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How to Tea Stain Fabric

Would you like to give your fabric a natural vintage look? Well, tea staining is the best all-natural fabric dying method that will transform your material into a rich vintage colour.

Tea staining can be a fun DIY project that you will enjoy, and not to mention an inexpensive way to naturally dye your fabric (Who wouldn’t love this?!).

Here is everything that you need to know about how to tea stain your fabric.

Types of Fabrics that are suitable for Tea Staining

Tea staining will not work with any synthetic fabrics. This natural dying process works best on all-natural fibres fabrics such as:

  • Wool 
  • Linen
  • Silk
  • Cotton

What is Tea Staining?

When you were a kid, did you ever use tea or coffee to stain paper to give it that pirate or antique look? Well, tea staining is very similar to that… just with fabric.

Tea staining fabric is a simple and non-toxic fabric dyeing technique (Amazing!). Tea staining fabric can also be great when you need to hide slight stains on fabrics.

With tea staining, you can choose how deep a colour you would like your fabric to be. This will vary with the amount of tea bags you add and how long you decide to soak your fabric.

The Type of Tea to Use

The type of tea that you choose to stain your fabric with will affect the fabric’s colour. Traditionally, black tea bags are used for tea staining fabric as they produce a rich deep shade for the material. Tea such as green tea, white tea, or hibiscus tea will not produce as dark of colour on your fabric compared to black tea.

Loose tea can also be used to stain fabric, but this can be a lot messier. This is why tea bags are much more convenient. However, as this is a creative activity, you can always try both types of tea and find the one that works best for you.

Are you unsure about the teabag that you have chosen to tea stain your fabric with?

A good idea would be to soak a small piece of your fabric in the tea solution. This will show you the actual colour to help you decide if your chosen tea is the right one. This trick will also give you a reasonable estimation of how long you need to soak your fabric.

What do you need to Tea Stain Fabric:

  1. Your natural fibre fabric.
  2. Boiling water – for every yard of fabric, you will need four cups of boiling water. 
  3. Teabags – for every cup of water, add two tea bags. 
  4. Coldwater – to rinse your material.
  5. You will also need a larger pot or container to dye your fabric in as well as a spoon or tongs.

Simple Steps for Tea Staining Fabric

Step 1

The first step is to boil your water simply, and once you have brought it to a boil, you can then go ahead and add your teabags. (Please make sure that all tags on the teabags have been cut off before adding it to the boiling water.)

Step 2

Leave the tea bags in to soak in the boiling water for approximately 5 to 10 minutes until reaching your desired colour. Once your desired colour has been reached, you can squeeze the tea bags and remove the tea bags from the water.

Step 3

The next step will be to prepare your fabric for tea staining. You can do this by wetting your fabric. Soaking your fabric before you begin the tea staining fabric process ensures that colour will hold on to your material better. (Now that’s a great tip!)

Step 4

You can then go ahead and add your fabric to the tea-soaked water, making sure that the entire material is submerged completely under the water. You will need to leave your fabric to soak, but it is often essential to stir the fabric. (Stirring and moving your material around in the tea solution ensures the tea stain is consistent on your material.)

Step 5

You can soak your fabric in the tea solution for 15 minutes, a few hours, or even overnight. This will just depend on how deep of a colour you want your material to be. Once your fabric has soaked for long enough. And has stained into the deep colour that you are happy with, you can then remove it from the tea-soaked water and rinse the fabric under cold water.

When rinsing your fabric, you will notice that the material colour may become lighter as the tea is being rinsed out. If you would like your fabric to be darker, you can always go back and let your fabric soak for longer in the solution.

Step 6

Now it is time to make the tea-stained setting solution! All you need is to mix ¼ cups of vinegar, ¾ water, and two tablespoons of salt. Place your tea-stained fabric in this solution allowing it to soak for 15 minutes.

Step 7

The final step is to simply rinse your tea-stained fabric well and pop it in the dryer. Once it is dried, you can press it using an iron.

There you have it! You have your own naturally dyed, tea-stained fabric! Yes, it was that simple to give your material a beautiful antique look.

Unhappy with the results?

Oh no! Are you unhappy with the results of tea staining your fabric? Don’t worry about it. We can fix this. All you need to do is rinse the fabric with a bit of bleach in the washing machine, and your fabric should be back to its original colour. (Don’t try this on older fabrics as the bleach may damage the fabric.)

Pros of tea-staining your fabric:

  • Non-toxic method of dying your fabric.
  • It will not have a ‘chemical smell’ after staining the fabric, unlike standard fabric dyes. 
  • This is a much safer method of dying your fabric. (There is less risk of having an allergic reaction like you may have when dying fabrics with chemical dyes.)
  • It is an in-expensive process of dying your fabric.
  • You have control of how dark you want the colour of your fabric to be.
  • Tea staining can hide unwanted stains.

Cons of tea-staining your fabric:

  • The colour of the fabric can be uneven, and there may be spots of colour.
  • The colour can fade after each wash. 
  • It may be difficult to tea stain large pieces of fabric.

Tea Staining and Quilting

We recommend tea-staining pieces of the quilt rather than tea-staining the whole quilt once it has been completed. It is also essential that you make sure you wash your pieces of fabric before you begin the tea staining process to prevent the shrinking of the material.

Once your quilting fabric pieces have been washed and preshrunk, you can then begin the simple 7 step tea-staining process mentioned above.

After each quilt piece fabric material has been tea stained, you can go ahead and piece your tea-stained fabric pieces together to make a quilt. We have tons of quilting tips right here. Feel free to check them out!

Tea Staining Fabric Tips

  1. You should tea stain natural fabrics that are light in colour (white, cream, and ivory) to ensure that the tea stain can be seen on the fabric. If you tea stain darker fabric colours, this would not work out very well because the tea stain will not be visible.

  2. Remember that the number of teabags will vary based on how large your fabric is and how deep you would like the colour to be. If you have a larger piece of fabric and want to achieve a rich colour, you will need to use more tea bags.

  3. When your fabric is soaking in the tea solution, make sure to stir it many times to get an even tea-stained fabric without spots.

  4. When washing your tea-stained fabric, make sure that you don’t wash it with a detergent that does not remove tea stains, as most ordinary detergents will remove the tea stain from the fabric because they are designed to do this.

  5. If you notice that your tea-stained fabric is starting to fade in colour, you can always repeat the tea staining process to get it back to the colour that you love!

  6. Keep in mind. It is best to tea stain fabric that does not need to be washed often. If you choose to tea stain an item that needs to be washed regularly, the colour will fade after each wash.

In conclusion, tea-staining your light-coloured fabric is a simple process. All it takes is 7 easy steps to turn your simple fabric into a rich vintage colour.

Tea staining is a good alternative for dying fabrics without using toxic chemicals found in most fabric dyes. Fabrics that you choose to tea stain need to be natural and items that you would not need to wash regularly. When tea staining quilting fabrics, always make sure to prewash your fabric to avoid shrinkage after the item has been tea stained!

There are tons of tips and different methods of tea staining. We hope that this is the one that works the best for you!

Good luck, and have fun tea staining your fabrics! If you are deciding which quilt fabric to use for your project, then read: How to Choose the Best Fabric for a Quilt.

Mea Cadwell

Saturday 30th of April 2022

Just a note - while coffee and tea can be used for dying/staining fabric, the tannins in both weaken fibers so it can reduce the lifespan of the fabric over time.