18 Ways to Use Tea Other Than Brewing in Your Cup

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

Tea is a staple drink around the world, and even though a recent study concluded caffeine has a negative effect on newborns, tea has demonstrated expanding usefulness in our homes.

Tea drinking may have some drawbacks, as suggested by recent study indicating that pregnant women should consider cutting back on caffeine, but your favorite tea may have more uses in your home than simply being brewed in a cup.

A recent study in the journal BMC Medicine has concluded that caffeine intake is consistently associated with decreased birth weight of newborns, as well as an increased risk of newborns being small for gestational age. But, while reducing one’s consumption of caffeinated drinks, including tea, might be a good idea during pregnancy, there is no reason to let your tea just sit in your pantry and get old if you decide to cut back on your favorite brew, whatever the reason! Tea has many uses outside of just drinking it; here are some of the best ways to use tea around your home that have nothing to do with ingesting it whatsoever—although, in some cases, you may still have to brew it.

Spiff Up the Place!

1. Tea leaves can absorb smells. For a musty smell in carpets or rugs, just sprinkle some dry green tea leaves—and you can actually use already-used leaves, if they have dried while waiting for you to throw them out—and leave them for about 10 minutes. Vacuum up and enjoy your fresh carpet! Much better than one of those chemical rug fresheners, don’t you agree?
2. Bring a shine to wood floors. Tannins found in black tea can actually help shine up your hardwood floors, and can even add a little color, particularly with repeated use, refreshing old floors. It’s simple: two tea bags to a quart of hot water, and let cool. After testing on a small, out-of-the-way area, use the resulting brew to clean your floors, as usual, with a minimal amount of liquid. Let air dry. A light buff with a dust mop will only increase the shine!
3. Bring renewed life to wood furniture. Similar to wood floors, this magic elixir can be used as a furniture polish: Dampen a soft cloth in the brewed tea, and use a small amount to wipe down your wood furniture (after testing on a small, out-of-the-way area).
4. Toilet stain removal? Really; I once knew someone who did this and claimed it worked where commercial cleaners had failed! And, it’s easy enough: Drop a used tea bag or two—whatever kind of tea, just real tea, not herbal—into the bowl, let them soak a few hours and flush. Now, those stubborn stains should come right off with a quick sweep of the bowl brush.
5. Bring a sparkle to glass and mirrors. Put a little brewed tea into a spray bottle, and use it as you would glass cleaner on your mirrors, windows and glass-top tables.
6. Deodorize smelly spots. Areas where you once thought only baking soda could go, tea may just do the trick. For instance, put a few tea bags in the fridge instead of that box of baking soda that always gets turned over by someone digging for a jar of pickles in the back. Or, mix some tea leaves into your cat’s litter box. And, you can even use tea for potpourri! Herbal teas are great for this, and you can even use once-brewed teas if you let the leaves dry thoroughly. You can add them to another potpourri mix, or make little sachets to hide around the house or place in your car—try using small squares of cheesecloth and tying with a pretty ribbon.

Here’s to Your Health!

7. Ouch! Soothe a sunburn. It is getting to be that time of the year again, and you might find yourself a bit crispy after a day in the sun. Use wet tea bags directly on small areas, or even take a soak in a tea bath if you need an all-over cool-down.
8. Pamper your eyes. Ladies have long used the teabag trick to reduce puffiness of tired eyes.
9. Soothe and treat boils and blisters. Some say that covering a boil with a wet tea bag overnight will drain it completely and painlessly. And, fever blisters and canker sores can be treated successfully with hot-but-comfortable-to-the-touch tea bags. Also, the weeping blisters of poison ivy can be treated with strongly brewed black tea, as needed. Just dip a cotton ball into the tea, dab it on the rash, and let it air-dry.
10. Cool the heat of razor burn. Pat a wet tea bag on your face or legs next time you find yourself with a painful case of razor burn after shaving.
11. Take care of your mouth. If a child loses a tooth, a wet teabag can be placed on the gum to reduce bleeding and soothe pain. Also, strongly brewed peppermint tea can be used as a mouthwash.
12. Don’t forget your feet! Soaking your feet in a strong brew of black tea each day for about 20 minutes can help reduce the stench of stinky feet. And, some home remedies claim that pressing a warm, wet teabag to a plantar wart for 20 minutes each day will help heal it more quickly.

Kitchen Brew

13. Natural meat tenderizer. Marinating meat in a strong brew of black tea will make it more tender.
14. On the grill. Tea leaves can be used on the grill or in the smoker to infuse flavor to meats and cheeses.

Take It Outside

15. Repel mosquitoes. Burn tea leaves instead of chemicals to repel these pesky insects.
16. Speed up compost. Instead of using a chemical, use a few cups of strongly brewed black tea to speed your compost and encourage the development of friendly bacteria.
17. Help those roses. Tannic acid is beneficial to roses. Spread your used tea leaves around rosebushes, then add mulch and water.
18. Give houseplants a boost. Using brewed tea instead of water from time to time can benefit houseplants that need a rich, acidic soil. And, when potting the plants, adding a few used tea bags to the bottom can not only help in the retention of water, but will benefit the soil nutrient content over time, as well.

