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How to Get Tea Stains Out of Clothes

Whether you’re home curled up on your couch or rushing to a meeting at work, chances are good you have a cup of tea in your hand at some point during the day! Once in a while, everyone accidentally spills that tea on a work outfit or favorite sweater. The good news is that you can learn how to get tea stains out of clothes!

The best way to remove a tea stain from clothes is to treat the stain immediately with running water and laundry detergent. Popular home remedies for removing tea stains include white vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda. Commercial products like OxiClean also work well on tea stains in most cases.

In this article, you will find what makes tea stains so tricky to budge. You will discover seven easy methods for removing these dark stains. Finally, you will learn how to get tea stains out of white or colored clothes.
How to Get Tea Stains Out of Clothes

Does Tea Stain Clothes?

Tea stains clothing quite badly because it contains tannins. Actually, dye artists who use all-natural ingredients use tea to create a permanent brown coloring on fabric! The tannins create a colorfast brown stain on any fabric containing cellulose.

“Colorfast” means that the stain will not wash out or fade away easily. This means that if you spill some tea on any natural and plant-based fabric, you will have a hard time getting the stain back out. Tannin stains usually do not dye synthetic fabric but can still leave a dark spot unless you blot it right away.

So, what are tannins? They give both tea and wine the bitter undertaste that makes your tongue feel kind of crumpled up. Technically, tannins are a chemical compound found in tea, coffee, and wine, among other things. This type of chemical grouping is called a polyphenol, but this is a broad term because different tannins can have pretty extreme differences.

Tannins offer a lot of excellent properties like antioxidant abilities besides contributing to the taste of tea. Tannins in black tea are usually called theaflavins, and tannins in green tea often fall into the catechin category.

Not all tea contains tannins, and even those that do, like green and black tea, will contain tannins in varying measures. The length of time you steep the tea can also add more or less tannin to the mixture you drink.

Both green and black teas come from real tea leaves in the scientific classification of Camellia Sinensis.

Black tea will usually stain clothing most badly because it contains the highest percentage of tannins, up to 11.2% percent! In contrast, coffee typically only contains 4.6% tannic acid. Green tea sometimes contains multiple different types of tannins, but usually in a lesser quantity.

Herbal brews such as chamomile or ginger tea often do not contain any real tea leaves and may not hold any tannins, either! Though we call them “teas,” these products fall into a tincture or tisane category more properly. They may still stain clothing because of the concentrated herbs contained in the blend, but these will make plant-based stains rather than tannin stains.

Do Tea Stains Come Out of Clothes?

In most cases, you can get tea stains out of clothes, but old tea stains may settle in permanently if not treated right away. Tea stains in cotton or other natural fabrics may also prove more challenging to remove than tea on any kind of synthetic fabric such as polyester.

Simply putting a tea-stained garment in the wash will probably not work. You will need to target the stain with some form of remover first.

The thing to keep in mind when choosing a stain remover is that different kinds of stains require different kinds of removers. Fat-based stains need removers to break apart fat lipids, like dish soap. Like the ones caused by tannins, acid-based stains often react best to acidic or oxidizing stain removers.

Home remedies for tea stains include several acidic products like vinegar and lemon juice. As an interesting scientific fact for you, acids work well as stain removers in many cases because they change the chemical charge between the molecular bonds in the stain. The stain molecules then become more attracted to the chemical charge in the acids and allow themselves to lift away from the fabric!

Coffee and tea stains also respond well to oxidizing products. These products change the chromophore, or colorful parts, of the stain.

How to Get Tea Stains Out of Clothes: 7 Methods

How to Remove Tea Stains

You can get tea stains out of clothes using simple home remedies or a commercial product designed to oxidize stains. Common household products that target tea stains include vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda. Commercial products that will work well on tea include bleach and oxidizing stain removers like OxiClean’s stain removers.

