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Removing Unwanted Tea Stains

Every so often someone asks me how to remove tea stains. I guess they figure if I know how to create tea stains (via tea-dyeing fabrics) then I must know how to get the stains out. Well, some I do and some I don’t. So I did a little research into it, and discovered that a lot of people know a whole lot more than I do. Here’s a round-up of my findings. Please note that listing a product here does not constitute an endorsement; many similar products are available.

(Image from article author)
(Image from article author)

Basically there are four kinds of stains from tea: teeth, clothing/linens, household, and serving ware. Let’s start with tea-stained teeth, because that affects just about every tea drinker. These methods don’t work for everyone, so you may have to try a few until you find one that’s right for you. Also keep in mind that I’m not a dental professional; I’m just passing along anecdotal suggestions.

Lots of products on the market claim to remove stains and whiten teeth, including toothpastes and mouth rinses and even chewing gum. These work in varying degrees, and are often more effective if you use them in combination. For longer-lasting stain removal, try tooth-whitening strips or creams. Or you can visit your dentist for an intensive whitening or bleaching via chemicals or lasers.

If you prefer a more “natural” method of stain removal, try brushing with baking soda instead of toothpaste. Brushing your teeth for about thirty seconds with a dry toothbrush before your regular brushing can help eliminate stains. Or just eat an apple after each meal to keep stains from forming in the first place!

When it comes to clothing and linens, natural fibers are more likely than synthetic fibers to stain. If you get tea stains on your natural-fiber clothing, I’d recommend tea-dyeing the whole garment, but that’s just me. Act quickly, before the stain dries, and you can often remove it simply by rinsing with club soda or sprinkling it with salt or baking soda and then running it through a wash cycle.

Soaking in water with a little bleach added might be all you need to get out a light stain from white fabric. Coloured fabrics or set-in stains can require more drastic measures. Many products claim to remove tea stains, including laundry detergents, oxygen cleaners, and stain-removal sticks or sprays. Be sure to follow the manufacturers’ instructions for best results.

With carpets and upholstery as with clothing, tea is less likely to stain synthetics than natural fibers. Speed, once again, is critical; freshly-spilled tea can often be soaked up with a paper towel or white cloth, then rinsed with club soda or cool water. Set-in stains, or stained natural fibers, may require use of a carpet or upholstery cleaner. Or try these more natural solutions. It’s important to do a spot test first in an inconspicuous place to make sure that the cleaner won’t discolour your carpet or sofa. We rent a carpet steam-cleaner twice a year; so far it’s removed pretty much all the stains we can come up with. If you don’t want to do this yourself, hire a professional.

Everybody seems to have their own best technique to remove stains from teapots and cups. Baking soda on a soft cloth is very popular, tho’ I prefer Bon Ami (“hasn’t scratched yet”). A fellow tea lover cleans her tea ware with denture cleaning tablets. One tea room owner tells me that once a week she fills up her sink with water, mixes in some bleach, and then puts all her teapots in to soak for an hour or so. All of these techniques seem to work, so choose your favourite. Just don’t try any of ‘em on unglazed (Yixing) or cast iron (tetsubin) tea ware – you’ll end up ruining them.

So: Have you got any good tips for removing tea stains?

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