In our household, Iron Buddha Tea (or Tie Guan Yin) is a regular favorite. With regular consumption, tea contains important anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants. Iron Buddha Tea is actually one of the most expensive teas in the world. It takes more effort to produce and only a few vendors cultivate this type of oolong tea. I hate wasting a drop, and I hate throwing away the brewed tea leaves/tea bags too. Naturally, this made me wonder, well, what can I do to minimize waste and how can I squeeze more life out of these used tea bags? Check out these amazing 50-something things you can do with your used tea bags from beauty, gardening, to cooking!
What Is a Tea Bag Made Of?
In general, a tea bag is a sealed packet of dried tea leaves which can either be made of whole-leaf tea or shredded tea leaves. Although the mesh in the bag is usually non-biodegradable, the tea leaves inside can be used for a lot of things.
Is It Safe To Re-use Tea Bags?
Reusing tea bags is usually safe unless you’re doing sun tea and you’re not experienced to do so. You might risk getting yourself or other people poisoned because of wrong preparation. Sun teas are made by using the sun’s heat instead of brewing the tea in the conventional matter. However, if the heat is not enough to steep the tea (usually from 170 to 200 degrees), bacteria growth might lead to poisoning.
How To Properly Store Tea Bags
In most applications, you’ll need to use the used tea leaves dry. But for storing tea bags, you should put water on it, enough to keep it moist. Keep it in a jar or cup and store it in the refrigerator. This is to minimize the chance of mold and bacteria growing in the tea leaves. Check your tea dust once in a while for funky smell or discoloration. If it looks and smells bad, throw it away.
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59 Things You Can Do With Used Tea Leaves
For Beauty Remedies
1. Hydrating Dry Skin
Don’t you just hate it when you have those itchy patches of dry skin? With used tea bags, you can refresh your skin in no time. All you have to do is to re-brew the used tea bag, cool it down, and spray it in the area affected.
2. Restoring Hair Shine
Re-brew the used tea bags and let it cool down. Use the rebrewed tea by pouring it in your hair and leaving it for ten minutes before showering. This trick has been used in ancient times to give women smoother and shinier hair. Depending on what your exact hair needs are, you can read about the types of teas that have different hair benefits.
3. Reducing Dark Circles
If you want to reduce the puffiness in your eyes, a quick frugal fix is reusing old teabags. Refrigerate the tea bags if you want to use it as a cold compress good for anything from mild eye irritations, dark circles, puffy eyes, to minor eye injuries. For a warm compress, let it cool down to room temperature level. Just make sure that all the excess liquid is squeezed out first.
4. Tea for Body Scrub
Body scrubs are so easy to DIY, you don’t have to pay $30 for a tub. DIY tea body scrubs are a natural and frugal alternative trick to add to your skincare routine. Dear Crissy’s tea scrub recipe for a body scrub only needs two bags of green tea bags, sugar, and melted coconut oil.
5. Eliminating Bad Breath
Tea leaves are known to be effective at eliminating odors. In fact, according to a study from Kashan University, gree tea mouthwash can actually reduce plaque and gingivitis. If you want to make a tea-based mouth wash, steep your used tea bags, combine with some baking soda, and let it cool down.
6. DIY Tea Face Scrub
Used tea leaves are still rich with antioxidants and TLC “good stuff” (tartaric, lactic, and citric acid). Pop up a used tea bag, mix it with honey, and gently rub the mixture in your skin. Let it sit in your skin for five minutes and then rinse off properly. You can check out a more detailed detox recipe here.
7. Revitalize Dry Hair
If your hair is damaged or turning gray, its time to do a hair revamp. Graying hair is caused by follicles dying. To make it dark again, steep three used tea bags and one tablespoon of rosemary on it. Let it rest overnight before straining the content. Spray the mixture after shampooing.
8. DIY Face Mist
If you add hydrating elements to tea’s antioxidants, you can create a great face mist. To make one, steep your used green tea bags and add your favorite essential oils, jojoba oil, and water to a spritz bottle – that’s it!
9. Smooth Your Chapped Lips
Dry lips are an annoying problem during winter and cold weather days. Chapstick can only do so much to prevent drying out, but it doesn’t add moisture. And if you’re unfortunate like me to be allergic to chapstick… After you use your tea bags, place it onto your lips directly. This will help moisturize your lips and plump them back up.
