Tea Dyeing

Some weeks ago I spilled a cup of tea down the front of my favourite white dress. This was hardly surprising as (a) I am clumsy, and (b) my previous few drinks had been alcoholic. Well, that will teach me won’t it? Actually no, it probably won’t.

Then I remembered reading about dyeing fabric using tea bags. I decided to give it a try. Because all my best ideas come when I’m inebriated.

I began by testing small samples of cotton crochet fabric. The results were so impressive that I eagerly moved onto larger pieces. Thankfully, I was sober at the time so I even remember how I did it, and can share it with you.


how to dye fabric with tea

You will need:

  • 100 tea bags, I used ‘fair trade’ black tea
  • 500g salt
  • A pot large enough for the fabric to move freely
  • Large spoon or thongs to stir
  • Up to 500g dry fabric, natural fibers work best eg. cotton, wool, silk


  1. Wash the fabric first to remove any manufacturer’s chemicals which may interfere with the dyeing process. I recommend experimenting with small swatches first.
  2. Fill pot with water.
  3. Simmer tea bags with salt for 30 mins.
  4. Turn off the heat.
  5. Remove tea bags from the pot.
  6. Add fabric to the pot. The fabric must be damp first, to eliminate air pockets.
  7. Soak fabric for up to one hour, depending on the desired shade. Stir every few minutes so the fabric takes the colour evenly.
  8. Rinse in cold water.

how to dye fabric with tea

Depending on what kind of tea you use the colour will vary from honey tones to a milky coffee colour. The colours will be muted and echo the plants from which they were derived.

The simmering, giant pot of tea made my house smell of deliciousness. I dipped my mug into the dye bath for a taste, but forgot about the salt. Eew.

Many recipes I found claimed that salt is not necessary, as tea contains it’s own mordant (fixing agent which binds the colour to the fabric). However, through experimentation I have found that salt gives a more permanent, colourfast result.

It is important that you wash your tea-dyed fabric/garments separately in cold water. Use a mild soap, as modern detergents are designed to remove tea stains.

Dyeing with tea is a sustainable alternative to modern synthetic dyes. In our continual quest to be greener, this month we have included a few tea-dyed dresses in our Kitsch Bitsch store.

Vintage tea-dyed cotton crochet lace maxi dress

Vintage tea-dyed cotton crochet lace maxi dress


Vintage 50s-style tea-dyed cotton lace wedding cocktail dress

Vintage 50s-style tea-dyed cotton lace wedding cocktail dress

Vintage tea-dyed cotton crochet lace mini dress

Vintage tea-dyed cotton crochet lace mini dress

I have been searching for sustainable dyes to use in our business and the answer was right there in front of me.

If you have any questions about tea dyeing I am happy to answer them in the comments section below, or you can email me at: kitsch-bitsch@optusnet.com.au

The original tea-stain never came out of my white dress, but I salvaged it by adding it to the tea dye bath.

Sometimes the problem can be the solution.


22 thoughts on “Tea Dyeing

  1. Hi there, I am wondering what type of tea your used to dye the above three dresses? I am looking to obtain a similar colour for my bridesmaid dresses :) Thanks!

    1. Hi Jessica,
      I used black tea, I can’t remember the brand. Try experimenting with different teas with small swatches of cotton. Good luck!

  2. I want tea dye a bright orange rag rug so that I can use it as a wall hanging. I want to tone the orange down its just too harsh and pumpkin color. Any ideas and suggestions would be helpful the texture and movement and shape of the design would be wonderful on the wall. Thank you.

  3. I want to dye a white veil ivory, Can you give me any tips or hints when using net and tea dye? Its my Mums wedding veil so I want to be sure it will work. I will try a sample piece for net first.

  4. I have an ecru crochet tablecloth from my grandmother that has yellow stains from years of use. I’ve tried washing and soaking with little results. Will tea dyeing blend the colors into a more uniform color?

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