How To Prevent Tea Stains In Cups (naturally)

Updated byPenny
How To Prevent Tea Stains In Cups (naturally)

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We are big tea drinkers in our family.

I like my tea quite strong. We call it ‘builder’s tea’ here in the UK!

One downside of drinking lots of tea, is that cups often get stained with brown residue and can start to look a little unsightly.

I always say that prevention is better than a cure, so if you are wondering how to prevent tea stains in cups, I have you covered today!

If your tea cups are getting stained, try adding the milk before the tea. Don’t let the tea steep for too long or leave your cup hanging around with tea in it. When you notice the beginnings of a stain, clean it off with a damp microfiber cloth, so it doesn’t build up.

Read on for more details.

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Why does tea stain cups?

Tea has a high Tannin content (known as Tannic acid), which gives it a unique dark color.

Each time you drink tea, a little of the tannin stays behind and then slowly builds up until your cup gets quite brown inside.

The Tannin deposit doesn’t come off easily in the washing-up water, so it can be a little frustrating.

However, there are steps you can take to minimize staining.

If your cup is already stained, it’s straightforward to clean it off completely with just a few simple household items.

How to prevent tea stains in cups

Unfortunately, if you drink black tea, finding stains in your cup is a common occurrence.

Here are all the things we do to keep our cups stain-free.

Keep on top of it

If I notice stains inside a cup, a quick wipe over with a damp microfiber cloth often deals with it straight away.

If I let the stain build up, then I use a few simple household items to get the cup clean again, see below.

Don’t let the teabag steep for too long

If you let a teabag sit for too long in the cup before adding the milk, stains will form more quickly.

Add the milk first

If you add the milk before the tea, then the cup is less liable to stain.

This doesn’t work so well when you usually make your tea with a single teabag because teabags need really hot water to work best.

If you make your tea in a teapot, add the milk to the teacup first, and then pour in the tea.

Filter the water before you boil

I recommend you filter the water before you boil it to make tea.

Filtering removes any minerals that may be contributing to stains.

I find that filtering the water makes the tea taste better.

Finish your tea or pour it away

If you can’t finish your drink, don’t leave it hanging around. Pour it away as soon as you can to avoid stains appearing.

Use a different mug

Switch to a mug that doesn’t show the stains so much. Tea stains aren’t dangerous for your health, but I would still advise cleaning off the tea stains as often as you can.

Use a dishwasher

Dishwashers are a lot more effective at removing tea stains than hand-washing.

I find that tea stains come off pretty well in our Bosch dishwasher.

If you are finding that cups come out of your dishwasher with stains, maybe the cycle and the detergent needs tweaking a bit? See the section below for tips on how to remove tea stains in your dishwasher.

Another thing worth noting is that homemade dishwasher powder or liquid does not tend to clean tea stains very well.

If you are using your own homemade dishwashing powder, and you find you have to rewash cups, then perhaps it is worth switching back.

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How to get rid of tea stains in cups

cup of tea

Now you know how to prevent tea stains in cups, what do you do if you already have a stained cup?

Let’s have a look at all the natural methods there are for removing stains inside tea cups.

These options are all very effective, so do choose the one most convenient for you. For example, if you are about to throw out an old lemon, use it to clean your tea cup (or your kettle)!

Microfiber cloth

I find that if the stain isn’t too bad, I can simply rub the inside of the teacup with a damp microfiber cloth and the stains come right off.

This trick also works for stained teaspoons. Simply rub and the tea stains come off.

Lemon juice

Whenever I have some old lemons past their best, I cut them up and then boil them in my kettle, and it gets it spotless and limescale-free.

Lemons also work great for tea cups. Simply add a slice of lemon to some hot water and let it sit for about thirty minutes or so. Then simply wipe with a cloth. You can also do this with bottled lemon juice. Just add a few drops to the hot water.

Lemon and baking Soda

Lemon and baking soda when combined makes a brilliant cleaner. I particularly love this combination for cleaning my stainless-steel sink.

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into your stained teacup. Then sprinkle in some baking soda and leave it to work for a few minutes. Then wipe it away with a microfiber cloth, and you should find the stains come out.

Denture tablets

Denture cleaning tablets, such as Steradent and Polident are cheap to buy and are great for cleaning tea-stained cups.

All you need to do is dissolve one in your cup with some hot water and let it sit for fifteen minutes or so.

The tea stains should then rub off easily.

Lemon and salt

Add two tablespoons of salt to a bowl and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon to make a paste.

Take a cloth and use it to wipe the paste inside the cup.

The acid in the lemon combines with the abrasive salt to make a very effective cleaner.

Related reading:


Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and deodorizer, and it can be effective at removing tea stains from cups.

  1. Combine equal parts water and distilled white vinegar in a bowl.
  2. Dip a microfiber cloth into the vinegar solution and wring out excess liquid.
  3. Scrub the tea stains on the cup.
  4. Rinse with water and then dry.

If the tea stains are particularly stubborn, you may need to let the vinegar solution sit on the stains for a few minutes before scrubbing.

How to remove tea stains from cups in the dishwasher

I find that tea stains in cups usually get removed in the dishwasher pretty well. My Bosch dishwasher does an impressive job.

If you are finding that you still have tea stains in your cups when they come out of the dishwasher, here are some tips for better results:

  1. Give your dishwasher a maintenance clean. A clogged dishwasher will not clean so well. Here’s how to clean your dishwasher.
  2. Use a higher temperature. Increasing the washing temperature allows stains to dissolve better.
  3. Add a cup of vinegar to the top rack. Adding vinegar will increase the washing intensity. It can also sanitize your dishwasher and stop it smelling.
  4. Try a different dishwasher detergent. Some detergents clean tea stains better than others.
  5. Stop using homemade dishwasher detergent. Sadly, homemade dishwasher detergent isn’t so good a removing stains on teacups.

Frequently asked questions

Is it safe to clean tea cups with bleach?

I don’t recommend using bleach for cleaning your tea cups. Bleach has a strong smell and can cause damage to some materials. A better and safer alternative to bleach is soaking with a Milton Sterilizing tablets or Oxiclean.

How to clean tea stains from plastic cups?

Plastic cups are liable to scratch more than porcelain and ceramic cups. If your plastic cups have tea stains in them, the best option is to soak them in baking soda and warm water and then gently wipe with a microfiber cloth.

How to clean tea stains from porcelain cups?

It is best to be more gentle with porcelain cups, especially vintage. Soak your cup in some baking soda and warm water. You should find that the tea stains will wipe away easily.

Are tea stains bad for you?

Tea stains are actually tannin deposits, which is not bad for your health. You can safely drink from a stained cup. However, a cup that is badly stained might be harbouring more bacteria.

Are there any tea mugs that don’t stain?

All mugs can stain, but there are steps you can take to lessen staining, such as putting the milk in first and wiping with a microfiber cloth after every use.

Why do some mugs stain more than others?

Cups that have chips in them or the glaze has degraded will stain more quickly.

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Sparkling Penny

Penny | Sparkling Penny

Penny’s expert cleaning advice has been featured repeatedly by Homes and Gardens Magazine, and also at wikiHow, The Daily Express Newspaper, and Glam Magazine to name a few! was founded in 2019 and has since helped millions of people achieve a cleaner living space.

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How to prevent tea stains in cups and how to remove if your cup is already stained.How to prevent tea stains in cups and how to remove if your cup is already stained.How to prevent tea stains in cups and how to remove if your cup is already stained.