The best way to dye fabric with tea

Which is the best way to dye fabric with black tea?

Hi Creative Mamas! I am so excited to share with you how to achieve beautiful results with tea dyeing fabric! I want to show you this super easy and quick way to dye fabric with black tea.

It’s the easiest natural fabric dye to use 🙂

All you need is fabric and some tea bags. Black tea is one of my favorite dyes and it definitely has made it in my list of 40 plus natural dyes to try.

dyeing with tea

Tea Dyeing : What you need to know

The main reason why dyeing with black tea is so easy and fun is because tea naturally contains tannins which means that it will bond to the natural fibers without the assistance of a mordant.

You will normally go through a few steps before you can even dye your fabric as explained in this article.

But I am about to share a super quick hack to get amazing color from black tea and avoid a few long steps along the way 🙂

Dyeing fabric with tea is a super eco friendly process and a fun activity to share with the kids. You can also tea dye wool and roving and create beautiful knitting, crochet and felting projects!

You can also create an amazing bright color palette using other natural dyes. Find out which are the best natural dyes to use by completing the form below.


Complete the form below to download the FREE Natural Dyes List and learn which are the best dyes to use to create bright and lasting natural colors!

The best dyeing methods to use for dyeing fabric and wool with tea

My favorite dyeing methods to tea stain when dyeing with black tea are:

Is tea staining or dyeing permanent?

Yes! Its definitely permanent (colorfast). Just make sure that when you rinse your fabric the water is coming clear.

After that stage the dye should never bleed again and it will be there forever 🙂

What kind of tea do you use to dye fabric?

You must use back tea to dye fabric and yarn because it contains high levels of tannin. this means that the tannin acts as a mordant and you can tea dye without the use of mordants such as Alum.

How to tea dye fabric with tea Tutorial

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How to dye cotton fabric with tea

For this tutorial I will show you how to dye 100 % cotton which is a cellulose fiber. As with all natural dyeing processes you must use 100 % natural fibers to obtain best results. With a simple fabric burn test you can make sure that you have the appropriate fiber before you start the dyeing process. Click here to read how to quickly perform a fabric burn test.

Materials and Equipment:

You can follow this tutorial using these napkins or you can use any regular 100% cotton fabric. I love these napkins because I can give them away as presents!

Step 1: Tea dye

Fill a pot with hot water. Add 1 tablespoon of neutral PH soap and stir well. Place fabric inside the pot. Bring solution to a boil and boil the fabric for 1 hour until the water is yellow. Rinse well.

dye with black tea

Step 2: Tea Staining

Fill your dye pot with water and place the tea bags inside. I used 15 tea bags for this tutorial. Bring the liquid to a boil and let it go down to a simmer for 15 minutes minimum. Once you have a nice brown color you can place your wetted fabric inside the dye pot. Stir well and keep simmering for 1 hour.

dye  fabric with tea

The fabric will start to take the color little by little. You can leave it simmering for longer if you feel that the color is not intense enough.

Also remember that the color will look lighter once the fabric is dry.

dye  fabric with tea

You can also add more tea bags to the dye pot in case you really want to increase the dye intensity.

The dye bath will keep working for you as long as you keep the heat source going 🙂 Just play around and have fun!

dye  fabric with tea

Step 3: Removing the fabric from the tea dye

Once you are happy with the color intensity that has been achieved (in my case it took 1 hour of simmering) you can remove the cotton from the dye bath and rinse it well.

dye  fabric with tea

You want to make sure that you rinse until there is no color coming out. Tea dyeing is very easy because of the tannins in the tea. The fiber normally absorbs the tea dye really well.

dye  fabric with tea

The result of dyeing fabric with tea

dye  fabric with tea

How to achieve an antique look using tea staining to dye fabric

I use a little hack called “over dyeing” to change the color of my commercially dyed fabrics and threads as well as to change the tones of my antique laces, trims and doilies.

To learn how to give fabric a vintage look using black tea check out this tutorial.

dye  fabric with tea vintage look

Tie dye with tea dye

Using black tea dye for tie dyeing in a great idea! You can follow the exact same steps as I used when tie dyeing a t shirt using cochineal.

The good news is that you can avoid mordanting the fabric, but make sure your fabrics are scoured and totally clean :).