So, even if you decide, for whatever reason, to decrease your intake of tea, just remember: Tea should always be in your pantry, because there is always a place for it in your daily duties!

For more information on the study, “Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy is associated with birth weight but not with gestational length: results from a large prospective observational cohort study,” visit the BMC Medicine website.

READ: Give Savory Teas a Try!

Image: Wikimedia Commons


Submitted by Dilhan (not verified) on
The proposed alternate uses for tea are intriguing though any suggestion that tea consumption should be reduced should examine the facts. The health benefits in tea are unprecedented as the 16,000+ studies on PubMed suggest - everything from protecting against cardiovascular disease, cancer, to preventing dementia, aiding digestion etc. The caffeine in tea is nominal and to even approach caffeine stress, one would have to drink 15-20 cups of strong tea in a single sitting. Coffee in particular but also Cola drinks, chocolate and others have relatively higher levels of caffeine and may need to be examined in terms of a daily diet. The 3% approx. of caffeine in tea can be further reduced by brewing a cuppa, and adding water to dilute, but fear of caffeine in tea based on a general and inexact statement is a waste of the protective benefits in tea. See below a beverage guideline from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Caffeine is dangerous in high concentration, but a normal level of consumption of tea 5 cups a day approximately, poses no risk, whilst the benefits in taking 5 cups of tea a day are enormous. "There are greater amounts of caffeine in coffee than in tea (Table 3). Although caffeine is a mild diuretic, human studies indicate that caffeine consumption of up to 500 mg/d does not cause dehydration or chronic water imbalance (82, 83). A caffeinated beverage’s fluid content compensates for an acute diuretic effect. At this time, the preponderance of evidence in healthy adults suggests that a moderate caffeine intake up to 400 mg/d is not associated with an increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, or high cholesterol (84). Some people are more sensitive to caffeine’s effects than are others and may feel effects at lower doses. Pregnancy and aging may affect one’s sensitivity to caffeine. Pregnant women are often advised to limit caffeine consumption because caffeine intakes 300 mg/d have been associated with an increased risk of miscarriage and low birth weight (85– 87). It is unclear whether caffeine has adverse effects in children, but concerns regarding its effects on the developing nervous system have led to recommendations that daily caffeine intake by children should be limited to 2.5 mg/kg body weight (84). Also : "Tea Black, green, and oolong tea are the 3 main categories of tea consumed in the world. Tea provides a variety of flavonoids and antioxidants as well as a few micronutrients, in particular fluoride (41). Although there is solid evidence that tea protects against chemically induced cancers in experimental animals, it remains unclear whether tea consumption lowers cancer risk in humans (42). Tea also provides some amino acids, primarily theanine. Recently, theanine was shown to enhance innate immunity—the body’s ability to resist infections— by stimulating - T cells (43), and this effect has been replicated with regular (5– 6 cups/d, or 1185–1422 mL/d) tea consumption in humans (43– 45). Tea consumption may also increase bone density (46), reduce tooth decay and cavities (47), and reduce kidney stones (48, 49). Numerous epidemiologic studies have examined the association between tea consumption and the risk of cardiovascular diseases. A meta-analysis that combined the data from 10 prospective cohort studies and 7 case-control studies concluded that an increase in tea consumption of 3 large cups/d (24 fl oz, or 710 mL) is associated with an 11% decrease in the risk of myocardial infarction (50). However, the results among prospective cohort studies are inconsistent. A 6-y study of Dutch men and women found that those who drank 3 cups/d (13 fl oz) had a significantly lower risk of myocardial infarction than did nondrinkers (51). A 7-y study of US women found that the risk of vascular events was significantly lower in a small number of women who drank4 cups black tea/d (52). Finally, a 15-y study of US men found no association between tea consumption and cardiovascular disease risk, but tea consumption in this population was relatively low, averaging 1 cup/d (53). Overall, the current data suggest that consumption of 3 cups black tea/d may modestly decrease the risk of myocardial infarction. Although green tea consumption may confer a similar benefit (54), there is currently not enough data to draw firm conclusions. Recent evidence suggests that tea consumption improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation, which could explain, at least in part, a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk (55). Two clinical studies found that the daily consumption of 4 –5 cups (30 – 40 fl oz) black tea for 4 wk significantly improved endothelium-dependent vasodilation in patients with coronary artery disease (55) and in patients with mildly elevated serum cholesterol concentrations (56) compared with the equivalent amount of caffeine or hot water. In agreement with these studies, a recent double-blind crossover study found that acute consumption of black tea improved coronary vessel function, as assessed by coronary flow velocity reserve (57). The beneficial effects of tea consumption on endothelium-dependent vasodilation may be explained by activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) by tea flavonoids, via an estrogen receptor-dependent pathway (58). Despite these intriguing results, the potential health benefits of flavonoids in tea and their antioxidant compared with nonantioxidant mechanisms of action remain to be fully explored (59).

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