How to Remove Coffee Stains From Stainless Steel Travel Mug (7 Ways)

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It often surprises people when they pick up their favorite stainless steel mug and notice coffee stains inside. After all, it’s stainless steel, so you’d think you wouldn’t have to deal with stains. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way and coffee will always end up staining your stainless steel mug. So in this article we’ll learn how to remove coffee stains from a stainless steel travel mug.

No one wants to drink coffee out of their favorite travel mug when it’s visibly stained on the inside. It doesn’t really pose any sort of threat to your health, but it definitely isn’t appealing. Luckily, stainless steel is easy to clean, and even the most stubborn coffee stains can be removed. Here’s are some ways to do it.

How to remove coffee stains from a stainless steel travel mug

1. Use chlorine tablets

This is actually the way I recently cleaned out my Contigo travel mug. I’m a huge coffee drinker, like 2-3 cups a day easy. I also fill up my Contigo a couple of times a day. I’ve had it for about 2 years now and that thing had gotten really, really nasty. To the point where these little flakes were coming off in my mouth…. yuk!

Unfortunately I forgot to take the before picture (doh!) but you can see the after picture at the top of the page, it really cleaned it out nicely. Here’s a link to the tablets I used: Bottle Bright All Natural Cleaning Tablets

An here’s the travel mug that I revitalized: Contigo Stainless Steel Vacuum Sealed Travel Mug (Awesome for heavy coffee drinkers)

2. Baking Soda and Vinegar

Remember the classic grade school science fair volcano? That explosion of foam is exactly what we want here. Add a few heaping spoonfuls of baking soda to your travel mug- stick to just one or two spoonfuls if it’s fresh, and use more if the package is older. Then, add a very generous pour of vinegar. Vinegar can dissolve stains while the baking soda scrubs them off and deodorizes. Do it right and you won’t even have to scrub.

3. Denture Cleaner

This is a more unorthodox method, but it works. Toss a denture cleaning tablet in your stainless steel travel mug, fill it with water, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, your mug will be stain-free, and all you have to do is dump out the water and fill it with coffee.

4. Dishwasher Detergent

Dishwasher detergent is already designed to get rid of stains, and it can definitely remove coffee stains from stainless steel travel mugs. You usually can’t put those mugs in the dishwasher, though, since very few of them are dishwasher safe. Instead, add a couple of tablespoons of detergent to your mug and then pour in some boiling water. Use a bottle brush to scrub the mug, and then rinse it out.

5. Tabz

Coffee stains aren’t just a problem for mugs, they also plague your coffee maker. Left untreated, dirty coffee makers can quickly develop bad flavors and smells that ruin your coffee, so you should always have something like Urnex Tabz around to quickly and easily clean the entire machine- even the parts you can’t get to with a sponge or brush. If you have these on hand, they’re great for cleaning your travel mugs, too. Just add them to your mug along with some hot water and let them sit for a bit.

6. Lemon

Possibly the easiest and cheapest way to clean your travel mug, just cut a lemon in half and rub the cut side along the inside of your mug. The lemon will have no trouble blasting through the stain and it will remove any lingering coffee odor, too. Just be sure to rinse the mug thoroughly afterward, or your next cup of coffee might taste like lemon.

7. Dish Soap

If you’re willing to a little scrubbing with a sponge, regular dish soap may be enough to tackle some coffee stains, provided you clean your mug regularly. Just add a few drops of dish soap and warm water, and scrub the inside of the mug with a sponge. It shouldn’t take much effort to get rid of the stains this way.

Cleaning the Lids

Cleaning the inside of the mug is fairly easy. Stainless steel is made to be easy to clean, so the coffee stains should come off without much effort. The lids, though, are a different story. Travel mug lids usually have moving parts, are mostly plastic, and can become much dirtier than the interior of the mug.

If you drink your coffee black, this may not be much of a problem. A quick rinse under hot water will usually do most of the work. If you take your coffee with milk, sugar, or both (like I often do), your lid will quickly get pretty gross.

All of the methods listed above will work to clean your coffee mug lid, but you’ll need to ensure that every inch of the lid is exposed to the cleaning solution. The easiest way to clean your travel mug lid is to place the lid in a large bowl and fill the bowl with the cleaning solution of your choice, then let it soak for a while.


Despite the name, stainless steel can stain or discolor, and coffee is notorious for leaving behind stains in stainless steel travel mugs. That doesn’t mean you have to live with the stain, though. Cleaning your stainless steel travel mug is easy to do and there are plenty of effective cleaning methods to choose from. I hope this list of options on how to remove coffee stains from a stainless steel travel mug will help you clean up yours like brand new!