Home Decorating How To: Tea Stain Fabric

How To: Tea Stain Fabric



We’re loving all things soft, feminine, and vintage Parisian. The easy elegance, the gauzy ethereality, the mix of light blush and linen tones with richer hues—everything about it speaks to our sense of beauty and whimsy. And while we do love basic whites at this time of year, the vintage look is perhaps most associated with the aged parchment color so prevalent on antique textiles. Today we’re getting that look with a super-easy, budget-friendly DIY for how to tea stain fabric.

  • This tea stain DIY is so simple, it’s tempting to dive right in. But read through these tips first to make the process work like a dream:
  • Different tea types and brands produce different colors. Lipton, for instance, tends to have a reddish undertone. So you might want to pick up small quantities of a few different brands and brew a cup of each (use a white mug or a clear glass) so you can see the colors before buying larger packages.
  • If you prefer more of a greyish-brown stain to the usual parchment or natural with a hint of blush, opt for coffee instead.
  • If you’re tea staining multiple pieces and can’t fit them all in the bucket at the same time, use a separate dye bath for each. The majority of the tea stain will be absorbed by the first batch of fabric, so subsequent pieces steeped in the same dye bath will come out much lighter—so not a color match.
  • Cover your work surface with newspaper, a dropcloth, or rags, to prevent it from inadvertent splashes and spills.
  • Check the fabric in the dye bath at 2- to 5-minute intervals to see if you’re happy with the depth of color. While you can rinse out some excess color, it’s always better to go too light, then allow it to steep a little longer.

What You’ll Need:


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Natural fabric of your choice—we used a cotton/linen blend


30–40 inexpensive tea bags

A large spoon

Large plastic bucket

Hot water to fill the bucket about 2/3 full

Cold water for rinsing


How to Do It:

  1. Prewash the fabric according to manufacturer instructions, to allow for initial shrinkage. Cover your work surface with newspaper, to protect it from splashing dye.


  1. Pour the hot water into the bucket (we needed about 3 gallons). Tie the strings of the tea bags around the handle of the spoon and set the spoon across the top of the bucket, with the tea bags hanging inside. Allow the tea bags to steep for 10 to 15 minutes.


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  1. Wet the fabric with clean water; this will ensure that the tea dye spreads evenly into the fibers instead of causing streaks.


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  1. Place all of the fabric in the bucket of tea dye at the same time.


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  1. Allow the fabric to sit in the dye bath to desired color. It took us about 3 minutes to achieve a light natural color, 5 minutes for a medium stain, and 10 minutes for a darker stain.


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  1. If you find that you’ve allowed the color to go a little darker than desired, rinse immediately with cold water to remove some of the dye.


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  1. Remove the fabric from the bucket, squeezing out the liquid as you go.


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  1. Put the dyed fabric in the washing machine and run it on a spin cycle only to remove excess dye.


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  1. Hang the fabric to air dry. Use newspaper or rags underneath the area where the fabric is hanging, so that any dye that drips doesn’t stain your floors or rugs. Even better, hang it outside on a clothesline.


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Was this article helpful?


Cathy Chapman February 2, 2016 at 3:38 pm

Hi, those are wonderful and simple instructions! I tea stained some items years ago, but might need to try it again, thanks so much. The rich, water color duvet is lovely! Is it in your collection? I must take a look, I love it!

Cathy Chapman

Fresh American February 10, 2016 at 2:29 pm

Hi, Cathy! That’s Ines you’ve got your eye on, and she is indeed available. Shop away: http://annieselke.com/Ines-Linen-Duvet-Cover/p/PC252

Julie Blanner February 11, 2016 at 6:26 pm

Gorgeous! I can’t wait to try this.

Fresh American February 12, 2016 at 7:46 am

We can’t wait to see what you come up with, Julie! Keep us posted.

Allison July 7, 2017 at 9:50 pm

Is there a way to ‘set’ the dye once completed?

Kathy June 23, 2018 at 12:46 am

My understanding is you need to soak it in cold water with white vinegar and salt to set the color. But, I’ve also read that if you later want to wash the stained fabric, laundry detergent will remove some (or all) of the tea color.


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