How to Dye Fabric with Tea
Dying fabric with tea makes a lovely patina for an aged look to a basic fabric. Tea dying does not create a major change in the color of the textile, it’s a great and inexpensive way to create a vintage look to either new or old fabrics or clothing.
Here are our tips and tricks on how to dye fabric with tea.
Supplies you’ll need:
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- Large pot
- About 10 – 20 black tea bags (more tea bags makes darker fabric)
- About 2 – 4 tablespoons of table salt
- About 1/4 – 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1 yard white cotton fabric (may use less or more, which means you’ll need a larger or smaller pot and more or less tea bags). You can use a printed fabric that has white and another color, to make the white more of a beige. NOTE: You can dye clothing or other textile items, but it is best to make sure they are 100% cotton. A poly-blend fabric will not take the color as well as 100% cotton.
First, steep the tea.
Find a large pot in your kitchen that will easily hold the fabric that you want to dye with tea. I used a big soup pot. Fill the pot with water to about 2″ from the top.
To prepare the tea bags, either pull off the paper tab or purchase tea bags with no string or paper tab, which is what I did — makes it much easier. Use about 1 tea bag for each cup of water. I used 10 tea bags for my pot of water.
Place the tea bags and 1/4 cup of salt in the water, and bring to a full boil. The salt helps set the tea dye in the fabric.
Second, prepare your fabric.
While your water is coming to a full boil, prepare your fabric. I wanted a mottled look to my fabric, so I bundled it up and secured with several rubber bands. This will cause some variations of the color. Carefully add your fabric to the boiling pot of tea. If you want more of a solid color, add the piece of fabric and use long tongs to move the fabric around in the tea to make sure it is totally submerged.
Third, dying the fabric.
Simmer the tea with the fabric for about an hour. Check it often and make sure that the fabric continues to be submerged, whether it is a bundled or not.
If your fabric is not bundled, check the color and see if you like it. Note: the color will fade a bit when the fabric dries.
If your fabric is bundled, I don’t open it, as I want it to set with the darker creases and wrinkles.
Turn the burner off and I like to leave the fabric overnight, to get good color from the tea.
Fourth, setting the tea dye.
In the morning, take your fabric out of the tea and dispose of the tea bags and tea. If you bundled your fabric, take off the rubber bands and open your fabric — enjoy the big reveal and how your fabric took the dye! Take your fabric to a sink and rinse until water runs clear. Then, place your fabric back in your pot and cover with clear water. Add about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the water and swish around to mix. Keep the fabric in the water / vinegar mixture for about an hour, to help set the dye.
Fifth, dry and finish your tea dyed fabric.
Take your fabric out of the water/vinegar mixture and rinse until there is no more vinegar smell. You can either place the fabric in your dryer or hang to dry. Once dry, press carefully.
Now your new tea dyed fabric is ready to be used in your next creative project!
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