Workplace Operations

How to Remove Coffee Stains and Other Common Office Spills

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With people spending an average of 47 hours a week at work, it’s no surprise your office is going to show some signs of wear and tear. Between coffee runs, working lunches, and the occasional pet accident, you may be calling your local carpet cleaner more often than you’d like. 

While some stains will require a professional cleaner to remove, knowing how to treat common spills and marks can make your office look a little more presentable (and save you money) until your monthly or quarterly upholstery cleaning

We identified 5 stains you are likely to find in your office and referenced our well-worn copy of the “Field Guide to Stains” to share how you can treat them yourself. The following instructions are specifically for carpets and fabric furniture.

1. Coffee

You don’t have to work in an office to have searched, “how to remove coffee stains” before. But with coffee moving from the kitchen to people’s desks and into conference rooms in open mugs, your carpet is likely to be the victim of more than a few spills. Here’s what to do:

  1. Soak the stain with club soda or cold water and blot with a towel
  2. Keep soaking and blotting until the stain doesn’t improve any more
  3. Only when you’re done blotting should you apply a carpet cleaning spray and follow the directions provided

Pro tip: If you don’t have a carpet cleaning spray in your office, you can use non-gel shaving cream instead. Apply the shaving cream to the stain and work it into the carpet using an old toothbrush. Rinse with cold water, blot, and let dry.

2. Dog pee

If you work in a pet friendly office, you know that accidents can happen. Even the best behaved dogs sometimes can’t wait for their scheduled walk and end up creating a little puddle of guilt. While you should probably have a pet policy in place so their owner is responsible for clean-up, here’s how to remove dog pee from carpet:

  1. Soak up as much of the liquid as possible by blotting it with an absorbent cloth
  2. Create a sudsy mixture of cold water and a liquid detergent with enzymes (laundry or dishwashing) and scrub the stain with it using a sponge or old toothbrush
  3. Let the stain sit in the sudsy mixture for 15 minutes
  4. Clean off the mixture with a clean, damp cloth and then with a dry cloth
  5. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the stain doesn’t improve any more
  6. Allow the carpet to dry, ideally with a fan directed on it
  7. Once dry, apply a carpet cleaning spray and follow the directions provided

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3. Pen Ink

Ink stains are notoriously tricky to get out. If someone doesn’t have their pen capped, it’s likely you’ll see a stray line on a chair, couch, or on a conference room table. Here’s how to remove an ink stain:

For fabric furniture:

  1. Soak the stain with rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover and blot frequently with a paper towel (you are trying to get the stain to transfer to the paper towel)*
  2. Rinse the stain with cold water
  3. Rub a liquid detergent with enzymes (laundry or dishwashing) into the stain and let it sit for 10 minutes
  4. Rinse the stain with cold water

* If the ink is on fabric clothing, you’ll put the cloth stain side down onto the paper towel and apply the rubbing alcohol from the back of the stain to push it through to the towel

For wood furniture:

  1. Wipe the stain down with a damp cloth or sponge
  2. If the stain is still visible, rub with rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover
  3. Wipe stain back down with water and let dry

Pro tip: When ordering office supplies, choose pens with caps over the retractable style. Retractable may be easier to close, but they’re also easier to leave open, which can cause accidental marks. People often click pens while talking, which can sometimes leave marks on tabletops. 

4. Salad dressing

Come lunchtime, just about everywhere you look in the office you’ll find someone eating a salad. But with salad, comes its oily garnish––dressing. While everyone is focused on not getting it on their shirt, it’s just as likely to end up on their chair or on the floor. Here’s how to remove salad dressing stains:

  1. Use a knife to remove the dressing sitting on the surface of the fabric or carpet
  2. Rub a liquid detergent with enzymes (laundry or dishwashing) into the stain and let it sit for 30 minutes
  3. For creamy dressings, rinse the stain with cold water and let dry. For vinaigrette dressings, rinse the stain with very hot water.

Pro tip: When catering meals with salads, it’s typical to start your buffet line with the salad. You can keep the salad at the beginning to promote healthier food options, but put the dressings at the end when people are less likely to be rushing, and therefore less likely to spill.

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5. Dirt and mud

We would be remiss not to cover dirt, which everyone inevitably brings into the office on their shoes each day. While dirt and mud stains can be easily removed during regular carpet cleaning service, sometimes you just can’t wait. Here’s how to remove dirt stains from carpet:

  1. Do not wipe or blot the stain at all, especially if it’s wet!
  2. Sprinkle salt or baking soda onto the stain and let it dry (give it time to absorb)
  3. Vacuum the area
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the stain doesn’t improve any more
  5. Apply a carpet cleaning spray and follow the directions provided

With these tips, you should be able to keep your carpets and furniture looking presentable between your upholstery and carpet cleaning services. But don’t take on the cleaning yourself, if someone lets you know they spilled coffee or salad dressing, just copy and paste the directions above and ask them to help out!

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