Tea dyeing is a fantastic way to give fabrics an antique and aged look. You can dye clothing, curtains, table covers, and just about any kind of fabric and give them that antique patina color that’s absolutely gorgeous.
Tea dyeing is easy to do, inexpensive, doesn’t make a mess, safer, eco-friendly, and the list of benefits could go on and on.
Great for beginners or children, dyeing fabric with tea is simple, quick, and can be done in any regular kitchen. You can even use used tea bags if you prefer.
How to Tea Stain Fabrics: A Step by Step Guide
Let’s get started by gathering the ingredients you will need:
- Black tea bags [2 teabags for every 1 cup of water]
- Rock Salt
- Fabric [natural fibers such as cotton, linen, silk, wool]
Step 1: Wash your fabric. You need to wash the fabric to get rid of any chemicals or starch added to it during the manufacturing process. If you’re dyeing an old piece of clothing or curtain, washing it will also get rid of the dirt that could prevent optimum absorption of the tea dye.
Step 2: Boil water in a pot that’s big enough to hold your fabric. The rule is 2 cups of water per yard of fabric. Ensure that you can easily stir the fabric inside the pot.
Step 3: Submerge the teabags inside the pot and let it sit for 10 minutes as you constantly stir. If you want a darker shade, add more tea bags.
Step 4: Make sure your fabric is damp. Damp fabric will absorb the tea dye much more efficiently and faster. Submerge the damp fabric in the pot. Make sure the entire fabric is submerged in the water. Bring the tea dye solution to a boil. You can leave the fabric in the pot for 5 to 10 minutes before turning the stove off. If you want to have a light, creamy color, then leave it for 30-minute to one hour. If you want a darker shade, you can leave it for hours or overnight, depending on your preference for the shade.
Step 5: Once you like the achieved color, take it out of the pot and wash with cold running water. Expect most of the dye to come off the fabric. Continue washing until the water is clear.
Step 6: Set the color. Prepare 2 parts vinegar with 1 parts water and add 2 tbsps. of rock salt. Submerge your fabric in the solution for at least 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, take the fabric out, wash with cold water and hang to dry. Once it’s dry, press the fabric.
If the shade is too dark, you can wash the fabric in a washing machine with bleach. Do not do this with older fabrics, though, as it could damage the fabric. If the color is too light, you can repeat the dyeing process and add more teabags this time, or submerge it for longer.
Another Way to Tea Stain Fabric
To tea stain fabric, you will need:
- tea bags (black tea works best)
- hot water
- large bowl or container
- wooden spoon or other stirring implement
- vinegar (optional)
First, brew a pot of hot water and allow the tea bags to steep for several minutes. Then, remove the tea bags and add your fabric to the mixture. Allow the fabric to soak for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The longer you soak the fabric, the darker the color will be.
After soaking, remove the fabric from the mixture and rinse it in cold water. You can also add a tablespoon of vinegar to the rinse water for extra brightness. Once the fabric is rinsed, allow it to air dry. And that’s it! Your tea stained fabric is now ready to use.
Tips to Tea Dyeing
- Use natural fabrics only. Tea dyeing will only work with natural fibres such as cotton, linen, silk, or wool. Tea won’t work on fabrics made of synthetic fabrics such as polyester or nylon.
- Use light-colored fabric such as white, ivory, or cream. It won’t work on darker or solid shades of colored fabric.
- Do not use regular detergent when washing your dyed fabric as it contains chemicals that are designed to remove tea stains.
- To avoid uneven colors or spots, constantly stir your fabric as you submerge it in the dye solution.
- Setting the fabric with vinegar, water, and salt solution will help to set the dye in your fabric. It is highly important that you do not skip this step.
- Test the tea on a small piece of fabric to see how light or dark you want the color to be before soaking the entire piece.
- Soak the fabric for different lengths of time to achieve different effects.
- Stir occasionally while the fabric is soaking for even coloring.
- Rinse with cold water and vinegar for extra brightness.
- Air dry your fabric after rinsing.
What Makes Tea a Great Dye?
Tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant, which has 6 basic varieties: green, yellow, black, white, oolong, and pu-erh. If you want to have a soft brown or cream color, black tea is the best option. For a slightly yellowish tone, green tea is ideal. And lastly, if you prefer a reddish tone, all the other varieties are recommended.
Tea contains tannins, which act as a natural mordant. Mordants are substances that allow the color of tea to bind with fabric. Most dye products contain a mordant chemical to be able to bind well, but you won’t need that with tea as it naturally contains tons of it.
The Pros and Cons of Tea Dyeing
For starters, tea dyeing is very easy to do, it’s safe, and ingredients for the dyeing process are easily found in any pantry. Unlike chemical dyes, tea is safe and natural so there’s no risk of allergies or any adverse reactions. It’s also eco-friendly, as most chemical dyes are water pollutants. Washing and cleaning are also relatively easy to do.
If you want to turn a stark white fabric into a creamier or lighter brown color, as well as having an aged and antique look, then tea is the best natural substance to do the job. It’s also a great way to cover up a stain on white or ivory-colored fabrics.
However, it can also be difficult to create a smooth and even color all throughout the fabric. Tea dyeing is prone to spots and uneven tones, and they also wash off over time. Because of this, it’s not ideal to dye larger pieces of fabric in a tea dye bath. Smaller pieces of fabrics are easier to control. If you want to tea dye several pieces of garments or fabrics, dyeing them one by one would be the most ideal way to do it.
Despite these advantages, tea dyeing is still a great way to color fabrics, hide stains, and give a garment or curtain that beautiful antique patina that’s absolutely beautiful.
Tea dyeing is a simple yet amazing way to give an old piece of clothing that aged and antique appeal. It’s easy to do, safe, and eco-friendly, as it doesn’t involve any harsh chemicals in the process. Most of the materials and ingredients are found in any regular kitchen, and anyone can do it – even children, which makes for a fun and crafty activity at home.
If you want to give your clothes, curtains, or home decor an antique appeal, then give tea dyeing a try.
I’m a stay at home mom with our two kids. I really enjoy doing crafts with my kids however, that is typically a challenge with how limited their attention span can be and how messy it gets. So, I’m always looking for ways to make crafting an enjoyable experience and creating fond memory for all of us.