How to Tea-Dye a T-Shirt

Let’s make a Tea-shirt… get it?! Haha I’ve been using that joke all week.

I started figuring this out because I am a dance teacher who occasionally likes to make costumes. I’ve done a few & they’ve been great! Like Star Wars Padawan Jedi…

OR This year’s theme: Pirates of the Caribbean!

Can you tell I like Disney stuff?? Lol There are videos of both of these dances on YouTube. Just search Pirates Dance or Star Wars Dance! They are pretty fun.

Anyways…. I wanted a nice tan colored shirt. Did you know that’s hard to find?! Yes, very difficult. So, I looked up ways to make a white shirt that color. I could just buy brown dye, but I was worried it would be too dark. Then I found a cheaper way, with tea bags!! Just buy some black tea–a whole bunch of it– and you can dye it. Sounds simple, right?!

Things you’ll need:

  • Lots of water- hot & cold
  • A T-shirt (preferably white for the best look)
  • Black tea bags (more than 10 if doing more than one shirt.
  • A bucket of a big bowl(if doing only 1 shirt)

Step 1: Fill your bucket

First, you need to fill your bucket (or bowl) with hot water, and tons of it! If your doing one shirt, fill up 1/3 of the bucket OR your entire bowl. If your doing more than one, fill it up with over half. I just used hot water from the sink- our sink water gets boiling hot. Another recipe I found said to boil the water, but why not eliminate that step entirely if you can?! You can also use a tea maker to boil water, it just may take longer to fill up the bucket.

Step 2: Make some Tea!

It’s time to name tea to use as dye. If you want the shirt to be darker, out more tea bags in! I did 5 bags for one shirt and got this look: 

If you’re doing more than one at a time–like I was– double the amount of tea bags! For example: 

  • 1 shirt= 5 tea bags
  • 2 shirts = 10 tea bags
  • 3 shirts = 15 tea bags….

Got it? I did 20 tea bags for 4 shirts, multiple times. See how much I had to fill my bucket?

 Once you’ve put in your tea bags, let it steep for at least 10 minutes depending on how many you put in. 

*Tip: if you cover your bowl or bucket, the tea bags will steep faster! Plus you don’t lose so much hot water.

Presto! You’re ready fir the next step!

Step 3: Add the shirt(s)

Time to soak! The shirt will need to soak for close to 2 hours. 1 shirt for me took barely an hour and a half for the color I wanted. More than one shirt took 2 hours or more. 

Now, you will want to check the shirt half way through to make sure all of it is being dyed. For me, I stirred my many shirts to make sure they all got the right amount of dye. Why worry? Well, shirts float! Sometimes a piece will bubble up and stay at the surface. It may create a cool look for sure! But you don’t need it… 

Step 4: Drain & Rinse

Drain your bowl/bucket into the sink. Take out each shirt & squeeze all the extra fluid out. You will see tea come out which is ok! It’s sat in it long enough that it shouldn’t fade too much. 

Next, fill your bowl or bucket up with cold water; this will set the color on the shirts! Fill the water a little less then when you filled it with hot. Put the shirt(s) in the cold water and let them sit! They need to sit for at least an hour. It’s basically half the time they dyed in the tea.

Step 5: Hang Dry

Squeeze out the water, and hang ’em up! It’s best to do this in a laundry room or bathroom where you don’t care what happens to the floor. Tea will drop out! I put a dark towel down so it didn’t stain the bathroom floor.

And that’s it! Once it’s dry, this shirt is ready to wear! Have fun!! 

Thanks for reading!

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