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Spring Cleaning - Banish Those Tea Stains

Le Creuset Grand Mugs


If, as Napoleon said, “an army marches on its stomach” then in our wonderful island of Great Britain the homes, and workplaces of many millions of Brits, march on their tea breaks.  Without that refreshing beverage break from our daytime monotony, we would be dehydrated, empty, unproductive shells, a lumbering legion of semi-functioning beings to rival those seen in The Walking Dead.   OK, so maybe that’s a little melodramatic, but it is definitely fair to say we love tea in this country! Unfortunately this level of tea consumption brings with it its own blight, a scourge to be expunged, a very first world problem admittedly – tea stains in your favourite mug or cup!


These unpleasant brown stains can ruin your enjoyment of a perfectly nice cup of tea.  Even though your mug may have been through the most vigorous of dishwasher settings, or diligently handwashed – unfortunately tea stains are something that are near impossible to avoid.   But fear not – for they are actually really easy to remove with a tiny bit of elbow grease and range of common everyday household items.


First things first - what causes the stain?

The high content of a chemical called Tannin which occurs in teas, is the culprit.  Coffee does not contain tannin therefore will not stain your cups in the same  way. The dark brown, or black, colour of tea makes it one of the worst offenders for staining – it will stain practically everything it can, including your cups and mugs, your teeth, and even clothing if spilled (although green teas and herbal teas can stain too).


It all comes down to ‘polymerisation’, which is where two (or more) molecules react together, forming one big molecule. In terms of tea, one molecule is an organic chemical found in the beverages, and the other is oxygen. The longer a stain is left on a cup, the more opportunities for polymerisation, and the bigger the stain will get. If the brown marks aren’t tackled, they’ll simply grow and grow over time.


Can I prevent it?

Not completely, some cups are more susceptible to it than others, and this is down to the glaze; the smoother the glaze, the more resistant to staining it will be.  Cost is not always an indicator of this either, expensive cups can stain as easily as lower cost ones. 


Washing your cup straight after use with a mild detergent and a cloth or washing up brush is the most effective way of preventing the unsightly marks building up over time  for “Prevention is better than cure." Said Desiderius Erasmus, although admittedly, he was not referring to tea cups at that point.


Why doesn’t the dishwasher remove it?

Although a dishwasher cycle is pretty aggressive, there is no abrasive element to the wash cycle – the stain is sitting on the surface of the glaze and needs a little rubbing to remove it.  Your cups are perfectly fine to use, and are completely free of any unpleasant germs, bacteria or food residues after washing in a dishwasher, but the brown tannin stains will remain.


4 Easy Ways To Remove Tea Stains – with everyday items and a little elbow grease

1  Bicarbonate of Soda – dampen the cup to be cleaned, sprinkle ½ a teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda into the cup and gentle rub with a cloth – it will form a mildly abrasive paste which will lift the stain with very little effort.  Repeat if required to remove very heavy staining.  Rinse and it is ready to use.


2  White Vinegar & Salt – mix equal parts of both together to create a mildly abrasive paste and rub with a cloth, as above. 


3  Salt – just salt on its own sprinkled into a damp (clean) cup and gently rubbed will remove stains.


4 Denture cleaning tablets (such as: Steradent) – simply fill the cup with water to cover the stains and drop the tablet in – it will gently clean away the build-up, and requires no scrubbing.  Simply rinse and it is ready to use again.


5  Gently Abrasive Cleaning Pads - anything with a slightly abrasive surface would work - such as the Euroscrubby Cleaning Pads or the Redecker Copper Pads.


Additional Tips:

·       If you are cleaning fine china with a metallic rim, be careful not to rub the rim with any of the mild abrasives mentioned above – they could damage the delicate rims.

·       If your cup is too tall or narrow to fit your hand in – simply use a toothbrush to reach the bottom

·       Do not use bleach! Not only is it a hazardous chemical that you don’t want anywhere near your digestive system, but it doesn’t actually work.  Bleach merely removes the colour from the stain, it does not remove the build-up of tannins – meaning that new stains will very quickly build up on top of the old (now invisible) ones.  


We all have our favourite mug at home or at work, so let’s show them a little care and look after them how they deserve to be loved, because lets face it, tea time just wouldn’t be the same without them!   If you are still looking to find your special one – at Steamer we have hundreds of gorgeous cups and mugs in all shapes, colours and sizes, so we are certain to have the perfect match for you! 


Also,all of the above advice also applies to teapots!

Posted: 01 Oct 2017

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