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Green and Frugal Ways to Recycle Used Tea Bags

Roberta is an enthusiastic tea drinker and recycler who writes about topics close to her heart.

Learn how to reuse all those tea bags instead of tossing them in the trash.

Learn how to reuse all those tea bags instead of tossing them in the trash.

What to Do With Used Tea Bags

Tea is the second most-consumed beverage in the world—right behind water and well ahead of coffee, milk, juice, and soda. That means the world is full of used tea bags that cry out for recycling. Instead of throwing your used tea bags away, just save them and let them dry out, then re-purpose them in a variety of ways.

It's the tannins in real tea (not the herbal infusions) that have almost magical properties that can rejuvenate you, perk up your plants, improve your garden, and clean and deodorize your house while saving you the cost of the commercial products you are using to do the same things right now.

By re-using your tea bags, you'll be doing good for the planet and saving money at the same time. And on top of that, you get a nice cup of tea out of the deal. What more could anybody want?

One person's trash is another person's treasure—tea bag edition.

One person's trash is another person's treasure—tea bag edition.

Personal and Medicinal Uses

The tannins in caffeinated tea ( both green and black) have anti-inflammatory properties and are just great for a variety of health and beauty-related things. Try these:

  1. Refrigerate a couple of used tea bags for an hour or so. Then lie down and close your eyes and let the cool tea bags take away puffiness, tighten skin, and rejuvenate your spirit. This is a very ancient beauty trick used by smart women (and some pretty clever men) for generations.
  2. Wet a used tea bag and use it to reduce the swelling and pain of bee stings and insect bites. It also works well for razor burn and sunburn. For sunburn, try a tea bag bath as described in the next section.
  3. Try tossing four or five used tea bags (I like green tea for this) into your tub and filling it with water. Climb in the bath, relax and say ahhhhhhhhh. A tea bag bath drains away the tension and leaves your skin soft and glowing and is oh so relaxing . . . who needs bath salts?
  4. Did I mention that a tea bath is also good for soothing poison ivy? It is. You can also wet a used tea bag and just put it on a small patch of poison ivy to ease the itch.
  5. I've never tried this, but I read somewhere that a wet, warmed tea bag placed on a plantar wart for 10 or 15 minutes every day for a few days will make it disappear. It can't hurt, and it is definitely worth a try.
  6. Got a blister on your heel or toe from new shoes? Secure a wet tea bag over the blister before you go to bed, and you'll be amazed at how the tannins in the tea bag take away redness, soreness, and swelling overnight.

Used Tea Bags Around the House and in the Garden

Used tea bags absorb strong odors and smell good themselves, which makes them just great for keeping a variety of things smelling sweet around your house. They can also clean, shine, cut grease, and do great things for houseplants and the garden.

  1. Dry out used tea bags and use them to keep shoes smelling good in your closet. Place one tea bag in the toe of each shoe.
  2. Open up a tea bag and spread some tea leaves into your potpourri to give it more body and make it last longer.
  3. Use tea bags instead of baking soda to keep your fridge smelling good.
  4. Sprinkling dry tea leaves on your oriental carpets and then vacuuming them up will keep your rugs smelling good and brighten them up too. It also deodorizes the vacuum cleaner.
  5. Have a kitty litter odor problem? Cut open a few dried-out, used tea bags and sprinkle the leaves in with the kitty litter to get rid of litter odor
  6. To clean a really greasy pan with stuck-on greasy gunk, soak it in the sink overnight in soapy water to which you have added a used tea bag. The tannins in the tea will help cut the grease and make morning cleanup a breeze.
  7. A weak solution of tea water makes a great cleaner for windows, mirrors, and even floors. You can also dip a soft cloth in tea water to clean leather chairs or dark leather shoes.
  8. Feed your house plants with healthy tea tannins by putting a used tea bag over the hole in the bottom of the pot when you repot them.
  9. Add used tea bags to your compost pile or bury them in the garden to give your soil a healthy boost.
  10. Sprinkle damp tea leaves over the ashes in your fireplace before cleaning it out. The wet tea will keep the ashes from making a mess when you lift them out of the fireplace.

