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How to Tea Dye Fabric

Dyeing fabric with tea is a craft that goes back hundreds of years. Botanical dyes like the dyes created from tea and other plants are some of the oldest ways people have traditionally decorated their clothing, quilts, and other fabric accessories. 

Fabric is dyed with tea by steeping the tea in hot water, then soaking the fabric until it takes up the color of the tea. After dyeing the fabric is dried so the tea stain is allowed to set in. Tea dyed fabrics should not be laundered with chemical detergents to preserve their color. 

Tea dyeing fabrics is one of the easiest fabric-based crafts you can get into, even if you’ve never worked with fabric dyeing before. Read on to learn more about this fabric craft and how to tea dye your fabrics. 

How Do You Dye Fabric With Tea?

The process of dyeing fabric with tea is simple enough to be done with kids or beginners who have never worked with dyes before. Here are the supplies you need to get together to do a tea dyeing project: 

  • Cloth: Several types of cloth can work well for tea dyeing, but white cotton fabric is a popular choice because it takes the tea stain well. I’ve had really good luck with a simple muslin as well.
  • Tea bags: Black tea is a popular type of tea bags for dyeing fabric, but you can also use other types of tea such as matcha tea for a green shade of dye or butterfly pea tea for a blue dye.
  • Pot: You need a large metal or clay pot for soaking your fabric in the tea stain. Since you’re only using organic edible substances, you’re fine to use a regular cooking pot or stock pot for your tea stain.
  • Spoon: You’ll need a stirring spoon to stir the fabric in the tea solution so that it stains evenly. Either a wooden or metal spoon is good for this purpose.
  • Stove: The tea stain is created by brewing a big pot of tea on the stovetop before adding your fabric and submerging it. 

As long as you have these supplies, you have everything you need to tea-dye your fabric. Optionally, you can include iodized salt and white vinegar for dye setting purposes. You’ll also want to have a place set aside where you can hang your fabric out to dry. 

Why Tea Dye Fabric? 

There are several reasons why you might want to use tea to dye fabric rather than synthetic dyes. Here are just a few reasons why you might want to try using tea as a fabric dye: 

  • Soft colors: Unlike synthetic dyes which can give fabrics a saturated and artificial feel, tea dyes lend fabric a muted shade that looks pretty with many different kinds of fabric projects, especially those that have a vintage feel.
  • Inexpensive: Tea is a much cheaper alternative to buying commercial dyes for dyeing fabric. It’s even more inexpensive if you already have tea bags around the house.
  • Organic: Tea is an organic, non-toxic dye that is less likely to cause an allergic reaction than synthetic dyes. It’s also completely safe for children to handle since they can’t be hurt from accidentally drinking the tea.
  • Subtle look: A light tea stain doesn’t add a dramatic difference to the color of your fabric, which makes it a solid option for a more nuanced and sophisticated result.

The supplies to do a tea dye are inexpensive and many of them can probably be found in your household already. This is a great excuse to try a tea dyeing project at home. 

Is Tea Dyeing Fabric Permanent?

Tea dyeing a fabric is a permanent, or colorfast, method of dyeing fabric. This means that once you’ve stained the fabric with tea, the color shouldn’t come out. 

Keep in mind when you’re tea dyeing fabric that a lot of the tea will rinse out when you’re rinsing and hanging the fabric to dry. If you want a deep tea stain, you’ll need to use lots of tea bags and let the fabric soak overnight for a rich shade of tan.

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Tips for Adding Tea Dye to Fabric

Tea dyeing fabric is already a pretty easy process, but there are a few hints you can take to heart that will make the project even simpler to pull off. Follow these tips for a good result in your tea dyeing project: 

  • Use vinegar and salt to help set the dye. Add two parts white vinegar to one part water in your tea dyeing solution and include two tablespoons of salt to make sure that the dye sets in completely. According to Quilters Review, his will result in a darker dye result.
  • Tie fabric in bunches before dyeing. This method will give your finished product a soft monochromatic tie-dyed look.
  • Let the dye set before rinsing. Rinsing out your tea-dyed fabric will remove some of the color that’s set in the fabric, so let the fabric soak overnight to ensure a deep shade.
  • Add turmeric for a golden look. Adding some turmeric to your tea solution will give the tea stain a beautiful yellow undertone.
  • Experiment with different types of teas. Black tea is the most popular type for tea-dyeing projects, but you can also berry tisanes and other herbal teas for varying shades of blue, green, pink, and purple. 

Half of the fun with tea dyeing is playing around with different ideas, so don’t be afraid to try new things. The process is easy enough that you should end up with a good result even on your first dye project if you choose a fabric that takes dye well. 

Can You Launder Tea Dyed Fabric? 

Tea-dyed fabric can be laundered somewhat, but you can’t put these delicate dye jobs in the regular wash. Chemical detergents are designed to get out food stains like tea, and using a regular laundry detergent on your tea-dyed fabric wil lift almost all of the color out of it.

Instead, if you want to wash the tea fragrance out of your dyed fabric, simply wash the fabric gently in the sink with some color-protective Woolite and cool water. This will help protect the color and remove some of the tea fragrance from the fabric at the same time.  

Tea Dyeing Fabric is a Time-Honored Art

Even if you’ve never dyed fabric in your life, dyeing fabric with tea is a homespun craft that anybody can get into as long as you have the basic supplies on hand. If you want to tea dye paper, check out this post on how to tea stain paper for the easy tutorial.

This inexpensive project is the perfect way to create some homecrafted gifts or just amuse yourself on a rainy afternoon.  If you’re looking for a Christmas gift for a tea lover, why not tea dye some fabric and create something special!

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