Ask CRAFT: Tea-Staining Bed Linens

Craft & Design


Ramona from Pinckard, Ala., wants to give her bed linens a tea-stained look, but doesn’t know where to start. There are lots of techniques for getting an antiqued look on fabric, and tea is certainly high on the list. It’s natural, cheap, and easy. Your results will depend on your particular combination of circumstances, and always experiment before subjecting your main fabric to the treatment. Here are the different factors responsible for the effect you’ll get:

Tea type and strength

Regular black tea will stain your fabric shades of warm brown, but you can experiment with different types to get all sorts of colors. Herbal teas have different types of plant matter in them (seeds, leaves, flowers) that can be interesting and lead to pretty colors. Experiment! Start with a double-strength brewed batch to start, and then adjust based on your experiments. Remember to take the tea’s temperature into consideration. Instead of tea, you can try soaking rusty nails for a while to produce a richly colored dye.

Fabric material and orientation while staining

Natural fibers will accept the color more easily than synthetics, which makes us lucky that most sheets are mostly cotton. Start with a light color, like white or a light pastel. You’ll need something to put the sheets and tea in, like a big plastic bin or similar. You can use a soda ash fixer after staining like those used in tie-dye to help set the color so it doesn’t fade over time.

Application process

If you want an even all-over color, use a big vessel that gives your sheet the room to move, and keep it moving while it’s in the bath. You can try bunching the fabric in different places, twisting it, or wrapping it to get tie-dye effects. If the fabric is hanging, tea will pool at the bottom, leading to an all-over gradient. Modeled effects can be achieved by laying the sheet out on a clean plastic drop cloth and puddling tea in different places (best done outside in the yard), applying tea with a sponge, and repeating the dye process with different application types to build up different areas of color. You could even have your kids dance around in the sheet with spray bottles of tea. This is the fun part!

Keep track of all the different variables to produce replicable results, and share with your friends! If you have any tea-staining tips for Ramona, leave them in the comments below!

Photo above is CC-licensed by Flickr user Cathy Cullis

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6 thoughts on “Ask CRAFT: Tea-Staining Bed Linens

  1. GingerCookie says:

    I’ve also done this to sheets by hanging them on a clothes line and spraying them with the tea stain. I use a garden sprayer/pesticide sprayer. I like the quart sized bottle that you pump for pressure and use like a normal spray bottle. You can get them in the gardening section of the local hardware store. It’s also a neat technique for use with regular dye to create interesting streaks. I have a tape covered dress form that I can put clothes on and spray with dye/paint with dye.

  2. Kathie says:

    Tea also works really well to dye your wedding shoes to match your dress if it’s a champagne color. That’s what I did several years ago to match the dress I made.

  3. Claire says:

    We did paper….Just as a first timer try….It worked! Pink paper…I’m going to work on different colors too today….

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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