Disclaimer: This post does not include any affiliate links.
Tea stain is a great chemical free way to dye both fabric and paper. It creates a timeworn patina usually only found in antique fabric. Tea stain is perfect for turning brand new linens into treasured family heirlooms by giving any crisp, white fabric an instant aged look. Keep reading to discover everything you’ll ever need to know about tea staining!
The first and most important step is selecting the right fabric. Tea stain works best on natural linens, especially muslin. Cotton fabrics are a little bit more difficult, and it does not work at all on synthetic fibers. It shows up best on light colored fabrics. I recommend using white doilies or white muslin fabric. When dying, use only small amounts of fabric because this makes it easier for the dye to be absorbed.
Which Tea to Use?
Different types of teas each have their own hue, such as a slight orange tint found in Orange Peeko. Black tea works the best for an old fashioned antique patina. Hibiscus tea gives a reddish tint. Green Tea is too light to use for dying. Coffee can be dripped onto tea stained items for an extra antiqued look.
Tea Hues Simplified:
- Orange: Orange Peeko Tea
- Red: Hibiscus Berry Tea
- Brown: Irish Breakfast (or any type of black tea)
How to Tea Stain
Before beginning, wash and dry your fabric. Always test the dye on a small patch of fabric before submersing your whole piece. Wet the fabric thoroughly and wring out the excess water before immersing in the tea stain. Be sure to move the fabric around often to avoid crease lines in the finished product.
The most common recipe for tea stain is one tea bag per cup of water. Or use premade tea stain. The more concentrated you make your tea (more tea bags and less water) the darker your fabric will be. A little bit of vinegar can be added to help set the stain color. Check fabric every 10 minutes to make sure the color is the shade you desire.
Most fabrics and paper should be soaked for 30 minutes; the time can be adjusted to change the hue with less time for a lighter stain and more time for a darker patina. The longer you soak the item, the darker it will become. Fabric that isn’t dark enough with the first soaking can be dried and then soaked a second time to achieve a darker stain. Stained fabric is darker when wet, and gets lighter as it dries. Tea can destroy fabric fibers, so rinse well after dying. Then wash your fabric in soapy water to remove any leftover residue.
Using Tea Stain on Paper
Use a sponge to dab tea stain on paper for a patterned effect or, to add an aged look, crumple up paper for a nice tea stain pattern. Paper can also be submerged in tea stain and then quickly removed. Place the paper between paper towels to absorb the extra moisture and place a book on top to keep it from curling up as it dries.
More Tea Stain Ideas
In addition to dying fabric, there are many other uses for tea stain. I’ve compiled a small list of ideas to help inspire your next project!
- Antique Booth Price Tags
- White Clothing
- Scrapbook Paper
- Easter Eggs
- Paper Doilies
- Lampshades (brush it on using a sponge brush)
- Wedding Invitation Envelopes
- Sheet Music
Tea Stain Tips
To achieve the best results on your next design, just remember the following:
- Use white muslin fabric
- Test dye a small patch of fabric first
- Try one cup of tea and one cup of water
- Check your fabric every 10 min
- Be sure and wash fabric with soap and water when finished
- Drip coffee on fabric for an antique look
- Check paper often and don’t leave it in tea stain too long
How do you use tea stain? I’m curious to hear about your latest projects!