Whatever method you choose, the process will work best if you notice the stain right away. Quickly blot up as much moisture from the brown spot as you can using clean paper towels or napkins.

If possible, take off the clothing and hold it under running water. Tea dissolves in water (obviously–this happens every time you steep a teabag!), so the water will carry away a lot of the stain in one go!

Even if you can’t treat the stain right away, try to find a restroom and blot the stain again with a damp paper towel to get out as much of the staining tannins as possible before the spot dries.

If you don’t notice the spot until later on, don’t panic! With a little effort, you can often get even old, set-in tea stains out of clothing. But the process will go more smoothly if you can work on fresh stains, so do your best to spot the spill as it happens.

Finally, do make sure you check the manufacturer’s care label inside your clothing before trying any of these methods. Some clothing may require dry cleaning, for example!

1. Laundry Detergent

all Liquid Laundry Detergent, Free Clear for Sensitive Skin, Unscented and Hypoallergenic, 2X Concentrated, 110 LoadsThe easiest way to treat a fresh tea stain is to rinse it with warm water and lather it with a dab of direct laundry detergent.

While putting a tea or coffee-stained garment in the washing machine will probably not remove the whole dark blob, specifically treating the spot with concentrated laundry detergent may get all of the tannins out in one go.

To try this:

  1. Heat one cup of water in a kettle or your microwave till it feels hot but comfortable to touch.
  2. Hold the stain pulled taut between your hands over the kitchen sink and pour the warm water directly through it. This should wash away any of the tea that has not already latched onto the fabric fibers.
  3. Next, apply about a half teaspoon of liquid laundry detergent to the brown spot. You do not need to measure this precisely, but make sure you apply the soap to both the front and back of the stain.
  4. Use your fingers or a clean sponge to work the soap into a lather on both sides of the fabric.
  5. Turn on the hot water in your sink and run the tap water straight through the stain until all the soap rinses away.
  6. Hold the stained area up to the light and determine if any staining remains. You may need to let the garment dry and then inspect it again.
  7. If you still see some staining, try applying a commercial stain remover before placing the garment in your washing machine and washing as usual.

2. Vinegar

VinegarDistilled white vinegar removes many types of stains because of its strong acidic nature. You can use vinegar on all kinds of stains, from the gross red stains that develop from some kinds of tap water in your bathroom to tea and coffee stains!

But do make sure you have clear white distilled vinegar. Apple cider vinegar or any other type might contain ingredients that could leave discolorations on the fabric.

  1. First, flush the spot under running water. Do this even if you have an older, dried-out tea stain on your clothing. The water will carry away some of the water-soluble tea, even though it will not remove the tannins.
  2. Spread out the damp area and pour white vinegar directly onto it.
  3. Let this sit for half an hour.
  4. If you have a really big tea spill, try this instead: set up a clean bucket filled with one gallon of warm water and one cup of white vinegar. Soak the garment in that solution for thirty minutes. Or fill a spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water, and use that to soak the brown discoloration.
  5. Rinse out the vinegar under running water.
  6. Finally, launder the clothing as usual with your regular laundry detergent.

3. Baking Soda

Baking sodaBaking soda offers a slower but effective way of removing tea stains from clothes. This handy powder can soak up many kinds of staining matter, basically dragging the stuff up out of the fabric and absorbing it into the powder.

To use baking soda:

  1. Start by using the water flushing trick on the brown spot. Simply hold the stain directly under running water for several minutes.
  2. Next, arrange the amp area, so it lies flat on a smooth surface.
  3. Sprinkle a thick layer of baking soda over it.
  4. Use your fingers or a damp sponge to work the soda into a wet paste over the whole surface of the brown spot.
  5. Leave this to sit overnight. It should dry out into a crumbly white layer during this resting period.
  6. Scrape away this dry powder and check if the stain has disappeared!

4. Home Remedy

If you have stubborn tea stains in your clothes, you can mix a powerful home remedy using vinegar, laundry detergent, and water. Some laundry experts suggest including a dab of whitening toothpaste in the mix.

