10 Surprising Things You Can Do with Used Tea Bags

Few things are more relaxing than curling up with a nice cup of steaming hot tea. In fact, next to water, tea is the world’s most popular beverage. But all those mugs of enjoyment generate one unfortunate side effect: an awful lot of waste in the form of used tea bags. Instead of pitching the leftovers, ease your eco-guilt with one of these surprising and efficient ways to recycle used tea bags around the house.

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  1. Perk Up Plants


    Tea bags make a great organic fertilizer for plants that need rich, acidic oil—such as roses, ferns, and many hanging plants—as the tannins and other nutrients can help stimulate growth. Place a few used tea bags over the drainage hole and across the bottom of a pot to help your leafy greens retain moisture; used tea leaves mixed into the soil can also do the trick. 

    Related: Wage War on Weeds with 7 Unbeatable Tools


  2. Super-Soak Dishes


    Here's a tip: Get rid of greasy, stuck-on food residue by soaking baking sheets, pans, and dishes overnight in a sink filled with hot water and used tea bags. Individual pans need only a few tea bags and a cup or two of hot water, but a heavy load of dirty dishes will require about a dozen or so bags. Simply fill the pan or sink with water, add the tea bags, and be amazed at the way the tannins break down the grease by morning. 

    Related: 9 Brilliant Cleaning Hacks Everyone Should Know


  3. Make Glass Sparkle


    Tea bags are surprisingly effective for cleaning and removing stubborn grease and fingerprints from mirrors, windows, and even eyeglasses. Rub a damp tea bag over the glass surface, and wipe clean with a paper towel to leave your mirrors and windowpanes sparkling.

    Related: 7 Herbs That Clean House


  4. Banish Bad Odors


    Even if you’ve run out of baking soda, you don’t have to put up with a stinky fridge. Simply put a few used tea bags in a cup or small bowl, and stash it toward the back of the refrigerator on a shelf. The tea leaves will absorb odors and leave you with a fresh scent. Replace the bags every few days for maximum odor control.

    Related: 13 Lazy Cleaning Tricks for a Spotless Home


  5. Repel Rodents


    It's been rumored that mice and other creepy-crawlies cannot stand the smell of peppermint. Place used bags of peppermint tea strategically throughout the home—for example, near doors and inside cabinets—to help repel unwanted creatures. Infuse the bags with a few drops of peppermint essential oil to strengthen the scent and drive away pests even more successfully. 

    Related: 8 Tried-and-True Tricks to Stamp Out Ants


  6. Like-New Shoes


    If your dark leather loafers or boots are full of dirt, grime, and salt stains, you can clean and polish them with a few damp tea bags. Rub a tea bag over the leather using a circular motion, changing the bags out frequently to make sure that you remove all traces of dirt from the shoes. Finish by buffing your kicks dry with a clean, soft cloth.

    Related: The Dirty Dozen: 12 Places You Probably Never Clean But Definitely Should

    Flickr via arsheffield

  7. Enrich Compost


    Mix up used tea bags or leaves in your compost pile to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria. The tea leaves also hold moisture, which can help hasten the decomposition process. Some tea bags may not be completely compostable, so double-check your brand's materials, and always remove staples from the bags before adding them to compost. 

    Related: Power Up Your Cleaning Routine with... Caffeine?


  8. Shine Wood Surfaces


    Used tea bags make a great polish for hardwood floors and wood furniture, because the tannins in black tea bring out the natural shine of wood. Swipe a few used tea bags over wood surfaces, and then buff with a cloth to achieve a rich shine. It's important to note that the tea bags should be damp but not soaking wet to avoid damaging the wood.

    Related: 7 Unusual Tricks for Your Cleanest Floors Ever


  9. Create Dye Designs


    Tea bags can impart a lovely, antique tinge to paper and fabrics. For a mottled look, place the wet tea bags randomly on paper or fabric, then let dry. For an overall dyed effect, place the paper or fabric on the bottom of a baking pan or shallow container along with 10 to 12 used tea bags, and cover with boiling water. Let stand overnight, then allow the dyed pieces to dry thoroughly. Repeat the process if you're hoping to achieve a darker tone. Black and green teas impart a brown or beige hue, while rooibos or hibiscus teas will lend a reddish shade.

    Related: The 10 Best Things to Buy Secondhand

    Instructables.com via PearlZenith

  10. Savor the Flavor


    Tea bags can be a welcome ingredient in the preparation of lighter meats like chicken, turkey, and pork. Place several used tea bags, a cup of water, and your meat of choice into a zip-locked bag, and let marinate overnight. The tannins in the tea are a natural tenderizer that will also impart a subtle delicious flavor to the meat.

    Related: 10 Home Cleaners to Borrow from the Pantry


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