Black Tea Is the Secret to Keeping My Kitchen Cabinets Clean — Here’s Why

published Jan 27, 2023
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Someone dipping tea bag into tea mug.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

As much as I love coffee, I have always preferred tea. I love the smooth, earthy, and herbal taste and aroma (hot or iced), the ritual of preparing it, and the plethora of health benefits in just one cup. As a former social media specialist for a tea company, I learned and retained plenty of tea and herb knowledge that has come in handy in more ways than one. One of those ways has been successfully using tea for cleaning. 

“Tea is one of the safest natural alternatives used for cleaning because it’s plant-based and therefore non-toxic and safe for use in homes with children and pets,” says Carol Mehas, a cleaning expert and the founder of arbOUR. “Tea that is high in tannic acid acts as an astringent and cuts through grease and neutralizes odors, so black tea is the ideal choice.”

Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez

Steven Zhang, a tea blogger and the co-founder of TeaJust, describes tannins as naturally-occurring compounds that contribute to tea’s color, taste, and aroma. Because of these properties, black tea has been my go-to cleaner for keeping my dark laminate kitchen cabinets perfectly clean. While vinegar is a great natural cleaner, black tea is less acidic and therefore less likely to strip dark or delicate materials such as laminate. 

“Black tea can be a great option for hardwood and dark laminate since the tannins in black tea can help remove any smudges or stains on the surface, while the dark color of the tea can help hide any remaining marks,” says Zhang. “However, it’s always important to test a small area first to ensure that the tea does not cause discoloration on the cabinets.”

Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez

My apartment is an open concept, which means my living room, dining area, kitchen, and laundry area are all one big room. When the dryer is on, it can cause condensation on the kitchen cabinets which combines with any grease and oils from normal kitchen use. In between deep cleanings when I use soapy water or more heavy-duty cleaning products, I wipe off my cabinets using only brewed black tea.

Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez

First, I dust off my cabinets. Next, I place a tea bag in a bowl and fill it halfway with hot water. I let the tea steep and cool to room temperature and soak a knit cotton cloth in the tea. Then, I wipe each cabinet two or three times before drying them with a clean, dry paper towel. The tea not only gets rid of all the grease, grime, and fingerprints, but it also leaves a smooth matte finish without leaving them dull and stripped of their color. 

Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez

“While you shouldn’t mix tea with other cleaning products, you can use a plant-based cleaning product first, let dry, and go back over your surface with tea to degrease and add shine,” says Mehas.

Cleaning with tea is not a new practice, and has been a popular method to clean and deodorize a variety of surfaces. I occasionally use brewed green or white tea to clean glass and use green tea to clean my plants and give the leaves a glossy finish. While both Mehas and Zhang mostly recommend green and black tea in a basic cleaning routine, they also suggest scents such as mint and lemon balm to give your home a refreshing aroma.

Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez

The best part of this all-natural and completely compostable cleaner is its versatility and reusability. After I have finished cleaning my kitchen cabinets, I let the tea bag dry and place it in my fridge to neutralize odors. I have also mixed the tea bag’s contents with baking soda and sprinkled them on my rug to let sit and vacuum to freshen up my living room. 

Next time you’re enjoying a cup of tea, save the bag for a chemical-free cleaning product to use in any part of your home!