7 Ways to Remove Stubborn Stains from Mugs

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7 Ways to Remove Stubborn Stains from Mugs

We love our coffee and tea, whether it’s your caffeine boost first thing in the morning or to warm up on a chilly afternoon curled up with a book. After a while, you may start to notice a dark stain left over in your favorite mug, even after you’ve washed it out. So how do you get rid of those stubborn stains?

Before you break out a scouring stick or bleach cleaners, give this little guide a try. We’ve put together a handful of our best recommendations for treating and cleaning stubborn mug stains. Keep reading to find out what household products can cut through stains the best.

DIY Stain Removal Methods

Some of the best DIY stain-fighting remedies are super simple but highly effective. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some awesome store-bought cleaning products available, but we enjoy keeping things simple. So here are a few of our best tried and true mug stain removal methods, plus a few extra tips.

1. Baking Soda

Baking soda is by far one of the most effective household products for cleaning and stain fighting all over the home, so obviously, this is one of our favorite methods. Here is how to use baking soda to clean your mug:

  • Mix some baking soda with a little bit of water to create a thick paste.
  • Use a sponge to spread the paste around the stain and then scrub the area for a minute or two.
  • Rinse the mug and check to see if the stain has lifted. If not, you can repeat the process or try a different method.

2. Lemon Wedge

A piece of lemon on a white background

The acidity of lemons can actually help to remove stubborn stains. It can be a little strange to fit a lemon wedge and your whole hand in the mug, but we promise this is worth the struggle. Here is how to use a lemon wedge to clean your mug:

  • Cut up a lemon into wedges, consider wearing gloves to protect your hands during this process.
  • Use one of the lemon wedges to scrub the stained areas around the mug. You can choose to squeeze some of the lemon juice into the mug before scrubbing as well.
  • Thoroughly rinse and wash the mug before checking the state of the stain, and then repeat the process as needed.

3. White Vinegar

Another super effective method of removing stains from your mug is with white vinegar. All you’ll need to do with this particular method is pour some vinegar into the mug and allow it to soak for 10 to 20 minutes. Once it has soaked for some time, dump out the vinegar and scrub the stained area and rinse the mug.

4. Salt & Ice

Did you know that a little bit of salt and ice can actually help to remove stains? Turns out it can be pretty effective as the salt is just abrasive enough to clean stains. Here’s what to do:

  • Pour a small amount of salt into the bottom of the stained mug, then add a few pieces of crushed ice.
  • Cover the opening of the mug with plastic wrap and shake it vigorously. It will get pretty cold, so you can wrap the mug in a towel to protect your hands.
  • Rinse the mug out with clean water and check on the state of the stain. You can choose to repeat the process if necessary, or use an alternative method.


5. Denture Tablet

A young man is holding a medicine tablet

This particular method may not be the most effective against stains, but it can definitely help to brighten up a stainless steel mug or bottle. You can pick up a pack of denture cleaning tablets at most department or drug stores for a pretty reasonable price. All you’ll have to do is fill your mug with warm water and drop in the tablet to do its thing. This can be a more efficient way to clean deeper mugs or bottles, but as we mentioned it may be more effective in stainless steel than ceramic.

6. Melamine Sponge

If you’ve ever used a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponge, you know just how effective those things are. Have you ever considered using one when cleaning and removing stains in your mugs? All you need is one of those sponges and a little elbow grease. Once you scrubbed that stain and allowed the sponge to do its job, rinse out the mug and repeat the process as needed.

7. Scouring Powder

If you’ve tried basically everything to clean and remove stains from your mugs and nothing has gotten the job done, it may be time to break out the heavy-duty cleaning products. One of the best-recommended store-bought products is a scouring powder like Bar Keepers Friend. Just keep in mind that when it comes to products like this, a little goes a really really long way.

Simply pour in a small amount of powder and a little bit of water, scrub, and allow the powder to sit for about 10 to 15 minutes. Give the stain one more good scrub and then rinse and wash it thoroughly. When using any cleaning powders, you’ll need to make sure that it is not overly abrasive as anything too harsh can damage the mug rather than lift the stain.

Extra Tips & Tricks

Woman is washing coffee cup

  • Remember to thoroughly clean your mugs after you’ve used them to avoid any extensive and deep staining. You can expect to still find some light staining after years of use, but regular washing can help keep normal stains under control.
  • Don’t use any overly abrasive products or tools to clean your mugs, especially if they are porcelain or stoneware as both of these materials are extremely porous and can become brittle over time.
  • Invest in a bottle brush or other soft bristle brush to clean your mugs with. Bottle brushes are highly effective for both mugs and taller bottles that you can reach into to clean.


People hands holding cups of coffee

Can coffee stain permanently?

Coffee does not stain permanently! You will have to move quickly to catch the stain and treat it, especially if it is outside of a cup or mug.

Why do some mugs stain?

Many mugs stain easily due to the tannins in tea and coffee. Tannins stick to porous surfaces of mugs pretty easily no matter the material. Regular washing can help to reduce the effect of the tannins but don’t be surprised to see some light staining even after washing.

Does bleach remove tea stains from mugs?

You can use a drop or two of bleach mixed with a full mug of water to treat a stain, however, it is not the best-recommended course of action. Because many mugs are so porous, bleach can be absorbed into the surface and seep into your beverages. Bleach is often not suggested to use for food preparation or serving surfaces.

How do you get old coffee stains out of a stainless steel mug?

One of the best ways to remove stains from a stainless steel mug is by making a paste from hydrogen peroxide and baking soda and allowing the paste to sit on the stain for about 30 minutes. The stain should have lifted or at least be lighter after the paste has been left to work on the mug.

If cleaning out your mugs has turned out to be the least of your problems, don’t stress yourself out. We don’t mean to humble brag, but as the top rated house cleaners in Boston, we’d be happy to help you out! Check out our site to see what kind of services we can offer you and your home, and be sure to read through a few of our blog posts for even more cleaning and lifestyle tips and tricks.