Tea is delicious and soothing, plus it comes in enough herbal variations to satisfy a plethora of health-related needs. But after a steaming cup of tea is empty, its usefulness hasn’t run out. Spent tea bags and tea leaves are great for household cleaning projects, and tea that won’t be drunk can be used for cooking, dyeing and giving plants a nutritious boost.
1. Make Wood Shine
Tea can shine and color hardwood flooring. After your regular cleaning routine, boil a few tea bags in a liter of water and let it cool. Dip a soft cloth in the brew, wring out the excess and gently buff the floor. Use white or green tea on lighter wood and oolong or black tea on darker wood.
2. Deodorize Anything
Tea, tea bags and tea leaves all effectively soak up odors. Instead of baking soda in the fridge, try used tea bags. Dried tea leaves can help deodorize litter boxes when mixed into the litter. Or rinse your hands with tea after preparing fish or other stinky foods (this also works on cutting boards).
3. Faux-Antique Fabric
Green and black teas have long been used in fabric dyes, particularly for generating that popular vintage look. Soak your fabric in strong, brewed tea until the desired color is achieved. (Note: Tea isn’t a permanent dye, so it will fade if you wash the fabric.)
4. Enhance Garden Compost
Pouring strong tea into a compost bin will help speed up the decomposition process, encourage more friendly bacteria to grow and help increase nitrogen levels in soil. You can throw whole, steeped tea bags into the compost if the bag is made of biodegradable materials — just be sure to remove any staples that may be present.
5. Soothe Sore Gums
For a child who loses a painful tooth, try putting a cold, wet teabag in their mouth where the tooth was lost. This also works to soothe the pain of wisdom teeth removal. Brew a cup of tea and put the cup in the refrigerator, leaving the tea bag in the water. After it’s nice and cold, remove the bag and place it inside the mouth, directly over the hurting gum.
6. Skillful Soap-Making
Tea is a useful addition in homemade glycerin soap. Dried and finely ground, tea leaves can serve as a natural colorant and light exfoliant. If the tea has added flavor, herbs or spices, your soap will smell sublime. Try Lavender and Rosemary Soap Recipe, substituting tea leaves for herbs in whichever scent you prefer.
7. Herbal Hair
In conditioners or rinses, brewed tea makes hair shine. It’s also a good hair dye. Make a strong brewed tea and use it as a daily hair rinse as a way to enhance your hair’s natural color. If you use henna to dye your hair, use tea instead of water when mixing your paste for a richer color. Try black or Ceylon tea if you’re a brunette; use chamomile if blonde.
8. Flavorful Food
Brewed tea or tea leaves come in handy for meal prep. The tannins in tea make it a great tenderizer. To soften tough meat, marinate the cut in strongly brewed black tea for several hours or overnight before roasting or grilling. Or try turning tea into a delicious dessert, as in the Tea Custard Recipe.