New Uses for Old Tea Bags

The above uses for used tea bags apply only to green and black teas made from the tea plant. Herbal teas are really herbal infusions and do not contain the tannins and other things that make used tea bags effective for personal and household use.

Personally, I have found used tea bags to be a marvelous and economical substitute for a variety of commercial products, from bath salts to garden fertilizers. I keep a small open china crock on my kitchen counter, where I simply let old tea bags collect and dry out.

I hope you will enjoy these tips. If you have found some ways to give new life to old tea bags that I have not mentioned, please feel free to share them in the comments section. Let's hear it for tea and all the surprising and wonderful uses there are for used tea bags. Now I must go put the kettle on. It's time for a nice cup of tea.

© 2011 Roberta Kyle


Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on October 28, 2013:

hi vibesites and thank you for stopping by and sharing the bath scrub idea. I think it sounds great. Pleased to meet you and I'll be dropping by your hubs soon

vibesites from United States on October 28, 2013:

Nice one... I have lots of teas and teabags and the only thing I know is to make a bath scrub, esp. on my legs and thighs. I don't know if this is right, but it feels really nice.

But now I have found other uses of recycled tea bags. Thanks for your wonderful suggestions. :)

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on May 02, 2013:

Thanks so much for your wonderful comment, whowas. I am a coffee girl in the morning-- tea in the afternoon so I think I get the best of both worlds..... morning buzz and afternoon pick up LOL thanks for stopping by.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on May 02, 2013:

You are quite welcome, Vinaya-- always nice to see you.

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on May 01, 2013:


I was not aware that teabags could be recycled. Thanks for the tips.

whowas on August 16, 2012:

My dear Robie,

I would never, but never have thought of so many extraordinary uses for the humble tea-bag - indeed, the even humbler used tea-bag.

I drink coffee in the morning, mostly water through the day and then wine with dinner. However, about two or three times a week I like to take a glass of green tea with lemon. I'm convinced it does me a great deal of good. Usually, the used leaves go straight on the compost heap.

However, my wife drinks oceanic quantities of black tea, brewed thick and strong and served with a splash of milk (she is from the north of England) and she frequently uses tea-bags for convenience. I look forward to sharing this hub with her.

All the best to you, Robie and thanks as ever for a singularly entertaining and informative read.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on March 01, 2012:

great idea-- and the rabbits get their vitamins too:-)

IzzyM from UK on March 01, 2012:

And another gem, if you have pet rabbits, open up the teabag (while its still damp)and mix the tea with some oatmeal and your rabbit will think it is Christmas!

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on March 01, 2012:

You know, I never thought of just pouring cold tea over my house plants-- gonna do that. Thanks Izzy for the tip and also for stopping by and reading and commenting.

IzzyM from UK on March 01, 2012:

Excellent article - I learnt a few things myself! T bags in the shoes sounds worth trying. I didn't see it mentioned, but a pot of cold tea (whether made with t bags or loose tea), is great for feeding the pot plants. Good to know if you forget to put a teabag in when re-potting (per your tip).

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on March 01, 2012:

Hello Crystal and thanks for commenting. You are gonna love the hot tea bath. Ditto tea bags for tired, puffy eyes. Thanks for stopping by.

Crystal Tatum from Georgia on February 29, 2012:

This is such a useful hub. I love hot tea, and it does seem like a waste to toss out a tea bag after one use. Now I have all sorts of options. Hot tea bath, here I come! Voted up.

Louise Fiolek from Calgary, AB, Canada on February 12, 2012:

I often put cold teabags on my eyes; it's incredible how well they work for relieving tired and puffy eyes (something I suffer with a LOT lol). Thanks for sharing these tips, voting up and useful.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on February 11, 2012:

I'm so glad you liked the hub-- yes your plants will enjoy tea as much as you do-- especially green tea in my experience. don't know why, but my houseplants thrive on green tea.

nityanandagaurang on February 11, 2012:

very useful tips robie2 for recycling the tea bags.Espeacily the tea bag use for plant are very useful.

