How to Tea Stain Fabric

Items Neeeded for Tea Staining

Items Neeeded for Tea Staining

Someone tea stained a dress they were wearing at a party 5+ years ago and it was something that stuck with me.  I wanted to try it, but never had an application for it.  FINALLY, I do.

Items Needed to Tea Stain Fabric:

  • Fabric
  • Tea
  • Water
  • Pot (will need to be large enough for fabric and water)
  • Mild Dish Soap
  • Vinegar

When selecting the fabric you would like to stain, keep in mind that tea staining works best on natural fabrics like cotton, wool, muslin or linen. ‘Fabric’ also don’t have to be in bolts. It can be a white shirt, dress, etc.

I am using the standard black tea to get an soft brown/cream color.  Different types of teas will result in different tints and tones.  Herbal teas leave more of a red tone; green tea a slightly greenish or yellowish stain; oolong tea slightly more orange. You can also use coffee (instant or brewed) to get similar color results as (black) tea staining.  Regardless of your method, depending on the fabric, the stain will vary.

OberBargain Tip:  Test a sample fabric first before deciding to dye a dress, lampshade, etc.  If an item is ruined, it is not a bargain.



1. Before you can get to the staining part, you need to first make sure the selected fabric is clean.

  • If new, you will need to wash it first to ensure all the chemicals from the manufacturing process are removed.  As I learned from a test piece, if clothing isn’t thoroughly washed/bleached hidden stains will show up.  If the item needs to be washed first, no need to dry it as it is only going to get wet.
  • If the fabric is dry, soak fabric in cool water for a few minutes and squeeze dry.
Making Tea for Staining

Making Tea for Staining

2. Pour water into the pot (4 cups of water per yard of fabric, plus a little so the fabric can be stirred) and bring to a boil.

3. Add your tea bags (one tea bag for each cup of water).  Turn off the heat and let the tea bags seep for about 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Remove tea bags from water and add dampened fabric to the pot.

  • I removed the tea bags as I was looking for an even dye.  Keep them in for mixed areas of lighter and darker shading.
  • Let fabric sit for at least 5 minutes.  Make sure to stir to allow the tea stain get into the folds of the fabric. I let my fabric sit for 15 minutes.  The longer you let the fabric sit, the darker the stain will be.  As you are deciding what color you want your fabric, keep in mind, the stain will dry to a slightly lighter shade than it currently appears.
Fabric After 15 Minutes in Tea Stain

Fabric After 15 Minutes in Tea Stain


5. Once the fabric has obtained the desired color, remove from the tea stain and rinse it throughly in warm water and a little dish soap.

  • The soap is to remove the acid from the tea that would damage the fabric if left on.
  • If your ‘fabric’ is a piece of clothing or something you will want to wash, also rinse with vinegar to set the dye.  Vinegar can be diluted up to one part in ten in water for larger items.

6. Either hang dry or place the tea stained item in the dryer.

  • If you use the dryer, you may need to wipe out the dryer afterwards to remove any residue and protect your next load of laundry from a tea stain.

Clothing that has been tea stained, set with vinegar and dried, can be treated like any other piece of clothing. If washed with lighter clothing, there is a chance they might become dingy, particularly the first few washes. Do not bleach.  In time and after numerous washes, the stain will lighten.

Completed Tea Stain with Original White Fabric

Completed Tea Stain with Original White Fabric


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