10. Tea & Henna Hair Dye
If you want a temporary, all-natural hair dye, you can use henna with black tea for a black dye. It’s temporary, but it gets the job done at a cheap price.
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For Practical Household Uses
1. Easy Carpet Cleaning
Carpets are prone to dirt and unpleasant odors. To freshen up your carpet, all you have to do is to dry out used tea bags and baking soda. Mix the two ingredients and sprinkle it in the bad spot. Leave the mixture for 20 minutes before vacuuming the area.
2. Revive Old Wood Furniture
Do you have a woodworking restoration project? You can use tea bags to polish your work without spending too much money. Re-steep used tea bags and use soft wag to polish the wood surface.
3. Eliminating Odor
Like charcoal, tea leaves are known to reduce or eliminate funky smells with ease. Dry out a fragrant tea bag and place it in the smelly area that needs a little pick-me-up.
4. Cleaning, Shining Mirrors & Glass
Mirrors are notorious for being one of the most annoying things to clean. It shows fingerprints, grease, and dust easily. To avoid leaving smudges while wiping, you can use a weak diluted black tea solution from a used teabag. Soak soft rags in the solution and use it to wipe the mirror.
5. Revamping Old Clothes
Black tea is also a good dye for clothing, not just for temporary hair color. Steep several used tea bags to make a strong tea and pour it into a container with clean water. Soak your old clothes in the solution for several hours and then apply dry heat to seal the color. Add in a dash of regular table salt into the tea liquid to help seal color.
6. Make an Air Freshener
By adding your favorite essential oil, you can transform a brewed tea bag into a DIY air freshener. Add a few drops of essential oils to the brewed bag and attach it to the affected area. Add in more oil drops anytime you need it and hang it up in an area that needs refreshing.
7. Mice Repellent
Mice and pests are not fond of peppermint. Simply grab a good scented tea bag (ie. peppermint tea) and add in more peppermint essentials oils. Hang the bags of this strongly scented mixture to places that you want to keep rodent-free.
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8. Easy Fireplace Cleaning
Cleaning up a fireplace can be tough work if you don’t know how to deal with the fine ash particles. By pouring damp tea dust or tea leaves into the ashes, you can scoop it up with more ease. Adding tea leaves reduces fine particles to escape in the air, as well as reduces the smell in the fireplace.
9. Cleaning Cookware Grease
Washing greasy cookware is a pain in the neck, but that doesn’t have to be the case. For an effortless grease removal, pour used brewed tea bags with hot water into the dirty pan and let it sit overnight to soak.
10. Preventing Cookware Rust
Black tea leaves have a weak acid called tannic acid which converts rust into a protective barrier that prevents oxidation. All you have to do is to rub a damp tea bag to your cookware after washing them.
11. Soothe Your Dog’s Paw
Teabags can also be used to give relief to your pet’s paw during the winter. The tea’s properties are also beneficial to your pets to regenerate and hydrate their paw.
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12. Clean Cast Iron
Cast iron is tricky to clean. You can’t use the dishwasher, soap, or steel wool on it. We have a beautiful cast iron pan in our home…but getting a proper seasoning on them while being so limited in cleaning makes it a rare use in our busy family kitchen. But if you have a bag of old black tea, rubbing the surface with damp tea bags erases the old food smells and lessens the grease.
13. Natural Floor Wax
Just like in woodworking, the tannin in a used tea bag can be used to shine wooden floors. Depending on the size of the floor, you might need a lot of used tea bags.
14. Absorb Shoe Odor
A dried-out used tea bag can be used as a deodorizer to absorb the stinky odor coming off worn shoes. Put bags of dried out seeped tea bags inside your shoes, and the odor will be eliminated out over time.
15. Polishing Leather
The tannin in the tea can also polish leather effectively. In fact, tannin is used traditionally to cure leather. Rub the used tea bag to clean your leather shoes.
A potpourri is a mixture of dried plant materials used for its decorative and fragrant uses. Adding a dried used tea bag can infuse your favorite tea fragrance with your favorite potpourri mixture.
17. Campfire Starter
For an easy DIY campfire starter, using tea bags are cheap and easy. All you have to do is to dip the used tea bag in melted candle wax and set it aside until it hardens.
