How Do I Tea Dye Curtains?

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Dye an old lace tablecloth with black tea for a new pair of curtains.
Dye an old lace tablecloth with black tea for a new pair of curtains. (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

White or off-white curtains often end up stained and discolored from the sun. Don’t throw them out. Instead visit your kitchen pantry to discover a way to give them new life. An old-fashioned tea dye is a beautiful stain. Tea dyeing will give your curtains a lovely vintage appearance, and it’s simple to do.

Use Natural Fabrics

Tea dyeing works best on natural fibers, such as cotton or linen. You are not trying to dye your curtains a completely different color. Instead, you are aiming for an aged, vintage look. The curtains will not be a uniform color after the tea dye. They’ll look like your great-grandmother’s draperies that have aged gracefully over time.

Wash the Curtains

There are no unusual ingredients needed for tea dyeing; it’s all right in your kitchen. Start by washing the curtains in mild detergent, and rinse in cool water in your kitchen sink to eliminate any sizing left in the fabric. Rinse in cool water, and let the curtains stay in the rinse water while you make the dye.

Make the Dye

Bring four cups of water to a rolling boil in a large stainless steel pot. Remove the pot from the heat. Add 8 teabags to the water. You can also use 8 ounces of loose black tea placed in cheesecloth and tied with a string. Let the tea steep for at least five minutes, but you can even let it sit overnight. The longer the tea stays in the water, the darker the dye. Stir every now and then so the tea will be distributed evenly. When you’re ready to put the curtains in the dye, remove the tea. If you see any loose grounds in the water, use a small strainer to get out as much as possible.

Dye the Curtains

You’re ready to dye the curtains. Pull each panel out of the cool water, and wring out the excess liquid. Submerge in the dye. Let them sit in the dye until they darken to your desired color but remember, when the fabric dries, the color will be lighter than how it looks wet. Remove the curtains, and rinse once more with cool water. Let the curtains hang to dry. If you decide you want the fabric to be darker, repeat the steps. You may also submerge the bottom part of the curtains in the dye for a second time to create an graduated tea shade or ombre effect.

Set the Color

It’s easy to set the new color of your curtains. Simply fill a container with water, and add ½ cup white vinegar for every gallon of water. Let the curtains sit in this mixture for about 15 minutes. Then rinse, and hang to dry. When the curtains are barely damp, press them with a hot iron. Another way to set the color is to put the curtains in the dryer on a hot setting. Remove when they are almost dry, and iron on the highest setting. Setting the dye makes the color only semi-permanent, so you may be able to get the color out with bleach if needed.

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