How to Get Coffee Stains Out of Your Car's Interior

With these tips, you can help remove smells and stains from your vehicle.

Person's hand holds coffee cup just above cupholder in vehicleGetty Images


Drinking your morning coffee as you drive may seem like a smart time saver, but the odds are good you'll eventually spill some of the liquid in your car. When that day comes, it might feel as though you'll never be able to get the sight or smell out of your interior. Don't despair. There are a few tips that can help remove both coffee stains and odor.

How to Remove Car Stains From Different Surfaces

Automakers offer all sorts of upholstery in cars today, from cloth to microsuede to synthetic leather to genuine animal hide. Depending on what material your interior is made of — and which part of your interior is stained — there is a proper method to remove stains for each particular material and area.

Regardless of which vehicle-interior material you're working on, one key to stain removal is to get to the spilled coffee as soon as possible, before it has time to set. The following remedies could help you with your coffee-related residue:

  • Carpet: The first step is to blot up as much coffee as possible with a paper or microfiber towel. No matter what the surface is, remember to always blot up the liquid instead of scrubbing it in deeper. Once you've absorbed as much as you can, consider using a small combination of dish soap, vinegar, and warm water with a sponge to remove the coffee stain.
  • Cloth upholstery: You can use a similar approach if you spill coffee on cloth seats. Use a spray bottle to apply the vinegar and water recipe then use a towel to dry the cloth.
  • Leather or synthetic leather upholstery: On leather seats, try a low-acid detergent, such as mild dish soap to avoid damaging the material.
  • For smaller coffee stains, spray the cleaner onto a microfiber towel then apply to the upholstery. Whichever cleaning solution you choose, use it sparingly. You don't want the fluid to soak deep into the leather, especially if the material is perforated.
  • Center console: Spilling coffee on the center console or dashboard can cause the mess to get in and around buttons, cupholders, and other crevices. You can use interior detailing wipes to get the job started. If the spill has become sticky, you might consider using a compressed-air can and a little soapy water.
  • Headliner: If your spill was more of an explosion and reached up to your car interior's fabric headliner, use a mixture of dish soap and warm water to blot out the stain until it's gone. Sponge once more with cold water to remove all the excess fluid.

How to Get the Coffee Smell Out of Your Car

Coffee's aroma might be tempting when it's emanating from a fresh beverage, but when it's a stale and persistent smell in your car, it's significantly less appealing. Like most odors, however, the stench of old coffee can be ameliorated with baking soda (not baking powder).

Once the spill is dried and cleaned up, you might want to consider sprinkling just a little baking soda on the affected area and letting it sit for a few hours or overnight. Once you're done, vacuum up the remains and you should have a car interior free of olfactory inconveniences.

The Supplies for Removing Car Stains

Removing coffee stains and odors doesn't necessarily require a lot of specialized equipment. The following items, used on the appropriate surfaces, should help you get your vehicle back to looking and smelling the way you prefer:

  • Paper towels
  • Microfiber towels
  • Sponges
  • Warm water
  • Mild dish soap
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Spray bottle
  • Interior detail cleaner
  • Gas duster
  • Vacuum
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Connor Hoffman
Connor Hoffman is a writer and editor based in Kansas City. Prior to becoming a freelance writer, he was an editor at a national car magazine and worked in communications at a major automaker. He loves off-roading and camping in his 4Runner, golfing (poorly), and shredding on his mountain bike.