: Apply the cleaning solution. Allow the detergent and vinegar solution to sit on the stain for a few seconds. Blot with a clean absorbent cloth to gently lift the stain. Continue to follow this process, until no coffee stain appears on the white cloth.

Other tips for removing coffee stains from your couch

Small coffee stains from drips are more easily cleaned with a cotton swab. Use the swab for tiny stains. It prevents overwetting the coffee stain, making the job go easier. Blot all the moisture and dry the fabric with a fan or hair dryer to complete the job. Leaving the spot wet can cause it to attract dust and grime. You may also use a dropper to apply a cleaning solution or water to the stains. Paper towels also come in handy if you don’t have a clean absorbent cloth handy.

Why must you start outside of a coffee stain and other tips?

Tips Bulletin explains that it’s essential to start on the outside edge of a coffee stain and work inward. The reason is that working inward can help prevent expanding the size of the stain. It’s also wise to use a dabbing or circular motion instead of scrubbing to avoid forcing the stain deeper into the fabric. You should also use a white cloth, particularly when nearing the complete removal of the coffee stain. The white cloth will show you if there is still coffee in the fabric. Sometimes it appears to be gone but may be trapped inside the fibers beneath the surface in the liquid. The stain can resurface over time if it is not gone.

Final thoughts

Spilling coffee on your couch is the easiest to remove when you catch it right away before the stain has time to set. It’s always best to read the label on your couch to determine the type of fabric and the recommended stain removal method. The couch label is usually placed on the underside or beneath the cushions. Gently blot the area to remove the coffee from the fabric or wipe it away. It’s best to use this method first, then add water if the stain is not gone. You can also use a mild detergent. Gently dab and blot. If the coffee stain has been there a long time, resort to an acid-based solution to break down the chemical compounds of the coffee and loosen them for easier removal. This guide provides many ways to remove coffee stains from your couch, starting with the easiest and progressing to the more intense methods. Follow these methods to help you remove unsightly brown coffee stains from your couch. Help preserve the beauty of your couch, which is often the focal point of the living room.

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