Zero Waste: 4 Ways to Repurpose Tea Leaves
I love tea, but I hate waste: I like to get as much use out of something before I completely discard it. I always have this moment of regret whenever I brew a pot of tea and dispose of the used tea leaves afterward. Or how about this: maybe you bought some tea a long time ago and just never got around to drinking it; it’s no longer fresh and not fit for your teapot anymore.
Surely, there must be another use for used and old tea leaves before they’re ready to make their final journey to the great teapot in the sky? From cleaning to health to beauty to crafts, there are plenty of uses for used and old tea leaves.
1. Cleaning Wood with Tea
Woodn’t you know it: black tea is excellent to shine and boost the color of both hardwood floors and wood furniture. Not only does the acidic level of black tea help loosen dirt, but the tannins in black tea also help bring out woodgrain, darken the wood color, and enhance the natural shine of wood. Additionally, a strong infusion of black tea will help hide surface scratches from wear and tear, breathing new life into wood.
To clean wood with tea, bring water to a boil. Add the used or old black tea leaves (more for a stronger infusion) to the water and allow it to sit for around an hour for the water to cool down and absorb the tea.
Test the infusion on a small area of wood before attempting on a large scale.
To clean flooring, rub the infusion onto the floor with a cleaning cloth or a mop, taking care not to use too much water on the wood; then simply let dry. Please note that this method is not suitable for laminate or Pergo flooring. To clean wood furniture (such as chairs, tables, cabinets, etc.), simply wipe down the furniture with the infusion and a cleaning cloth and buff dry with a dry, clean, soft cloth.
2. Cleaning Around the House
Give your glass some class, wishes for your dishes, and some love for your rug in a mug. Because of its natural ability to break down dirt, oil, and grease, tea can be especially helpful when cleaning dirty windows, mirrors, and dishes. Are there greasy fingerprints on a window or mirror (or even eyeglasses)? Wipe them clean with a used tea bag or a tea infusion in a spray bottle. Do you have a sink full of greasy dishes or food stuck on silverware? Leave them to soak in a sink with a dozen or so teabags overnight: the grease will break down by morning. Additionally, tea’s dirt fighting powers can be used to buff up dark leather: simply rub damp teabags in a circular motion on leather and buff it with a clean cloth.
Green tea is excellent as a deodorant all over the house. Put some used or old tea on a dish and place it in your refrigerator as an alternative to baking soda, changing the leaves every couple of days. Dry green tea leaves can be put in a closet to help freshen it up. Mix some tea into kitty litter to help eliminate kitty odors. Place some used tea bags in smelly shoes to eliminate foot odor. Use an infusion of green tea to wipe down a microwave with lingering food odors. Rinsing your hands in cool tea after working with pungent ingredients will help get rid of those smells. Sprinkle dry leaves on a rug, leave for ten minutes, and vacuum to liven up musty rugs (however, do not use wet leaves: they will stain).
3. Soothing Body and Soul
There’s nothing like a good cup of tea to soothe the soul, but those leaves can also be used to soothe your body for a DIY spa treatment as well as home remedies for burns. Tea is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, and green tea specifically contains tannic acid and theobromine, which is believed to relieve pain and heal damaged skin when applied topically, making it a good choice for treating burns like sunburn, poison ivy, or razor burn as well as acne and bee stings.
Boil water and brew used green tea leaves for about an hour; make sure the infusion is cool before applying to skin with a smooth cloth or cotton pads. For an extra cooling effect, store the infusion in the refrigerator before and after use.
After a long day, why not relax with a cup of tea and a green tea bath? Green tea is an excellent additive for relaxing in the bath, adding its antioxidants and detoxification qualities as well as Vitamin B to soften skin.
Using about 15 grams of tea in a sachet or five tea bags, add the used green tea to a hot but bearable bath and soak away stress, aches, and pains for around 40 minutes. Make sure to moisturize afterwards for a true spa experience. As always, bath safety applies such as stopping if you feel lightheaded and making sure another person is nearby. On a smaller scale, green tea can also be added to a footbath to freshen up stinky feet.
4. Getting Crafty with Tea
Tea can even be incorporated into hobbies. Adagio's Tea Blog features many of these crafts, and here's the latest list of ideas.
Tea infusions can be added to soap in soap making, which adds the benefits of tea on skin as well as providing a pleasant smell. To give fabric (or even lace) an antique look, soak the fabric in a green or black tea infusion. Some painters even like to paint with tea for a watercolor effect. You can even incorporate tea leaves in displays or paint on top of them on canvas for a 3D effect. There are as many possibilities to be crafty with tea as there are types of tea!