Born and raised in Louisiana, I know how much Southerners like our tea. And we are not alone. Second to water, tea is one of the most consumed drinks in the world. Oftentimes we toss brewed tea bags after only one use, but surprisingly there are at least 17 ways they can be reused long after your last sip.
At first it seemed a bit strange to reuse my family’s old tea bags, but I then considered the long list of benefits. Not only is it a great way to stretch our dollars, but it helps to lessen the negative environmental impact of the tea business. As the demand for tea continues to increase, more farming land is required to grow the approximate 4 million tons of tea leaves each year. Plants and animals living in these habitats are forced to relocate and adapt. People living near tea plantations sometimes experience their waterways being contaminated with runoff of chemically-ridden pesticides and fertilizers.
Furthermore, trees are cut down to make paper for tea bags and packaging. Fuel and other natural resources also are over-utilized in shipping tea from leading manufactures in Africa, Asia and India to consumers around the globe. I’m not sharing this information to convince you to stop drinking tea. Instead, the next time you sit down to have your cup of tea, reflect on the labor, time and resources it required to get it from the farm to you. Maybe reusing steeped tea bags isn’t so bad after all.
Be a Responsible Tea Drinker: Repurpose Your Used Tea Bags
The abundance of antioxidants and tannins, also known as tannic acids, in tea makes it one of nature’s most versatile resources. From shining leather shoes to soothing irritated skin, here are some ideas of how tea bags and its contents can be recycled:
In Your Home
- Clean Windows and Mirrors: Replace glass cleaners by pouring brewed, cooled tea into a spray bottle, or dampen a soft cloth with tea then wipe away fingerprints and dirt and dry.
- Rid Your Refrigerator of Odors: Move over baking soda, keeping used tea bags in a bowl in your refrigerator will absorb odors.
- Remove Grease and Residue from Pots and Pans: The tannic acid of tea will break down grease and leftover food residue stuck on your pots and pans. Put a cup or so of water and a used tea bag into your pans and let them soak. You may want to use multiple tea bags if the scum is really caked on.
- Add Flavor to Rice: Toss used jasmine or mint flavored tea bags into boiling water to add extra flavor to your rice and other grains.
- Meat Tenderizer: Never dry out your poultry again by adding water and a brewed tea bag into the pan during baking. Tea is an all-natural meat tenderizer.
- Wash Away Odors from Your Hands: Rinse your hands with water and a brewed tea bag to remove odors of onions, garlic, fish and other foods.
- Shine Dark Leather Shoes: Shine dark leather shoes by rubbing a wet tea bag in circular motion on the exterior then wipe dry.
- Dye Fabric: Use black tea and few other household items to create a unique design on fabrics.
- Composting: Throw a few cups of brewed, ground tea or biodegradable tea bags onto your compost heap to speed up the decomposition process and create acid-rich soil.
- Fertilize Plant Soil: Tear open your tea bags and disperse the contents over plants’ soil. Roses and ferns especially thrive from the acid-rich tannins in tea. You also can bring unhealthy plants back to life by watering them with twice-brewed tea. A useful tip to consider is to line the drainage hole at the bottom of planters with old tea bags. This will help your plants retain water and keep nutrients inside the soil.
Beauty & Health
- Calm Itchy Skin: Soothe irritated skin caused by bug bites or poison ivy with a dampened, cool tea bag. This will reduce inflammation and promote healing.
- Wake Up Tired Eyes: Place cooled tea bags, particularly chamomile, on tired eyes to lessen puffiness and feel rejuvenated.
- Mouth Health: The antibacterial properties of tea can aid in drawing out infections linked to tooth aches, fever blisters, canker sores and other mouth-related illnesses. Warm up the tea bag and place it on the sore area for best results
- Rehydrate Your Skin: Add a few tea bags and/or essential oils into a soaking basin with warm water to soothe tired feet. Soak for 20-30 minutes for softer skin.
- Facial: Give yourself a spa-like facial by repeating the steps above, but holding your head above the basin and covering with a towel. The tannins will help to tighten your pores and reduce puffiness.
What other ways do you repurpose ground tea and/or tea bags? If you think I’ve missed any tips, leave me a note in the comment section. I’d love to hear from you.
Writer’s Note: The information shared here should not be substituted for a medical professional’s opinion.
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