DETAILING MY CAR > Dealing With a Spilled Latte

Dealing With a Spilled Latte

who could live with spilling a latte in this beauty


The OCD Way to Remove Coffee Stains from Cars

There goes your latte. You hit the brakes hard and the coffee cup exploded inside the car. It’s a common problem especially here in the land of coffee – Seattle. This has happened to me and dozens upon dozens of customers at my old auto detail shop. Spilled coffee may not sound like a serious problem, but it really can be. Just wait for that milk in the latte to spoil and you will hate driving your car, unless you don’t mind hanging your head out the window like a dog.

So how do we remove coffee stains and spills? First of all, once coffee has dried on your car’s carpet or even a cloth seat it can leave a permanent stain. If you have spilled a latte or coffee with milk in it you are facing the strong possibility of a very bad smell. The milk will most likely start to spoil. Remember when you opened that two month old gallon of milk – only to almost pass out from the stench.

Coffee Stain Removal Tips from Your Favorite OCD Car Guy

First of all, if you have a vacuum that can suck up liquid and not explode, use it. If you don’t have wet/dry shop vacuum at home, go to a car wash facility and use theirs. Some gas stations actually have these next to the machine to fill your tires with air. Don’t use a regular house hold vacuum – the moisture will blow it out. Now take a clean towel and blot up as much remaining moisture as you possibly can. Paper towels will work fine if that is all you have.

Once you are done removing the liquid, you will need to use some all-purpose cleaner or carpet shampoo to break up the stain and any milk residue. Before you consider skipping this step, keep in mind the remaining drops of milk will spoil. Can you smell this milk cooking in the close confines of a car parked in the hot sun? I can. I’ve smelled it too many times when people who skipped this step and brought their car to me.

Cleaners for Removing Coffee Stains from Car Carpet

There are a lot of options when you go to pick car shampoos or carpet cleaners. You can use regular home cleaning products like Resolve Carpet Cleaner or Simple Green All Purpose Cleaner, but be sure to dilute this according to label directions. There are plenty of car cleaning products available at a local auto parts store in the wax and car cleaning isle. Many of these work just fine, but I prefer Simple Green because it has cleaned the nastiest things out of thousands of cars at the detail shop and leaves a refreshing smell.

Starting the Coffee Cleaning Process

Before using any car cleaner, try spraying a very small test area under the front seat to see if the product changes or removes the color. This is an important step. You don’t want to pull the color out of the material. After you have tested a small spot, simply spray the cleaner to wet just the spilled area. Allow the cleaner to soak into the carpet or fabric for about five minutes.

Now if you have a soft nylon scrub brush at home, scrub the area with it. You need to put a little elbow grease into the shampooing because you need to help loosen the stain. The next thing to do is to take a clean towel and blot the spilled area. This step pulls out the remaining coffee residue to remove the rest of the stain and gets rid of the remnants of the milk and coffee. Bye, bye smell.

If you still see the stain or discoloration repeat the cleaning steps as above. It is a whole lot easier to remove the spill before it has had a chance to dry. Once dried the spilled coffee stain may not come fully out. Trust me, many of my clients have ignored stains for too long and ruined the color of their carpets. If you wait weeks to try to remove coffee stains, even a professional auto detailer won’t be able to fully remove the coffee stain.

At my OCD detail shop, we would then spray the area with a light mist of Fabreeze to kill any remaining odor. In this section we have learned what an OCD car guy does when a cup of coffee or latte gets spilled in a car. It is very important to get coffee, soda, or juice cleaned up while it is wet. As mentioned above, if you let it dry before shampooing it may leave a bad stain.

Most of us love the smell of a fresh latte – just not the curdled milk that will grow in your cars’ carpet if you don’t take some quick action. Remember, the only one you want hanging their head out the car window is your dog.If your spilled Starbuck latte has still got you driving with your windows open, let me know. I’ve got some more smell removal tricks up my sleeve.


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