18. Cat Deterrent
Used tea bags are an exceptional all-natural cat deterrent. Cats just tend to avoid tea altogether. If you don’t want any cats digging or urinating in your garden (without hurting them), just scatter around your old used tea bags.
For Improving Food
1. Tenderizing Meat
The tannin in tea leaves is a natural tenderizer. Additionally, the natural flavor of the tea will add savoriness and sweetness to the meat. Just add your used tea bags to the marinate. Note that this tenderizing technique works best on red meats like pork, beef, and lamb.
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2. Make Tea Eggs
Even after usage, there are still tons of flavors left in used tea bags. By using both new and old tea bags in one tea egg brew, you will get a slightly stronger flavor for tea eggs. Tea eggs work best with black and red tea varieties, opt for dark soy sauce along with dark teas (it gives the best color).
3. Tea Fused Pasta & Grains
Another way to reuse tea bags is by adding flavor to pasta and grains. Even a simple oatmeal dish can be leveled up. Before cooking, soak your tea bags to the pot of water before it boils. Remove the bags when you start cooking your pasta and grains.
4. A Tea Cocktail
Who said that you can’t mix tea and liquor together? Tea cocktails are known for being refreshing and relaxing. If you want a nice long island tea in summer, be creative and experiment with the liquor of your choice. As a general rule, use one tablespoon of used tea leaves for every six ounces of spirit. Let the mixture sit for at least an hour.
5. Make Sweet Tea Syrup
Love Southern comfort recipes? Try this classic! If you like to infuse sweet tea flavors in your cocktails, tea syrup is your best bet. To make this concoction, mix three teabags, a cup of water, and a cup of white sugar in a saucepan. Let it simmer and keep it in a jar.
6. Make a Cold Brew
A cold brew is also called Sun Tea, is a way of steeping tea leaves using cold water. Most people use sun tea for its distinct flavor (because of lower temperature during extraction) or just a quick way to get their cup of tea. Use at least 10 tea bags (or more if used) in a gallon of water and let it sit in a very warm place, but not directly under the sun.
7. Perk Up Bouquet Garni
Infuse a herbal flavor to your soups and stocks by adding used tea leaves in your bouquet garni. Bouquet garni is a collection of herbs (for example, include thyme, bay leaf, and parsley etc.) wrapped together to flavor your soup and is fished out later after the usage. To make your own bouquet garni, wrap your used tea bags with the herbs of your choice using a cheesecloth.
8. Season Your Rice (Ochazuke)
Ochazuke is a flavored bowl of cooked leftover rice, usually with green tea or dashi. The rice will then be garnished with toppings like nori, scallions, or wasabi. Reheat your leftover rice while steeping the used green tea bags. Add your preferred garnish and pour your tea on top of the rice.
9. Make Your Oatmeal More Flavorful
Instead of your usual milk or hot water, why not try to cook your daily oatmeal with tea? Steep your used tea bags and pour them in your oatmeal. Start with your favorite green tea before trying other kinds of tea with bolder flavors.
For Medicinal Purposes
1. Reduce Sunburn Inflammation
Tea leaves have medicinal properties too, and one of them is reducing inflammation. Black Tea is specifically used for this purpose because of its stronger tannic acid content. Unwrap the used bags and steep them with room temperature water. Apply the tea gently in the affected sunburned area.
2. For Treating Bug Bites
The same soothing component that tannins provide in sunburn inflammations is also applicable for treating bug bites. Instead of using black tea extracts from a teabag, gently apply the cooled down teabag to the affected area directly and leave there. Green tea is recommended.
3. Relax By Taking a Herbal Bath
Having a tea bath is a cheap and relaxing alternative to having a paid spa session. The smell of tea, in general, is therapeutic and helps relax you after a bad day. To make a tea bath, just add the used tea bags to your bathwater. Chamomile is a great tea to start with if you haven’t made a tea bath before. Also, try to add a few drops of lavender essential oils as it’s been proven to help relax sore muscles.
4. Treating Acne
Teas, especially the green tea variant, can help in making dreadful acne disappear. A lot of tea components can help in reducing or removing acne in the skin. The first one is the catechins, which are both have anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties. Green tea also has epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG, which reduces oily skin.
