If you love experimenting with textiles, then you’d be glad to know that tea is a highly effective colorant for natural fabrics.
Dyeing fabric with tea is a cheap and easy way to change the look of a natural fabric. If you’ve got clothing stained with tea, this method can also hide those stains and give your clothes a vintage look.
So, how do you dye fabric with tea? To dye fabric with tea, first make sure that you’ve chosen a natural fabric. Boil your tea with some salt, soak your fabric in fresh water to prepare it, leave it submerged in the tea for a few hours to overnight, use vinegar water to set the dye, rinse and dry the fabric, and you’re done!
In this article, let’s take a look at how you can effectively dye your fabric with tea.
What Type Of Fabric Can Be Dyed With Tea?
Before you start with this entire process, you should know that not every type of fabric can be dyed with tea – only natural fabrics, such as cotton, linen, bamboo, or wool, can be dyed with tea.
This is because natural fibers are naturally very absorbent, so the pigments can easily seep into the fibers and form a strong bond. Natural fibers tend to dye well because of this very characteristic.
However, when you have a synthetic fabric such as polyester or nylon, you have to use disperse dye. Because synthetic fabrics are not very absorbent, the dye needs to be heat-activated to bond with the fibers. This is why regular dye that can be used with a natural fabric is usually not very effective with synthetic fabrics.
If you have a piece of fabric that you want to dye, the first thing to check is the fabric’s fiber content. If it is made from natural fibers, you can safely proceed with dyeing them with tea.
What Kind Of Tea Can Be Used To Dye Fabric?
Black tea and green tea are both very effective at dyeing fabric, although black tea would generally give you a darker, richer result. You can also use loose-leaf tea to dye your fabric as well, although that can be fussier to clean up, and the color will be a bit lighter as well.
How many tea bags you need will depend on how big your fabric is and how dark you want the color to turn out—the bigger the fabric, the more water, and the more tea bags you’ll need.
Generally, it’s recommended to a ratio of one tea bag to one cup of water, but if you want the color to become a bit darker, you can use more tea, and if you want the color to be lighter, you can use fewer tea bags.
It is recommended to use at least 4 cups of water to dye a square meter of fabric, so depending on how big your fabric is, you should be able to find out the proper amount of water and tea bags you will need.
How To Dye Fabric With Tea
Dyeing fabric with tea is actually very simple, even if you have never dyed fabric before. You will need the following things:
- The natural fabric that you want to dye
- A large pot that is big enough to cover the entire piece of fabric
- Black tea bags
- A measuring cup
1. Boil Water
Fill a large pot with as much water you will need to cover your entire piece of fabric. Add two teaspoons of salt for every 4 cups of water that you use. The salt will help set the colors by allowing the pigment to stick to the fibers so that the colors won’t bleed later on.
Turn on your stove to high heat and bring the water to a boil. Then, you can remove the water from the heat.
2. Make The Tea
If you are using tea bags with paper labels and strings, you can cut away those strings. Then, add the tea bags to the hot water that you just boiled, and wait for at least 15 minutes for the tea to steep.
The longer you wait, the darker the tea will become. If you want the dye color to be a bit darker, you can wait for longer than 15 minutes until the color is dark enough for your liking.
After the color is achieved, you should remove the tea bags from the pot to prevent the tea from bleeding more into the dye water, which will turn the color darker while you dye your fabric.
3. Prepare Your Fabric
While waiting for the tea to steep, you can prepare your fabric. Your fabric should be washed before dyeing since any dirt, grease, or wax on the fabric can affect how the dye color will turn out.
Then, soak your fabric in clean water and wring out the excess. Your fabric should be wet but not dripping, which will allow the dye to work better without diluting the color.
If you want to create patterns for the dye, you should twist and fold the fabric in this step and use rubber bands to secure the fabric into a tight bun, similar to when you tie-dye a T-shirt.
The twist and fold and the rubber bands will naturally create light and dark patches on your fabric, which can be an interesting and unique pattern after dyeing.
4. Soak The Fabric In The Dye Water
After all the tea bags have been removed, you can place the damp fabric in the pot, making sure that it is completely submerged underwater.
If you want nice and even colors, you can use a wooden spoon to stir the pot around to allow the tea water to get into every little corner in the fabric, which will result in an even color.
Allow the fabric to soak in the tea for at least an hour or overnight. The longer you wait for this step, the darker the color will become. While you wait, make sure to check on the pot and stir the fabric around every hour to allow the tea to soak evenly into the fabric.
Note that the fabric will always look darker when it is wet, so when you see that the fabric is the color that you like, that doesn’t mean that the fabric will look like that when it is dry. If you like the color to be a bit darker, you should wait for a few more hours.
5. Set The Color
Fill a large pot with cold water and add a few drops of vinegar. The vinegar will help set the colors and prevent the colors from bleeding after drying.
Remove the fabric from the tea bath and wring out the excess liquid from the fabric. If you have used rubber bands in the previous step, you can remove all the rubber bands at this step.
Then, place the fabric in the cold water/vinegar bath and allow it to soak for about 10 minutes to let the colors set.
6. Rinse And Dry
After soaking the fabric in the vinegar bath, you can remove your fabric from the pot and wring out the excess water.
Then, you can rinse the fabric with clean water until the water runs clear. Many people prefer washing the fabric with soap at this point to remove any tea or vinegar smell, but this step is not required.
After rinsing, you can hang the fabric to air dry. Alternatively, you can also toss it in the dryer to dry (but make sure to dry it alone, or the color may still bleed on your other garments).
After drying, your dyeing process is complete. You can now use your tea-dyed fabric to make anything you’d like!
If you need a visual tutorial take a look at this one from Onyx Art Studios on YouTube!
Is Tea Dyeing Permanent?
Yes, tea dyeing is permanent. There’s a reason why tea stains are really difficult to remove; it is a highly effective and highly permanent colorant, especially for natural fabrics.
It goes without saying, but you should not bleach your tea-dyed fabric because the bleach can easily ruin the colors.
You can wash your fabric similarly to how you usually wash your natural fabrics, but keep in mind that the color may bleed during the first few washes, so you should keep your colors separate to prevent ruining your other garments.
Can You Dye Fabric With Anything Other Than Tea?
If this process gets you interested in experimenting with different natural dyes for your natural fabrics, you can try dyeing your fabric with other natural dyes as well, following a similar process.
Basically, any food or drinks that can stain your clothes can potentially become a natural dye—coffee, onion skins, red cabbage, beets, and turmeric, just to name a few examples.
If you are worried about how the colors will turn out, especially when it’s your first time dyeing with a natural colorant, you can always dye a swatch first to see how the color will look before dyeing the real thing.
This is a fun, environmentally-friendly way that you can dye natural fabrics at home without discarding chemicals into the environment. And better yet, the results are always one-of-a-kind!
Up Next: Dyeing Linen – Ultimate Guide