How to Stain with Used Tea Bags

Using Used Tea Bags to Stain Wood

If woodworking is your hobby, have you ever thought about using tea to stain your finished furniture piece or picture frame? You can, as long as the wood is unfinished. Wood with finishes or treatments from previous chemical staining will not be able to absorb the tea stain. So if you want to stain with tea, you will need to work with raw wood.

Some raw wood, especially light-colored wood such as pine, lacks tannin. As you learned earlier in this article, black tea contains tannins, which can help darken wood. By applying a tea mixture to raw wood surfaces, the tannins can enhance the wood's color and depth.


But before you begin staining your wood with tea, you will need to make iron acetate, which will react with the tannins in the tea mixture to stain the wood. To create iron acetate, soak a piece of steel wool in a solution of vinegar and water in a covered jar for two to three days [sources: McNamara, Organic Gardening].

When the iron acetate is ready, you can create your tea mixture and begin the staining process. Boil some water and pour it over enough black tea bags to make a very strong tea. Allow the bags to steep for at least an hour. When the tea mixture has cooled, apply it with a paintbrush and let it soak into the wood. After a few minutes, use a lint-free cloth to sop up any excess liquid [source: Organic Gardening].

After you have applied the tea mixture, apply the iron acetate. Remove the lid from the jar and use a paintbrush to apply the iron acetate to the wood with even strokes. The iron acetate will react with the tannins in the tea stain and make the wood darker. When the wood is dry, use a fine or very fine grit sand paper to sand the surface of the wood. Remove any dust or debris from the wood and then oil the surface or coat it with a wax finish [source: Organic Gardening].

From woodworking projects to sewing and paper crafting, tea staining is a versatile technique you can use to add rustic charm to your projects.

For more creative crafting projects, visit the links below.

Teabag Stain FAQ

How do you dye fabric with tea?
Brew tea in by pouring boiling water over the tea bags in a large bowl. Let the water cool down to a warm temperature and remove the tea bags. Next, run the piece of fabric or clothing under warm water. Squeeze out the excess water and immerse the fabric in the tea. Stir the fabric with a wooden spoon to avoid wrinkling and to saturate every part of the fabric with tea. If the fabric wrinkles, it will result in odd staining patterns on the fabric. Soak the fabric for a few hours, or until it reaches a desired color. When the fabric appears ready, remove it from the tea bath and rinse it in a solution of warm water mixed with a dab of dish soap.
Can you write on tea stained paper?
It's best to write on paper before you stain it with tea.
How do you tea stain paper to make it look old?
Begin by brewing a batch of tea. Soak three bags of black tea in two cups of warm water. When the tea is ready, apply it by dabbing the paper with the tea bag or by dipping a paintbrush into the tea and brushing it onto the paper. You can also fill a shallow pan with the tea and soak the entire piece of paper in it. After you have stained the paper to the desired color, set it out to dry. Put a pane of glass or a nylon screen on top of the paper so it will dry flat.
How do you make paper look old with ink on it?
You can give a piece of paper an aged look by using tea. Staining paper with tea is inexpensive and versatile because it allows you to experiment with different shades of stain on different types of paper using materials you already have at home. All you need are some tea bags and water to transform your existing paper into something unique.
How do you make stained paper look old?
If you're staining your paper with tea, you can use a fork to remove the straight edges of the paper. Be gentle, as the damp paper will be fragile. The ragged results will make your paper look even more aged and antiquated.
Related HowStuffWorks Links
  • Aisling. "Tea Staining Your Art Journal Pages." 2005. (Accessed 4/14/09)
  • Martin, Gene. "Cabinet Construction." Immune Web. 6/97. (Accessed 4/14/09)
  • McNamara, Jim. "Staining Blotch-Prone Woods and Endgrain." The Woodworker's Gazette. 7/19/99. (Accessed 4/15/09)
  • Organic Gardening. "Staining Wood with Tea & Vinegar." (Accessed 4/14/09),7518,s-4-55-457,00.html
  • Shaigany, Sheila. "5 Reuses for: Tea Bags." Planet Green. 10/14/08. (Accessed 4/14/09)
  • Spatone, Susan. "Tea Staining Fabric." Craft At Home. (Accessed 4/14/09)
  • Spatone, Susan. "Tea Stain Paper." Craft At Home. (Accessed 4/14/09)
  • Stitching Cow. "How to Tea Dye Fabric." (Accessed 4/14/09)
  • Encyclopædia Britannica. "tannin." Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2009. (Accessed 4/20/09)
  • Encyclopædia Britannica. "tea." Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2009. (Accessed 4/20/09)