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How to Dye Cloth With Tea for an Antique Look

by Jaimie Zinski

Used for centuries to naturally dye muslin, cotton and linen, tea is an inexpensive method to give new fabrics a warm, aged appearance. The subtle coloring is caused by the tannins in the tea, and the look of the finished product will vary depending on the type of tea. For instance, when you're after a light yellow tint, choose green tea. A darker hue is achieved with black herbal tea. Whatever you choose, a tea dye bath is most effective on natural fibers.

Wash the natural fiber clothing on a hot water setting with a mild laundry detergent. Laundering the fabric removes any perfumes, chemicals or stains that will impede the dye's ability to absorb into the cloth.

Soak the fabric in cool water inside a clean kitchen sink or plastic basin. While it's soaking, fill a medium-sized to large cooking pot with 1 gallon of water. Remove the string and tags from three tea bags and submerge them in the pot. Bring the water to a rolling boil over high heat. Remove the pot from the heat, cover it and allow the tea bags to steep for at least one hour. The longer the tea bags steep, the more intense the color.

Set the cooking pot on a pile of newspapers on your kitchen floor or table. Submerge the clean, damp fabric in the water. Stir the water with a large wooden spoon.

Slip on a rubber glove and pull the fabric from the dye bath every 30 to 60 minutes. You may allow the fabric to soak from one hour to overnight. The longer you soak the fabric, the deeper the color you'll achieve.

Once you achieve the desired color, remove the fabric from the pot and rinse it under a cool tap under the water runs clear. Wring out the excess water and hang the fabric to dry.

Items you will need
  • Mild laundry detergent
  • Plastic bin
  • Medium-sized to large cooking pot
  • Tea bags
  • Newspaper
  • Large wooden spoon
  • Rubber glove

Tips

  • To achieve a deeper hue, drop additional tea bags into the boiling water.
  • Double or triple the recipe as needed, if you're dyeing several pounds of fabric or clothing.

Warning

  • Wash out the cooking pot immediately after use. The tannins in the tea bags may also dye the pot.

Photo Credits

  • Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images