Useful and voting it up.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on January 29, 2012:

Hi Jaye and thanks for stopping by and reading and commenting. It is always good to see a fellow tea drinker:-)

Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on January 28, 2012:

Hi, Robie....Thanks so much for sharing these great suggestions. I especially like the house and garden uses. I drink a lot of tea, and I'll stop tossing my used teabags in the wastecan!


Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on January 28, 2012:

Thanks Suzanne-- good point....yes opening the teabags is best and I need to go back and put that in the hub. Thanks for bringing it up. I usually open the teabags when I put them on my house plants as well. Thanks for the vote and the comment:-)

justmesuzanne from Texas on January 27, 2012:

Great ideas! Voted up, useful & shared! I've found that, for compost, it's good to tear used tea bags open. They compost more quickly that way. :)

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on December 12, 2011:

Glad you liked it, CloudEx--I'm partial to the green tea bath and my houseplants are thriving on used teabag water.

Mike Pugh from New York City on December 12, 2011:

I have always thought of re-using tea bags, but never really thought it could do much. This hub is very useful indeed & I will do my research now as to all that it entails. Thanks for sharing voted up.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on December 10, 2011:

I have done the green tea bath-- very relaxing and definitely softens the skin and you are one step ahead of me, homesteadbound, if you have been composting with used tea bags. I only recently started doing that. Thanks for stopping by

Cindy Murdoch from Texas on December 10, 2011:

What a great idea. I had not ever heard of using tea bags many of the ways you have mentioned. They just always go into the compost pile. But it sounds like I will be using them for other things before they make it to the compost pile.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on November 30, 2011:

Thanks for the up vote,Sanne and thank you for taking the time to read and comment:-) much appreciated!

SanneL from Sweden on November 29, 2011:

Wow. . .cool hub! I never realized there were so many uses for used tea bags.

Voted up and very useful.

Thanks for sharing!

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on November 18, 2011:

Me too-- I drink coffee in the morning, but in the afternoon there is nothing like a cup of tea:-) My plants are thriving on the used tea leaves. Thanks for reading and commenting, Kris.

Kris Heeter from Indiana on November 18, 2011:

I love tea - now I know not to toss used tea bags. Lots of options here that I'll have to try!

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on November 02, 2011:

nothing like a Cajun kick IMHO jerilee-- brings new meaning to the word " tea-totalers" tee hee.....

Jerilee Wei from United States on November 02, 2011:

Loved this! My Cajun family had all kinds of tea libations with their idea of tea always being with a little kick added. :D

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on October 27, 2011:

Oh dear-- I missed a whole bunch of comments-- my bad and thanks everybody for reading and commenting-- Lynn and Dolores-- glad to know you are tea drinkers too.

Teddletonmr-- I don't know about mint tea-- if it is a real tea with some mint added it should work. Hi CJ and thanks for the tip about making wine from flavoured teas-- and for the link. I never knew you could do that-- amazing :-)

carol3san -- great to see you and glad you enjoyed this one. doodlebugs-- burying used tea and coffee in the garden sounds like a great idea. Thanks for sharing it.

Good to see you all and thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

Nolen Hart from Southwest on October 27, 2011:

Great tips. We put our used tea bags and coffee grounds in a sealed bin, then transfer them to our compost bin once a week. Since we don't compost in winter, we bury the mix in our garden in a deep hole.

Carolyn Sands from Hollywood Florida on October 27, 2011:

I enjoyed reading all the many different ways to recycle tea bags. A couple of these I knew about already but I admit I never would have thought of most of these wonderful different uses.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on October 25, 2011:

Thanks for stopping by Pamela, and I recommend the teabag bath-- really relaxing and softens the skin-- green tea works best I think-- but it's a matter of taste:-)

Pamela N Red from Oklahoma on October 25, 2011:

Great ideas, Robie. I love tea and infusions and drink them daily. I'll try some of these ideas for recycling the bags.

