Project: Dyeing Fabric with Tea

Here’s a little sneak peek into what has been going on in my craft room (well, actually kitchen) for the current Iron Craft Green Challenge. I am using some of my husband’s old t-shirts in my project. I didn’t want to use them to be white (especially since they were more of a dingy white), but wanted more of an ecru color. So, I decided to use up something else we were going to throw away, some hazelnut chocolate flavored tea that we didn’t care for.
Dyeing with Tea
The tea worked wonderfully. I ended up with a soft, tan color that was just what I was looking for. I had never dyed with tea before and thought some of you might also fine the process interesting.

Dyeing Fabric with Tea


  • tea bags or loose tea in a cheesecloth or an infuser
  • hot water
  • natural fabric

1. I filled my sink up with hot water and added 15 tea bags. You want to do this in a non-reactive container. My sink isn’t metal so it was perfect. I let the tea seep for about 5 minutes.
Dyeing with Tea
I’ve read you could add alum to the water to help the fabric absorb and keep the color. I didn’t have any alum on hand and wasn’t planning on washing my finished shirts, so I wasn’t too concerned about using it.

2. I added the t-shirts. My t-shirts were 100% cotton and from what I’ve read you want to only use natural fabrics as manmade fabrics won’t accept the color. I have heard that if you dip your fabric in some salted water before dyeing it will help it absorb the color better and will help fabrics that are partially manmade absorb it too I did not test this, but heard it from a professional fabric dyer.
Dyeing with Tea
I let them soak in the tea for 40 minutes, giving them a good stir from time to time and making sure they were submerged when I wasn’t stirring. I kept checking the color until it was as deep as I wanted it.

3. After the 40 minutes, I rinsed the t-shirts with cold water and squeezed out as much of the tea as I could. Then I just threw them in the dryer. The color came out very even and didn’t lighen with the rinsing.

A few notes:

  • This type of dyeing didn’t cover any stains on the fabric, as a matter of fact it made the stains darker. So, this is not a technique I wouldn’t use for that purpose.
  • I have read you need to be careful washing with laundry detergent afterwards as it is made to remove things like tea stains. See my note about using alum in step one.

There are lots of techniques for dyeing with tea around the web, but this worked very easily with great results. And unlike using something like a Rit dye, I didn’t have to wear gloves or worry about the dye getting on other things as much. Now, for what I did with these t-shirts you’ll have to wait for next Tuesday’s reveal to see.

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact us at justcraftyenough AT yahoo DOT COM. All patterns, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author unless otherwise noted.
© 2005 – 2013 Kathy Lewinski & Susan Cornish
11 years ago by in Craft Projects , Crafts , Projects | You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave A Response

* Required