5. Treating Wounds
The anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties of tea are not only used to treat acne. According to medical research in Iran, green tea extract can help wounds heal faster. These leaves are even considered effective in helping surgical wounds heal.
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6. Treating Poison Ivy
The unfortunate few of us that have run-ins with poison ivy, accidentally or not know it’s never fun. By brewing used tea bags and applying it to the rash for 10 to 15 minutes, you will feel rash relief. Take note: avoid touching the tea bag after, it can spread the poison ivy.
7. Removing Warts
Brewing used tea bags and applying it gently to the wart is an effective way to naturally remove painful, unsightly skin growth. After steeping tea, wait until the soaked tea bags cooled down, apply it to the affected area, and let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
8. Soothe Swollen Gums
Swollen gums are often caused by gingivitis, infection, or dentures that don’t fit properly. While these problems have a lot more complex and expensive solutions than just tea, lessening the symptoms is a lot easier to take the edge off. Gently press a room-temperature wet tea bag into your gum to ease the swelling. Note: Avoding using tea bags and discuss other methods with a pedictirian or dentist as children are more sensitive to caffine in tea if they are having teething & gum pains.
9. Soothe Small Burns
Black tea bags can be repurposed as medicine for small burns. Pressing a wet tea bag in a small burn can initiate protective skin coagulation and soothes the affected area.
10. Helps Promote Hair Growth
Most tea variants have quercetin and EGCG that promotes healthy hair growth. For the best results, using green tea is recommended. Rinse your hair with the tea water extracted from used tea bags. You can also try this with a combination of rinsed rice water.
11. Calm Razor Burn
One of the cheapest remedies for healing pesky razor burn is brewed tea leaves. Get a bag of your preserved black tea bags, soak it in water and squeeze out excess liquid. Gently apply the bag to the irritated area.
12. Canker Sore Removal
Canker sores are small white ulcers that appear in the mouth. These sores are very painful and prevent you from enjoying any food. You can apply tea extracts from used tea bags to canker sores to speed up the healing.
13. Soothe Skin Blisters
Skin blisters, particularly in the hands, can be treated with used tea bags. The tea bag works by draining out any excess liquid that makes these blisters terrible. Similar treatment to canker sores, just apply the extract from the used tea bag to soothe the blisters.
14. Provides Toothache Relief
Tea leaves have been proven to give relief to inflammed gums by gently applying the extract to the affected area. You can rinse with a mixture of peppermint tea and a pinch of salt for added relief.
15. Removing Toenail Fungus
The toenail fungus appears when a crack in your nail buries itself to your skin. In the best case, you will only have discoloration in your nails. In the worst case, it’s very painful and tricky to treat. One home remedy for a mild case is to use black tea bags and apply it to where the toenail fungus developed.
16. Cure Sore Throat
Both chamomile and peppermint tea can temporarily lessen the pain caused by a sore throat. Lemon and honey also contain anti-inflammatory properties that you can mix into diluated tea for added benefits to tea’s natural astringent properties.
1. Speed Up Compost Pile
Organic things like used tea bags are often thrown in the compost pile to give nourishment for garden plants. Open up the bag (some manufacturers use plastic for bags so watch out) and throw the leftover tea leaves inside onto the compost pile.
2. Fertilizer and Fungus Fighter
Teabags have a considerable amount of nitrogen which can fertilizer a potted plant. Brew the used teabags and set the tea aside to cool down. Use the tea in watering your potted plants.
3. Improve Rosebushes Health
It takes a lot of experience and effort to perfectly grow rose bushes. To add more love to your plants, sprinkle the soil with used dry tea leaves. Cover it with mulch right after. The nutrients in the tea leaves will be added to the soil if you water your roses.
4. Help Ferns Grow
Ferns also love the tea extracts because of these plants love acid. You can make the soil a little more acidic by watering them with tea (either brewed from new or used tea leaves) once in a while.
5. Grow Seedlings
A lot of gardeners use containers to start growing their seedlings. For a cheaper alternative, you can substitute containers with tea bags to jumpstart growing your seedlings. Put the seeds in a moist tea bag and wait for the seeds to grow.
6. Retain Water In Roots
Last but not the least, tea bags can help plants retain water in the plants’ roots. Tea leaves have a high amount of potassium and phosphorus that help water retention and reducing weed growth.