Ingredients & Preparation

5 Genius Things to Do with Tea Bags—Besides Making Tea

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I don’t know about you, but as a natural tea drinker, my pandemic consumption has gone right thru the roof! What used to be a breakfast beverage, with perhaps an afternoon pick me up, has become an all-day love affair of tea drinking.

A late morning cuppa is an excuse to stretch my legs, now that I don’t go out of my house all that much. Iced tea, which used to be my go-to restaurant sipper all summer long, is now being made several times a week on my countertop (this Tupperware Cold Brew Carafe, $55, amazon.com, is the best iced tea maker I have found)Afternoon tea is now a daily occurrence and has been joined by the pre-bed herbal cup to soothe jangled nerves and help with sleep.

Easy never tasted so awesome.

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All of this all-day-long tea drinking also means I am awash in tea bags. Composters know that you can toss them in there, and skincare folks have long used them to sooth under eye circles. But what else can you do with all these teabags?

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Here are my top five tips for using them beyond just to make your drinking life so much more civilized.

1. Help clean up a mess in your pots and pans

The tannins in black tea can be great at helping to loosen stuck on greasy bits from your cookware. This is a great use for an old tea bag, or a new one! Put the tea bag in the bottom of your vessel and fill with hot water, let soak for at least two hours or overnight for really tough problems. Then clean as usual.

2. Absorb bad odors

Whether it is a pair of stinky sneakers or a musty closet, used tea bags can help to absorb bad odors in small spaces. Let your used tea bags dry out completely, then stash wherever you need a bit of freshening.

3. Give your wood surfaces a boost

A mild tea solution can be a great way to clean and restore your stained wood floors and furniture. This is a perfect “second life” for a used teabag, since the harsh initial tannins will have been leached out into your cup. Take a few already-used tea bags and steep them a second time in hot water to make a weak tea. Dip a soft rag or mop into the brew and use that liquid to clean gently, then dry and buff with a clean soft rag.

4. Help take the itch out of bug bites

Are your summer backyard adventures also an adventure in mosquitoes and black flies? A damp tea bag can soothe a fresh insect bite. Use a fresh tea bag for maximum potency: Just soak in cold water for a few minutes to hydrate the leaves, squeeze out excess liquid, and apply to the bite. If you have kids and a lot of bugs, you may want to make a bunch of these and store them in a ziptop bag or airtight container in the fridge to have them at the ready (the cold will also help reduce inflammation).

5. Start a fire (a safe one)

Whether it is your grill or your fire pit or fireplace, getting a fire started can be tricky. Dried, used tea bags can be a great way to get things going! Here’s what to do:

1. Squeeze any liquid out of your used bags and let dry out completely.

2. Dip them in melted wax—a great use for the ends of candles—and lay out on a sheet of parchment to harden.

3. Store in a small airtight container.

When you’re starting a fire, just toss a few in. The wax acts as an igniter so that they light instantly, and then the paper and tea keep burning long enough for your other kindling to catch. Added benefit? The tea smells lovely! This is a great use for spicy scented teas with citrus or cinnamon in them.

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