Staining or dying textiles with natural products, such as coffee and tea, is nothing new. But for us home hacks it is an inexpensive, non-toxic and extremely easy method for altering cloth. Staining fabric is perfect if you’d like to create a vintage look or if you’d like to change a bright-white background to an off-white color. This method works best on cotton, linen or muslin but you can certainly experiment on other materials (cotton absorbs dye very easily). If you have an expensive piece of cloth (such as embroidery or lace) that you’d like to dye it’s best to request a swatch or cut a small sample and dye it first.
There is no exact method to this process and because the desired look is entirely up to you, feel free to tailor this “recipe” to your own needs. Tea tends to create a warm, reddish hue and coffee will create a browner color. Again, if you are particular it would be best to test both methods or a combination of the two. The darker the brew, the longer you let the fabric sit and the less you rinse afterwards, the deeper the stain.
What You Need
Cloth for staining: be sure to pre-wash fabric to remove dirt or oils or any finishing spray on new fabrics. The above example is 100% cotton and was pre-washed.
Tea: Use tea in bags, something inexpensive, and cut the tags off. Number of bags will depend on size of cloth. For this project 20 tea bags were used.
Coffee: Again, use something inexpensive. Use either instant coffee or brewed coffee.
Pot or container for soaking. Be aware that the dye may stain the container unless you wash it immediately.
Utensil for stirring and removing textile.
Cooktop, tea kettle or coffee pot for making the coffee or tea.
1. For Tea: unwrap tea bags and cut off tags. Brew hot water in tea kettle or in large pot. When water comes to a boil drop in tea bags and turn off heat. Let the tea bags steep.
For Coffee: Brew coffee in coffee pot or add instant coffee to boiling water (instant coffee was used in the above example).
2. Be sure heat is off on the pan and insert cloth. Stir cloth and ensure that it is resting on the bottom to get evenly stained.
3. Let the cloth steep for at least 1 hour. The stronger the tea or coffee and longer you let the cloth steep, the deeper the stain.
4. When cloth is finished steeping remove from the brew and briefly rinse in a cold water bath. If you would like to remove the tea or coffee scent (which will be mild), try washing in the sink with Woolite or you may wash briefly in the washing machine. Washing and rinsing the fabric will take the color “down” so you may omit this step if you want a darker color.
5. Let dry and iron if necessary. This example above was put in the washer and dryer.
Additional Notes: The textiles in the above example are kitchen towels that will obviously go through the wash and dry cycle very frequently, thus the dye will fade over time. The tea/coffee staining method works really well with textiles that will be displayed on the wall or very infrequently washed like pillow covers.
(Images: Anne Reagan)