To make your own home remedy:

  1. In a disposable plastic cup, stir together two tablespoons of distilled white vinegar, two tablespoons of laundry detergent in powder form, and two tablespoons of warm water.
  2. Use a clean toothbrush or a clean rag to work this solution into the stained area.
  3. Let this sit for ten minutes.
  4. Rinse the paste away under running water, holding the brown spot so that the water runs straight through the fabric.
  5. Finally, run the clothing through your washing machine. Just make sure you inspect it carefully before putting it in the dryer to find out if the stain has vanished!

5. Lemon Juice

Like vinegar, lemon juice contains a lot of acids that can effectively remove tea stains from clothing. Just make sure you do not leave lemon juice in the fabric for too long, as its citric acid could eventually start to bleach the clothing.

One of the big advantages here is that you can often easily find small packets of lemon juice in tea and coffee shops. Simply pop into the bathroom and try this method even while you’re out and about! Plus, you will spend the rest of the day smelling lemony=fresh.

  1. For a quick solution, squirt enough lemon juice onto the tea stain to soak the fabric.
  2. Flush away the juice and the brown spot under running water.
  3. If that does not work, mix two tablespoons of lemon juice with two tablespoons of cream of tartar.
  4. Work this paste into the spot and let it sit for 30 minutes.
  5. Hold the spot directly under running water and flush away the paste.

You can also use lemon juice to get tea stains out of mugs or teacups. Mix ⅓ cup of lemon juice and ⅔ cup of baking soda, and smear the paste over the brown areas. Let it sit for a few hours, and then rinse it away!

6. Bleach

BleachIf you find a tea stain on white clothing, you can use bleach to quickly remove the discoloration. Before you try this method, make sure you read the care label inside your clothing to see if you can apply bleach to it. Also, try a spot test on a hidden seam inside the garment to make sure the bleach will not damage the fabric.

  1. Fill a clean bucket with one gallon of water and 1 ½ cups of bleach, or about a 1:10 ratio of bleach to the water.
  2. Put the white, tea-stained garment into this solution and let it soak. Leave it to sit for 10-20 minutes, checking periodically to see if the spot lifts.
  3. You can continue the soak if you still see the spot.
  4. If the brown splotch seems lighter, remove the garment from the water and spread it outside in the sunlight to finish bleaching.
  5. Finally, thoroughly rinse away the bleach, wearing gloves to avoid injury to yourself.
  6. Launder the white clothing as usual in your washing machine.

This method usually works even on very old tea stains in white clothing!

7. Oxidizing Stain Remover

OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover Powder, 3 lbOne of the easiest ways to remove a tea stain from clothing is to use the right kind of commercial remover on the brown spot. After all, manufacturers spend a lot of time and money designing products specifically to get rid of these stains!

The trick here is that you have to make sure you use the correct type of remover. Many stain sticks and other pre-wash treatments target enzyme-based stains from grass and many types of food. Others focus on degreasers and target oily or butter discolorations.

The kind of removers that work on tea or coffee use oxidization to change the shape of the color particles in the stain. You probably recognize OxiClean as a famous brand selling oxidizing leaches and stain removers, but you can find plenty of other brands or generic products out there!

Using these products is easy because you just have to follow the directions on the package. The downside is that if you do not already own an oxidizing remover, you can’t immediately treat a tea stain until you go out and buy one. Also, of course, buying a commercial product costs quite a bit more than using a common household product like vinegar.

Are Tea Stains Permanent?

Tea stains can become semi-permanent if not treated promptly. The tannins in the tea will strongly discolor any plant-based fabric like cotton, which is why you can use tea as a dye!

The best way to get old tea stains out of clothes is to try the bleach method if you found the spot on white clothing or linens. The next-best option is to try the vinegar method, which often works even on old brown spots.

