Having lived in England, where tea is more popular than water, I have dealt with my fair share of tea stains. The key to removing most stains is by acting quickly. If you are able to run cold water over the stain in the first few minutes, chances are very good for removing the stain entirely.
There are both organic and commercial cleaners to remove tea stains. The organic methods are listed first since they usually require things that are available in your kitchen and you can get to work on those stains as soon as they happen.
As with any special cleaning, test an inconspicuous spot for color fastness. If your stain is on fabric that is for dry cleaning only, check with your dry cleaners.
Remove tea stains from China Tea Cups
Mix equal parts of salt and vinegar together and rub the stains gently with a soft cloth. Don’t worry about the salt making marks on the cup. It dissolves as it works and doesn’t leave scratches. Rinse well.
If you’re still worried about the abrasiveness of salt and don’t mind using a little elbow grease: Rinse the cup with water. Moisten a soft cloth with warm water and sprinkle on some baking soda, about 1 teaspoon. Rub the tea stains with the cloth and after a little work, the cup should be sparkling clean. Be sure to rinse thoroughly. You don’t want baking soda in your next cuppa!
You don’t want to do any rubbing at all? Here’s the solution for you:
1 part liquid bleach to 4 parts water. Be careful about spilling or splashing and it’s not a bad idea to wear gloves. Make a small batch and pour from one cup to another until all the cups are sparkling clean. Use on any other kitchenware that has stains to get the most for your money before letting it freshen your drain. Do not use this bleach mixture on electrical appliances.
Removing tea stains from fabric
Pour beer on the stain and rub gently. Rinse with cold water and repeat if any of the stain remains. It’s then ready for the laundry. The unused beer should, of course, be enjoyed as your reward for a job well done.
You’re all out of beer? Mix a solution of 1 teaspoon white vinegar and 1 quart cold water. Spray on the stain and blot it up. The stain will loosen and come out of most fabrics.
Tannin stains from tea are more difficult to remove if you use natural bar soap or soap flakes on them. If you have stains on white fabric, use bleach and the hottest water possible. Use color-safe bleach on colored fabrics. An enzyme detergent is best for laundering clothes with tea stains. I use a combination of Tide and Oxiclean.
A note about drying:
Heat from the dryer will set the stain if it isn’t completely removed. Avoid using heat on stains if you want to try again to remove them. If you’ve given up on the stain, at least dry the item in the sun. The sun has a way of drawing stains out and lightening them.
Removing tea stains from carpets
Pour a small amount of beer on the stain and gently rub with your fingertips. Blot up the beer with a damp cloth, pulling out the beer and tea stain from your carpet together. Repeat and rinse until the stain is gone. Blot up the liquid with an absorbent clean white rag or towel, leaving your carpet as dry as possible.
Blotting is an important technique to keep from spreading the stain or causing it to set deeper into the carpet. A lot of rubbing isn’t necessary since there is a chemical reaction going on between the tea and the beer. Continue pressing down and blotting using beer to clean and water to rinse. When the towel you’re using no longer pulls out discolored fluids, your carpet should be stain free.
Removing tea stains from teeth
Tea has loads of health benefits but can leave your pearly whites looking a little less white than you might like. Don’t give up your tea, try brushing with baking soda. Believe it or not, baking soda is really powerful at breaking up stains on teeth. It also polishes them, leaving them shiny and bright. Baking soda is safe, won’t wear away enamel, won’t cause tooth sensitivity, and it neutralizes bacteria and odors. It might be worth using even if you don’t have tea stains on your teeth!
Commercial products to remove tea stains from kitchenware
If you have tea stains on dishes, bowls, cups, or tea kettles, combine 1 teaspoon of dishwasher detergent and one cup of very hot water. Dissolve granules or blend liquid detergent with the hot water and soak the stained item for a couple of hours. Soaking overnight might be necessary for some stains. Wash the item as usual and the stains should be gone.
Dip-It is also good and can be used on electrical appliances like coffee/tea makers. It can be found at most Walmart stores with the cleaning supplies and coffee makers.
This is a bit less economical, but if you have just one favorite mug that’s stained, drop in a couple denture tablets, fill to the rim with hot water and soak overnight.
If your stain is really stubborn, try using a little toilet bowl cleaner on a dish cloth and wiping the stain away. Be sure to rinse very thoroughly after this!
Commercial laundry products that remove tea stains
There are many stain removers on the market, but these seem to give the best results for clothing and fabrics, especially if used as quickly as possible after the spill is noticed.
Oxiclean (my top pick for all stains)
Spray ‘n Wash Dual Power Laundry Stain Remover
Goof Off (available at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other hardware stores)
Carpet cleaners that remove tea stains
Folex is my personal favorite because it works immediately, is easy to use, there is no odor, no rinsing, and it’s inexpensive (under $8).
Resolve is also another carpet cleaner I recommend. Both of these can be found in most grocery stores in the aisle with the cleaning products.
Goof Off is available in leading home improvement, hardware and automotive supply stores nationwide. It comes in different styles of applicator and will get rid of all your goofs, not just tea spills.