Dye Fabric with Tea

My Tea-Dye Experience

I wanted to do one last fun summer project before the cold weather of fall really starts to hit. Since I love the experience of tie dye and I love our tea, I decided to combine my favorite things! Dying fabric with tea is super fun and smells amazing! Unlike standard dyes, tea results in gentle pastel colors for a softer look.

When I started researching for this project, the guides I found for using tea as a dye were interesting, but didn’t seem very fun. The method was always to dump a bunch of loose leaf into a bowl of boiling water, stick the fabric in, and then leave it to soak. While this seemed to be effective, where is the classic tie dye experience in that? My favorite part of tie dye is the little squeeze bottles filled with multiple colors. I like how involved the process is, squeezing out a different color of dye into each section, and deciding how to make every shirt different.

So I set out to try dying fabric with tea in a new way! Using Piper & Leaf’s favorite brewing method. You guessed it: Concentrated Tea! What can I say? It’s just so versatile.

Alright, let’s get to it! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Fabric (white cotton is best)
  • Rubber bands
  • Squeeze bottles
  • Large zip-top bag
  • Concentrated Tea*

*Some tea blends stain better than others! Black tea is best for a bolder, darker color. Green & oolong teas typically will leave a very light stain. You can also use herbal blends or tisanes to stain your fabric!

When you dye fabric with tea, there are a lot of different colors you can obtain. But only if you use the right blends! Strong hibiscus will leave you with a pale pink or purple, turmeric gives a yellow stain, and butterfly pea flowers can result in a very light blue. However, most of these colors don’t hold as well as the black tea! Experiment with different options but remember that black tea will always leave the most consistently bold results.

Tea-Dyeing Instructions

1. Grab the fabric you want to dye! Cotton will work best, so I grabbed a plain white cotton tee. Make sure your fabric is clean (i.e. pre-wash it) and dry! Typically with regular dyes (classic tie dye) you start with wet fabric but I discovered the fabric held the tea color better if I started with a dry shirt.

2. Roll it up and tie rubber bands around it, just like you would for tie dye! There are lots of different patterns you can use for this, but I prefer the classic swirl. For the swirl, you will want to pinch the center of the shirt. To find this, center your hand on the collar and move down until you are just under the sleeves/armpit of the shirt. Pinch the fabric there and twist your hand so it swirls around in a circle! Keep doing this until you have a compact roll and then place criss-crossing rubber bands to hold the fabric tight. Arrange the rubber bands so the roll of cloth is separated into approximately even-sized slices.

3. Apply the concentrated tea to Tea Dye!! Using your squeeze bottles, soak each slice of fabric with concentrated tea and then flip over the shirt to do the same on the back. You will want to do this until the shirt is completely soaked through. When I did this, I used about 3-4 ounces of three different blends to color the shirt! So 9-12 ounces total of concentrated tea. The more you use, the darker the stain will be (but don’t use so much that tea is seeping out! That will result in splotchy colors.

4. Once you’re done coloring the shirt, seal it in a large zip-top bag! Get as much air out of the bag as possible before sealing, but be careful not to squeeze the fabric.

5. Now just let it sit so the tea can work its magic! You will want to leave the fabric for at least 8 hours. That said, the longer you leave it, the bolder the colors will be! I left mine alone for a full day before moving on to the next step.

6. Remove the rubber bands, unravel the fabric, and rinse it thoroughly with cold water. Then hang it to dry. Note that the colors will fade a bit after the rinse and dry. Once it’s dried, enjoy your lovely tea dyed fabric. You did it!

Be sure to hand-wash only and your tea-dye should last a long time!

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