If you find an old tea stain on delicate table linens or something fragile like a silk shirt, try taking it to a dry cleaner and asking if the professionals can get the spot out without damaging the fabric.

How to Remove Tea Stains From:

Remove Tea Stains from Colored Clothes

You may need to use a slightly different process to get tea out of a rug, couch, or white shirt! These helpful tips will direct you to the best stain removal method to use on colored or white clothes, carpets, and upholstery.

Colored Clothes

You can usually get tea stains out of colored clothes using vinegar or lemon juice. If you do a spot test and the vinegar causes the dye to bleed out of the clothing, try the baking soda method instead for more delicate brown-spot removal.

You should not try to use bleach on colored clothes. Synthetic fabrics like polyester will probably remain colorfast even if you do expose them to bleach, but why run the risk when you can use other, simpler methods instead?

If you have delicate garments that you cannot wash, you can try spot-cleaning with a product like a Vanish bar instead.

White Clothes

For most types of white clothing, you can easily bleach away tea stains! The only exception is clothing made of delicate fabrics such as silk or wool. If you spill some tea on non-washable, dry-clean-only clothes, your best bet is to take them to a professional dry cleaner for treatment.

You can use chlorine bleach or oxygen bleach, though oxygen bleach is safer for most clothes.

Also, if you notice the tea spill on white clothing right away, you can try simply flushing the spot with running water. Green tea especially may simply rinse away with the water!


White vinegar offers the best solution for getting tea stains out of carpets. The tough thing about getting spills out of a carpet is that you can’t exactly carry the carpet to the sink to rinse it out!

Instead, try this slight variation on the vinegar method:

  1. Measure two ounces of distilled white vinegar and four ounces of warm water into a spray bottle.
  2. Shake up the bottle to mix the solution together.
  3. Spray this heavily onto the spot on the carpet.
  4. Use a clean rag to blot until you see brown coming off onto the rag.
  5. Repeat until you no longer see brown coming off onto the white rag.
  6. Finally, blot the area several times with a damp rag soaked in plain water to get rid of the vinegar.


In most cases, you can use vinegar and water to get tea stains out of your upholstery. But make sure you spot-test the vinegar solution on a hidden area like the back of the couch before trying this! Most upholstery fabrics can handle cleaning solutions, but if you have a linen couch cover or something more delicate, it may not react well.

To clean your upholstery after a tea spill:

  1. Soak a clean cloth in warm water, dry it, and dab at the spill. A good amount of the brown color should come away just with this technique!
  2. When no more brown continues to come away onto the rag, move on to using vinegar.
  3. Mix one tablespoon of vinegar with one cup of water in a cup or bowl. Dip another clean rag in this solution and dab at the spot once again.
  4. Let the vinegar sit on the upholstery for ten minutes.
  5. Finally, blot with a rag soaked in water and wrung out again.

How to Get Rid of Old Tea Stains on Clothes

One of the best stain removers for old tea stains in clothes is the home remedy method that uses vinegar, powdered laundry detergent, and warm water. This concentrated solution can dig into even very old brown stains!

Alternatively, the best way to get old tea spills out of white fabric is to use bleach, so long as it will not damage the material.

What is the Best Tea Stain Removal Method?

The best household product tea stain remover across the board is distilled white vinegar. The best commercial product is an oxygenizing solution such as OxiClean Bleach or OxiClean stain removers. That said, plenty of other methods can effectively lift tea spots, too!

Lemon juice works well because of its acidic properties, and baking soda does a great job gently absorbing stains from more delicate materials that you do not want to bleach. For very old tea stains, the home remedy method of mixing vinegar, laundry powder, and water can create a powerful paste to handle tough old stains!

Overall, vinegar offers the cheapest and most likely to work product you may already have in your house. Commercial products designed to handle tannin stains give you the best chance of success and cost more.

Have you ever spilled tea on your clothes? How did you treat the stain? Leave a comment below to let us know!