I admit it. I drink a lot of tea. Green tea is my favorite, and I have sampled many brands and strengths over the years, including some amazing green tea my daughter harvested herself in South Korea. Although I am accustomed to re-using my tea bag (or tea ball strainer) for a second cup, I never gave much thought to other uses for leftover tea bags until recently.
Like many natural items, you can re-purpose tea bags in a variety of useful ways. Here is a list of ideas you can try in and around your own home.
1. Cut kitchen grease. The tannins in tea can help break up grease on kitchen pots and pans. Just add some used tea bags to the water and then let your dirty cookware soak overnight. The tea will work to break up the grease and loosen any stuck-on food so rinsing is easy in the morning. Also use pre-brewed tea bags to remove and prevent rust on cast-iron pots. No harsh chemicals needed.
2. Add flavor to cooking water. You can add interesting flavor to pasta, rice and grains by adding used tea bags to your cooking water. Simply place them in the water, boil the water, and then remove the bags before adding your food to cook.
3. Clean glass. Here’s an easy and inexpensive alternative to commercial glass cleaners. Re-brew used tea bags and let the solution cool. Then fill a clean sprayer bottle with the solution and then spray it on mirrors, windows and other glass surfaces. Wipe away dirt and smudges with a soft, lint-free cloth.
4. Deter pests. Mice do not like the smell of tea. What’s bad for them can be good for you, however. Place dried, used tea bags in the back of your cupboards or pantry shelves to deter not only mice but also spiders and ants.
5. Dye paper. You can create your own antique-looking paper and cloth with the color made from tea. Use weak tea brewed from used tea bags to dye your plain white paper and cloth into warm sepia tones.
6. Soothe skin. A cool, damp tea bag can provide soothing relief to sore skin. You can place a moist tea bag over tired, puffy closed eyelids for a quick pick-me-up. Another idea is to gently rub a moist tea bag on areas of the skin that are irritated by sunburn, shaving nicks, bruises or even insect bites and stings. The tea helps reduce inflammation and swelling and promotes healing.
Running some warm bathwater over used tea bags also can help nourish the skin. The antioxidants in the tea work to rehydrate and soften skin as you soak in the bathwater. You can either hang the used bags over the faucet, allowing the water to run through them, or you can drop the tea bags directly into the bathwater.
Tannins in tea can prove to be an effective treatment for plantar warts. Place a warm wet tea bag on the affected area for 15-20 minutes. Let the area dry naturally. Repeat twice a day for several days.
7. Neutralize odors. If your hands smell less than fresh after cutting onions, garlic or even fish, try washing your hands with warm water and a pre-brewed tea bag.
Similarly, tea bags help provide a refreshing soak for your feet, softening skin and reducing any foot odor.
Tea bags can help with odor problems in your home as well. You can store pre-brewed tea bags in your refrigerator to absorb odors there or drop a few bags in the bottom of your trashcan to help neutralize unpleasant odors in that location.
Tea bags also can help with kitty litter box odors. Sprinkle the dried-out contents of your used tea bag into your regular kitty litter for added freshness. You can also sprinkle dried tea leaves onto pet bedding or on carpeting. Allow the leaves to sit for about 15 minutes before shaking the leaves out or vacuuming them away.
You also can use a weak tea solution to clean and restore dark leather shoes and handbags. Simply moisten a cloth with the tea solution and then wipe the surface in a circular motion.
Now that you’ve got some ideas, here are a few precautions. Used tea bags are susceptible to mold and bacteria growth. You can keep moist used tea bags at room temperature for no longer than 24 hours. Store used bags in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can dry out your tea bags by opening the bags and spreading out the contents to dry. Then store in an air-tight container.
Do you know of other uses for used tea bags? Share them in the section below: