The kitchen is a great place to start if you’re looking for ways to cut the amount of waste your household produces. You already know what to do with all those old coffee grounds, but what if you’re a tea-drinking household?
Used tea leaves are pretty useful around the home and garden, so before you open the trash bin, here are 30 clever uses for used tea bags.
Body and Beauty
1. Banish Puffy Eyes
Whether you had a poor night of sleep or a great night on the town, puffy eyes in the morning are never a good look. Moisten used tea bags and place them over your eyelids or just below your eyes. Now spend the next five minutes meditating on how grateful you are for tannins that help reduce puffiness and caffeine’s antioxidant properties, which your skin is absorbing. Voila! Who went to bed at 2:00 on a work night? Not you.
2. Soothe Itchy Bug Bites
Tannins do wonderful things for the skin. They act as an astringent, which is great news when you’ve got an itchy bug bite. Place a warm tea bag on the bite to help draw out the toxins which cause the itch while simultaneously soothing the bite. Be sure you use black tea, as that is where the tannins come from.
3. Treat a Sunburn
Gently swipe sunburned skin with a cool, wet chamomile or black tea bag to bring relief. If your skin is especially tender, soak the used tea bags in a cup of water and put the water in the fridge. You can use a clean spray bottle to spritz the cold, weak tea solution onto sunburned skin.
4. Poison Ivy Rash Relief
For much the same reason tea soothes bug bites, it can also relieve poison ivy itch. Steep used black tea bags in a cup of warm water, then put the weak tea solution in the fridge to cool. Spray the cold tea onto the affected areas and allow it to dry. Don’t rub the areas, as you can make the rash worse.
5. Make Pimples Disappear Faster
Place a warm, damp tea bag on a pimple to bring it to a head. A warm tea bag compress can also bring relief from painful cystic acne. The antimicrobial properties in the tannins in black tea are great for the skin, and a weak tea solution makes a great facial toner to prevent breakouts. Green tea is the perfect tea to use on the skin.
6. Clarifying and Conditioning Hair Treatment
If you use any hair products to style your hair, it’s important to clarify your hair and scalp at least once a month to remove build-up. A great way to know when it’s time to clarify is if your normal styling products don’t seem as effective as they normally are.
Use spent tea bags to brew up a clarifying and conditioning hair tea. Using both black tea and herbal teas adds a double bonus for hair. The tannins in black tea will gently break down any product build-up on the hair and scalp, and if you use an herbal tea like chamomile or peppermint, both are great for your hair, leaving it smooth and shiny
Pour the tea onto washed, wet hair and massage it into your scalp before rinsing with cool water. For best results, allow the tea to sit on your hair and scalp for a few minutes before rinsing.
7. Herbal Tea Bath
Soften and soothe your skin with your favorite herbal teas. If you’re an herbal tea drinker, you’ve probably already noticed how many herbs that are good to drink are equally good for your skin. Save your tea bags for a soothing aromatherapy bath.
8. Natural Mouthwash
If you’re not a huge fan of the mouth-burning minty mouthwash options on the market, there is a better way. Create a natural mouthwash using spent tea bags. Tea has natural antimicrobial properties, and it’s the bacteria hanging out in our mouths that leads to bad breath. Brew up a weak tea solution to rinse and gargle with after you brush for fresh breath without the burn.
9. Clean Smelly Hands
If you’ve been chopping up onions and garlic for your favorite dish or handling fish or seafood, you know how hard it can be to get those smells off your hands. Regular hand soap won’t do it. Wet a tea bag and scrub your skin with it. The black tea will deodorize your hands in no time, then simply wash your hands with regular soap.
10. Honey Tea Mask
Whether it’s black tea, green tea or herbal tea, they’re nearly all good for your skin. If you want to treat yourself to a quick and easy spa day at home, mix the tea leaves from a spent tea bag with two tablespoons of honey. Gently rub the mixture on your face and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Rinse with cool water and moisturize. Avoid using teas with spices like cinnamon or black pepper, as these can irritate the tender skin on your face.
11. Soothe Your Aching Dogs
If you’ve been on your feet all day, there’s nothing more relaxing than a good foot soak. Add in a couple of used black tea bags, and the tannins will help to soften and deodorize your feet. If you’ve got a used peppermint tea bag, toss it in for a cool and refreshing foot soak.
12. Herbal Tea Facial
Fill a bowl with boiling water, then add your leftover herbal and green tea bags. Place a towel over your head and lean over the hot water allowing the steam to open your pores. Breathe in the scent of the herbs in your tea. Ahhhh, that’s better. The oils from the herbs are carried on the steam, infusing your skin with a trace of soothing chamomile, green tea, peppermint or whatever herbal tea you use.
In the Home
13. Refrigerator Refresher
Black tea is great at absorbing odors, so tuck a few used tea bags in a jar and place it in the back of your fridge. The leaves will lock in odors and absorb extra moisture to keep your fridge fresh and tidy. You can always add more bags as you use them, but change them up every couple of weeks for the best results.
14. Get Sparkling Clean Glass
If you want clean windows and mirrors without the smell of ammonia or vinegar, grab a few used tea bags. Moisten them and use them to clean the glass or brew a weak tea to spray on and wipe off. Hint – paper coffee filters are awesome for cleaning glass and don’t leave lint or streaks behind.
15. Add Flavor to Pasta and Grains
Use tea bags to flavor pasta, rice, quinoa and even oatmeal. Add tea bags to the water when making your pasta or grains to add subtle flavor to your dishes. Get creative; the possibilities are endless – chamomile quinoa, cinnamon spice oatmeal, and Earl Grey rice are just a few suggestions to get you started.
16. Peppermint Tea to Deter Mice
If you enjoy peppermint tea, stash your dried peppermint tea bags in your pantry, in the dark corner of your cabinet, under the sink and anywhere else mice might like to hide. The strong smell of peppermint is a natural deterrent to these tiny little critters.
If you don’t drink peppermint tea, that’s okay too. Dab peppermint essential oil or extract onto dried black tea bags. They’re just as effective.
17. Carpet Freshener
Ditch those horribly-perfumed powdered carpet refreshers and opt for something more natural (and free). Save your used tea bags and allow them to dry until they are slightly damp. Open the tea bags and sprinkle the damp tea leaves over your carpet. Allow them to dry out overnight. As they dry, they will absorb odors in your carpet. Vacuum up the tea leaves the next morning, and you’ll have a fresh-smelling carpet.
18. Litter Box Deodorizer
Sprinkle dry tea leaves in your cat’s litter. The natural deodorizing qualities of black tea can help to control one of the most pronounced pet smells. Of course, this won’t eliminate the smell; the only way to do that is to be diligent in keeping a tidy litter box. However, adding tea leaves can go a long way in helping to minimize the smell of cat urine.
19. Save Elbow Grease by Cutting the Grease
Soak a few used tea bags in your dishwater to add the power of tannins to your suds. Tannins naturally break down grease, making doing the dishes less of a chore. You can even use the tea bags to scrub your pots and pans.
20. Clean and Shine Wood Floors
Using tea to shine and clean wood floors is an age-old secret. Black tea brings out the beauty in wood flooring and leaves it super shiny without making it too slick to walk on. Steep your used tea bags in hot water and at it to your mop bucket, or spray directly on the floor before wiping off. You can also use it to clean and shine wood furniture.
21. Create “Antique” Crafts
If you do any needlepoint or paper crafts, you can use spent tea bags to create pieces with an aged, antique look. Soak your needlework fabric in water with a couple of used tea bags to give the fabric a slightly yellowed look. If it’s uneven, so much the better.
You can also create yellowed paper by brushing a weak tea solution onto cardstock and paper. This gives the project a look of being much older than it is.
22. Tenderize Meat
Use a cup of water, a used black tea bag, and your favorite herbs and spices to create the perfect marinade. Not only will it flavor the meat, but the tea’s tannic acid will help tenderize even the toughest cuts of meat.
23. Clean a Smelly Cutting Board
It’s important to take good care of wooden cutting boards if you want them to last. If you have a cutting board that smells like onions or garlic after your best efforts to clean it, don’t despair. Use a warm, damp tea bag and wipe down the entire surface of the cutting board. Let the tea-soaked board air dry. Bye-bye, stinky board.
24. Herbal Sachets
Save spent herbal tea bags to scent drawers and closets. Be sure the bags are completely dry before tucking them in the back of a drawer or closet shelf. Use a few black tea bags for their natural deodorizing properties.
25. Protect Cast Iron with Black Tea
If you own a cast iron teapot, you already know that the tannins in tea prevent it from rusting. Keep your cast iron looking great by wiping the entire surface with a slightly damp tea bag. Use this trick each time you’ve washed and dried your cast iron skillet, or use it before putting away pieces you don’t use that often.
26. Easy Tea bag Fire Starters
If you love camping or have a fireplace at home, this tip is for you. Make fire starters using dried tea bags and paraffin wax. Be sure the tea bags are completely dry first, then dip them into melted paraffin and lay them on a sheet of parchment paper or tin foil. Once the wax is set up, store your fire starters in a tin or baggie. These are especially great when you use old cinnamon tea bags.
27. Deodorize Stinky Shoes
A dried tea bag tucked into each shoe is a great way to help absorb extra moisture after wearing them. The tea leaves are also a natural deodorizer and will help to keep stinky foot odors at bay. Just don’t forget to remove the tea bags before your wear your shoes.
Around the Garden & Outside
28. Fungal Plant Protection
Prevent fungal diseases before they start by spraying plant leaves and watering the soil with a weak tea solution. The tannins will prevent the growth of many fungal diseases. This works well both in the garden and in your houseplants.
29. Car Air Freshener
Tuck dry tea bags under each seat in your car for a natural air freshener. Not only will you enjoy the smell of whatever tea you use, but the leaves will help absorb odor and moisture in your car. If you want something with a bit more scent, dab your favorite essential oil on the tea bag first. You get a burst of fragrance and a deodorizer in one.
Anyone with a sharp eye will notice that most ideas for reusing spent tea bags still land you with a used tea bag when you’re done. And you would be right. When you’re finished giving your tea bags another go, you can always compost them.
Granted, some tea bags can’t be composted; I’m looking at you, fancy plastic tea pyramids. But more and more tea manufacturers are switching to tea bags that can be composted, so always read your packaging first.