Tea dyeing is an easy way to mute fabrics or give them an
older, antiqued look. Tea stains the fibers and gives a semi-permanent dull
brown "dirty" tone to the whole piece. It is used when you want to "antique" a
craft textile such as a doll dress or small quilt.
Because the process uses tea bags it is not suggested for
use on large objects. Tea also leaves an irregular spotted stain over the whole
piece and it is not going to give you a "perfect" or even color. If you want to
color large objects or get an even tone, use a commercial dye product.
Tea dye only works on natural fibers! This means cotton,
silk, linen, and maybe wool. If it is polyester it will not take color! Tea dye
is reddish brown in color and will not dye to an "off-white" or "eggshell"
color. It is next to impossible to match colors with tea dye and I do not
suggest trying tea dye in order to get a white fabric to blend with a creamy
Tea dye is semi-permanent. What this means is that while it will
not wash out easily, you can usually remove it with bleach. It may also fade in
sunlight. It is not suggested for use on items (such as clothing) that will be
washed regularly as modern detergents are designed to remove the tea stain.
What you need:
What you do:
Set the water to boil. I suggest 4 cups of water for each yard
When the water has come to a boil add two tea bags for each 8oz. cup of water.
Let the tea steep for about 5 minutes. You should have a really dark brown
liquid. Squeeze out the teabags if you wish. It doesn't hurt to leave them in,
though, except that they might get soggy and break.
Soak the fabric in the bucket of tea. Swish it around every so
often if you want a smooth textured finish. Leave it without moving it much for
a mottled finish. You can make samples with a small portion of tea and strips
of fabric. Put all the strips in at the same time and pull one out every five
When the fabric has soaked "enough" pull it out and rinse it
under cool water. You will loose a lot of the color doing this, so if it isn't
dark enough to suit you, soak it some more. Be aware that when the fabric dries
it will be slightly lighter as well. In my experience a medium light tan color
can be achieved after about an hour. A richer tan can be achieved with an
When you are satisfied with the color pop the item into the
dryer on a high heat setting and tumble dry. If you are concerned about
wrinkles, tumble until nearly dry and finish with a very hot iron. The heat
setting is necessary to make the color permanent.
Don't like the result?
Tea, being a natural colorant, can be washed out with bleach. If
you have dyed some fabric and now decide you don't like it quite as much as you
thought you might, rinse it in the washer with a little bleach. Take care that
any older items you treat this way can handle the bleaching. Most cotton
deteriorates with time and bleach is very harsh on older fabrics.
One more note
You can use coffee as a dye as well. All those old coffee
grounds that are too weak for drinking are fine for dying. Make a brew and soak
your fabric as above. Just be aware that coffee is much more aromatic than tea,
and your finished item will smell like coffee for a long time to come.
Tea dye does not work on synthetic fabrics!
If you're going to try this anyway, please do not write to me and ask me for
more advice. :)
A few more notes...
Every so often I get a letter asking me about tea-dying this or
that, or something else. Donna wrote to ask about dying an entire queen-sized
bedding set, and I suggested that for such a large amount of fabric she try a
regular dye product instead. She would have a more even finished look, and the
dye wouldn't wash out in the next load of laundry (remember, bleach...) Donna
wrote back to share her experiences:
Awhile back I sent you a few e-mails about ?'s on Tea Dying. It
took me awhile but I finally did the queen sheet set plus two additional pillow
cases. You were right about the trim it did not take the dye but I liked the
effect. I used the Rit Tint & Dye (Taupe #34) the dry packages. I used 1
package per sheet including 2 pillow cases in the washer. I dyed in 2 separate
batches to avoid uneven coloring. My sheets came out with even coloring. I'm
happy with the results. I used very hot water & followed the directions on
the box except I doubled the wash time by stopping the washer & resetting
the time then rinsed 2X's the second rinse I added a cup of vinegar & cold
water, I've heard vinegar will help set colors.
"This taupe color , says you can stain with it also, I bought 4
packages so I have 2 left. I hope the color holds. Your tips made good sense to
me so I had the courage to take the chance on those rather costly sheets.
Thanks for being there.
Can I tea dye my couch?
Sure! All you need to do is brew up a couple hundred gallons of warm tea, make
sure to use extra teabags to make it strong. Get a container large enough to
hold your couch, and soak overnight. In the morning, after the tea has cooled,
remove the couch and let it drip dry. You may need help as the cushions and
fabric will have picked up a lot of weight from the tea and will be heavier
Can I tea dye my carpet?
Yes, but I really recommend using coffee for this. Brew a large pot of strong
coffee, and mix the grinds in with the coffee. While it is still warm apply the
coffee to your carpet. Use a broom, towel, or your feet to rub the coffee
mixture into the carpet. You may need several pots of coffee mixture to
successfully color a room. After the carpet has dried you can vacuum up the
coffee grounds that are left over.