How to dye using tea or coffee with cold water

I also like to use the Solar Dyeing Method to dye with tea or coffee. It’s a fun process and super cool to share with the kids. Check it out here! There is no heat dye bath required!

solar dyeing

This method will allow you to extract the color little by little by using the sun as your heat source. It’s very cool because it means that you can make your dyeing jars and leave them alone for a couple of weeks.

The color will release little by little with no effort from your part. I love this method and I use it lot for smaller pieces of fabric scraps and for embroidery wool yarn.

I usually have 10 jars on the go at any one time.

For dyeing with tea I use black tea bags from the grocery store and for coffee I use the used ground coffee from my morning coffees. I buy regular English Breakfast tea bags.

How long to leave fabric in coffee?

When dyeing fabric with coffee I usually leave it for 3 weeks.

How long to leave fabric in tea?

When dyeing fabric or yarn with black tea bags I usually get excellent colorfast results within 1 week

Can you dye fabric without boiling?

Yes! You can dye fabric and yarn without boiling or simmering at hot temperatures by using the Solar Dyeing Method or the Cold Dyeing Method.

Are you interested in Natural Dyeing?

Check out our SHOP for all courses and resources about natural dyeing and eco printing!

Can you dye polyester using tea bags?

Unfortunately natural dyeing processes are only effective and permanent on natural fibers such as 100% cotton, linen, wool, silk, hemp, flax.

In order to know what kind of fiber you have make sure to perform a quick burn test. This test will tell you if the fiber is 100% natural and will save you a lot of time and frustration.

If you enjoy dyeing with things that you have around the house check out these articles:

How to fabric with onion skins

How to dye beautiful pinks with Avocado dyes

How to make natural black dye with acorns

Want to remember this? Save this tutorial to your favorite Pinterest Board!

pieces of old fabric being tea dyed inside a stainless steel pot

If you want to learn more exciting ways of naturally dyeing fabric or yarn check out this great way to print fabric with leaves as well as this great fabric printing activity for kids.

More fun creative fabric and wool crafts include quilt as you go tutorial using the tea dyed fabric scraps, creating fabulous pom poms, embroidery stitches and techniques and a great sewing tutorial to make your own socks!

All of these tutorials are great to use in combination with tea dyeing just make sure that the fiber is 100% natural and you will get great results.

I love dyeing silk with fabric dyes and tea makes a permanent fabric dye which is a beautiful rich brown (just lovely)!

How to upcycle old clothes with tea dye

Tea dye can also be the best dye for clothes if you are upcycling old jeans, shirts or t-shirts. Follow these steps:

  • Wash your old clothes (remove all dust and old stains)
  • Make sure your garments are all 100% natural fibers (you can do a burn test to make sure)
  • Prepare the tea dye solution
  • Immerse the clothes inside the dye solution. Leave it simmering for at least 1 hour
  • Rinse well until water runs clear
  • Dry well

10 thoughts on “The best way to dye fabric with tea”

  1. Hi there- What kind of soap do you use for the first part? Not familiar with PH neutral soaps… Thanks!

    • Hey there! PH Neutral means that the ph is 7 which is right in the middle. The scale goes from 0 to 14. Right in the middle is 7 and that’s why we refer to it as neutral. Anything below 7 is acidic. And anything above 7 is considered alkaline. Hope this make sense. The idea is not to affect the fabric by making it more alkaline or acedic. I have linked to an amazon example in the materials list for your reference.

  2. If you are using the boiling tea method for dying would you reduce the amount of tea bags and the time in the pot boiling? Thank you!

    • Hi Christina, thanks for your question. Due to the fact that we are not mordanting the fabric, I would always use a fair amount of tea and make sure you still simmer for 1 hour. Hope this helps! Cheers

    • Hi Grace, thanks for your question. Is this 100% cotton or linen or a natural fiber? When using natural dyes such as tea you need to create a dye bath by boiling the tea and then once the dye is extracted you need to immerse the fabric inside a hot dye bath. So I am afraid this methos is not for the washing machine… also for a bedspread make sure that you use a big enough pot to immerse the fabric 🙂 Hope this helps cheers Victoria

  3. Hi! Love your posts.

    I’m new to dyeing. Why do we have to boil in a neutral PH soap? What would happen if we skip this step?


  4. Thank you for this post. had to dye some trim for granddaughters quilt and couldn’t find exactly the right color in cotton. Turned out perfect!


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