How To Remove Coffee Stains From Paper

Coffee has a way of staining whatever it touches, so when your morning coffee comes in contact with your favorite book or an essential piece of paper, you’ll need to act quickly to save it.

Coffee is a water-based stain, and paper tends to absorb water.

Luckily, you are not fighting a lost cause.

We’ve done the research, and it is possible to learn how to remove coffee stains from paper.

While these methods work better if you act quickly, you need a few everyday household items to remove coffee stains from your papers. 

What You’ll Need

You will need a few household items to remove coffee stains from paper.

Now that you have everything you need, read on to learn how to remove coffee stains from paper as well as frequently asked questions about coffee staining paper.

1. Dab as Much of the Coffee off as Possible

Paper absorbs water and water-based liquids, making coffee stains a common stain on paper, from books and school papers to essential documents.

To prevent the stain from setting in, you’ll need to act quickly. 

As soon as you realize that coffee has been spilled on the paper, grab a paper towel and blot the affected area.

Doing this will remove as much excess coffee as possible, preventing the stain from spreading and worsening.

It is important here not to rub the stain; rubbing could damage or even tear the paper.

2. Place the Affected Paper on a Waterproof Surface

Place the paper on a waterproof surface once you have removed as much of the coffee as possible.

We recommend making sure the surface is clean to prevent a second stain from occurring.

Depending on the size and potential binding of the paper, you can either place the paper onto a sizeable waterproof surface or place a small waterproof surface under your paper.

We have found that loose paper does better on large waterproof surfaces while books and other bound documents do better with small waterproof surfaces.

3. Combine ½ Cup of Vinegar and ½ Cup of Water

In a bowl, combine ½ cup of distilled white vinegar and ½ cup of water.

Doing this will give you the oxidizing power of vinegar while also diluting it to the point that it will not damage your book. 

Pro tip: Don’t substitute any other kind of vinegar for the distilled white vinegar.

Colored types of vinegar will leave a stain of their own.

I recommend using Lucy’s Family Owned – Natural Distilled White Vinegar.

Lucy’s is a family-owned business and gets excellent reviews on Amazon.

4. Apply Vinegar Mixture to the Coffee Stain With a Cotton Ball

Moisten a cotton ball or cotton swab, and gently dab the coffee-stained area.

The vinegar will remove the rest of the coffee coloration, pulling it onto the cotton ball.

Continue to dab the affected area until the stain is gone.

If the affected area is large or the stain is deeply colored, you may need to use several cotton balls.

Moisten a new cotton ball once the one before it is too dirty and stained to use.

Pro tip: Before you dab the vinegar and water solution across your paper, test it on an inconspicuous area first. Check to make sure the solution does not damage the paper or remove any ink. Once you are satisfied that the vinegar and water mixture will not damage the paper, you can dab the coffee stain away.

5. Press the Area Dry with Paper Towels

Now that the coffee stain is completely removed from the paper, use fresh paper towels to press the affected area dry.

Start by patting and dabbing to remove excess water.

Then, place the paper towels above and below the stain, and press gently to remove more liquid.

Finally, allow the affected area to air dry.

Doing this will remove all traces of moisture and prevent any potential mold growth on your paper.

6. Iron the Affected Page to Remove any Wrinkles

Water stains can leave wrinkles on paper.

If you want to remove those wrinkles, place a piece of wax paper above and below the affected paper, and iron the wrinkled section of the paper.

Use the lowest setting on your iron and check your paper frequently to ensure it is not getting too hot. 

The following video demonstrates how to remove water from paper.

Coffee stains are a type of water stain, so the techniques shown in this video are the same techniques you should use to remove the coffee stains from your paper.

0:15—Place the page with the stain on a flat, unstained surface that won’t absorb liquids.

0:20—Using a cotton swab or a cotton ball, apply the liquid mixture to the stain.

1:07—Place a paper towel below and above the paper.

1:18—Use a little pressure to help the stain dry faster.

1:34—Carefully iron with low heat the affected area to remove any wrinkles.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a way to remove older coffee stains from paper? 

Yes, it is possible to remove set-in coffee stains, but it may take a little longer before you have completely removed the stain.

Cleaning agents with oxidizing properties work best against the oil in the coffee, which stains the paper with the color of the coffee, so follow the above method with the white vinegar and water mixture.

You will need more cotton balls and a little more time, but the white vinegar will also remove older coffee stains.

Are some types of paper easier to clean than others? 

Yes, some types of paper are easier to clean than others because certain types of paper are less absorbent than others.

Glossy paper tends to be easier to clean because its finish prevents water-based mixtures from being absorbed.

That means that any coffee stain should be smaller and easier to deal with. In contrast, unfinished or matte-coated papers are very absorbent.

It is more challenging to remove coffee stains from these types of paper because of how quickly the coffee is absorbed, leading to more extensive and darker stains.