Christopher James Stone from Whitstable, UK on October 25, 2011:

Robie, there are two ways. You can use them to add tannin to fruit wines, but you can also make tea with them direct. You have to add sugar and some ingredients, but the principle is the same as making any wine. Flavoured tea makes more interesting wines of course. Here's a recipe, just as an example: This one uses leaves, but the used tea bags would work as well, as long as there was a bit of flavour left in the bags. PS, and yes it has alcohol in it.

Mike Teddleton from Midwest USA on October 24, 2011:

Yea, using used black and green tea for more than my compost ben. Thanks for the tips, is mint tea ok to use or is it much the same as herbal tea?

Enjoying a green tea bath, not so sure about that. As for using used black and green tea bags to treat blisters, now that is a great tip I will share with all my scouting friends.

Great stuff, a good hot cup of tea is good for what ails ya, now we learn its great for recycling as well.

Best wishes, Mike

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on October 24, 2011:

Very cool ideas for used tea bags. I break mine apart before they go into the compost. But sometimes I hate keeping what looks like garbage on the counter. I save coffee grounds for the compost, and to sprinkle around my hydrangeas. The acid helps them be blue.

Lynn Hasselberger on October 24, 2011:

Great to know! I drink tea daily. Have patted under my eyes with the tea bags, but refrigerating them first sounds like a better idea :)

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on October 20, 2011:

Thanks for the rating Marlo and as for your question-- all these tips are for any type of regular black or green tea that coming from the tea plant. You cannot use herbal teas as these are not real tea, but are herbal infusions. Other than that-- no restrictions.

Hello Princessa and happy that I could contribute to good "eco citizenship" around your house:-) Thanks for stopping by.

Wendy Iturrizaga from France on October 20, 2011:

This is amazing, I didn't know about recycling used tea bags. My little one is on a "ecological" frenzy; last week we went to a 3 day course for learning to be a good "eco-citizen". She loved it and has been recycling around the house ever since... I am sure she will be happy to know that all my tea bags can be put to good use after I am done with them.

Thanks for sharing, robie.

MarloByDesign from United States on October 19, 2011:

Rated USEFUL - regarding "Refrigerate a couple of used teabags" - does it matter what kind of tea?

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on October 19, 2011:

That sounds interesting, CJ. How do you make tea wine? Does it actually have alcohol in it?

Christopher James Stone from Whitstable, UK on October 19, 2011:

My Dad used to make tea wine out of them. Surprisingly good.

Susan Keeping from Kitchener, Ontario on October 19, 2011:

Excellent tips. I go through at least 8 tea bags a day and I always feel bad throwing them out I am definitely going to try putting a few in my refrigerator. Like Steph I knew about putting them on your eyes but not the rest.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on October 19, 2011:

Isn't it amazing how many different things you can do with one teabag? I am totally impressed

Stephanie Marshall from Bend, Oregon on October 19, 2011:

Great tips! I had heard of tea bags to reduce eye puffiness, but its other anti-inflammatory properties are quite amazing (blisters and bug bites - who knew?) Maybe I need a small pot for my windowsill where I can dry out my tea bags for future use, too! Rated up and useful - Steph

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on October 19, 2011:

Thanks Sally for dropping by-- I'm gonna try the green tea bath-- sounds refreshing and I love the idea of putting a used teabag in the bottom of the pot when re-potting house plants. I'm a big tea drinker-- coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon is my motto:-)

Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on October 19, 2011:

It's so interesting that tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world when I can't think of anyone in my mother's or father's family who drinks it hot except as a medicinal. I always have a box of black tea in the cupboard for making iced tea in the summer and for visitors, but replace it every year even though so little of it is ever used. Guess I'm not much of a used tea leaf polluter! Instead of tossing those few used bags I generate into the compost, I think I'll try stuffing them into shoes. Great info, Robie. Voted up and useful.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on October 19, 2011:

Thanks for the upvote, Jeannie and I'm glad you found this useful. I too was amazed at how many uses there are for teabags when I started looking. There are a few here that I haven't tried yet myself and am definitely going to.

Jeannie Marie from Baltimore, MD on October 19, 2011:

Thank you for sharing this information. I never realized there were so many uses for used tea bags. I am going to bookmark this page for future use. Voted up!