While you may assume that a cool, dark place is the perfect home for your old used tea bags, this could not be further from the truth. Once a tea bag is used, drying it out will only attract mold and bacteria to the breeding ground.
Instead, it is important that the used tea bag is kept moist by being steeped in a small glass or shot glass of water. Placing the glass in your fridge will further decrease the chance of bacterial growth.
In order to tell if your used tea bag has garnered bacteria or mold when it is not visible to the naked eye, simply smell it. The easiest way to detect contamination is by smell so if your used tea bag has any unnatural, new, or funky smell, it is best to just dispose of it before your kitchen is further contaminated.
If you see mold, visible as fuzzy clumps of green and grey across the surface of your tea bag or within the water the tea bag resides in, it is best to dispose of the contaminated tea bag then as well.
It is important to consistently check your used tea bags for mold and bacteria as consuming these bacteria and mold, or passing them on to your garden, pets or children, can cause the opposite effects of what you wish for, such as sickness or dying plants.
Other Uses for Old Tea Bags
There are a wide variety of uses for tea bags that stem beyond just making tea. Old tea bags can be super useful in all areas of your life from home care to skin care!
- Staying in the Kitchen: Similar to making a new cup but better suited to the subtle flavors of used tea bags, you can use the tea bags to add flavor to food! This is as easy as adding old tea bags to water as you boil pasta, rice, or eggs. Basically, any food boiled in water can benefit from the subtle undertones of a used tea bag added to its flavorings. You can also place tea bags in your meat smoker to infuse your meats!
- Garden Care: Used tea bags contain nitrogen and acidity levels that, when added to soil, act as a magnet for good bacteria while lowering pH and feeding the worms! All you have to do is remove all metal staples and any plastic before burying the old tea bags in your garden or adding them to your compost. You can also water your garden with the weaker tea made with used tea bags. Finally, tea can be used as a fantastic and super-cheap fertilizer, especially for roses!
- Easy Air Freshener: Old tea bags can be used to cover up foul smells, be they in your sock drawer, fridge, or bathroom. All you have to do is add the tea bags to the area in need of an aroma boost; however, to upgrade your air fresheners, you can add essential oils such as lavender and peppermint once the tea bags are completely dry. Used tea bags can be used similarly to little hotel soaps, placed in clothing drawers and smelly shoes in order to leave a nicer scent.
- Skin Care: Old or used tea bags can be repurposed in a variety of ways that give your skin a break. When placed on your eyes, old tea bags decrease dark circles and puffiness. When placed on razor burn, tea bags decrease pain and soothe the damaged skin. If you have an infected spot on your skin, such as a boil, a used and damp tea bag can be used to drag the infection out of your skin or to simply remove a wart. Damp, used tea bags can also help alleviate the pain and discomfort of a sunburn and/or poison ivy. For bug bites and bruises, damp tea bags speed up growth. Used tea bags can even help relieve acne! Finally, used tea bags can be used to minimize the effects of pinkeye.
- Around the House: Damp, used tea bags can be used to shine mirrors, windows, glasses, and any other glass surfaces. Old tea bags can also be used to refurbish wooden surfaces. In the kitchen, used tea bags can help remove grease from utensils and surfaces. Leaving out old bags of tea can also drive rats and mice away from your living spaces. In the bathroom, tea can be used to remove water stain ringlets around your toilet. Throwing dampened tea bags on the ashes in your fireplace will actually make it easier to clean. Finally, you can rub your family pets with used tea bags in order to drive away fleas!
Re-Steeping Old Tea Bags
The easiest way to use tea bags is to simply brew another cup with them. Using a tea bag again will weaken the strength and flavor of your drink but combining multiple used tea bags for a second brew can easily counteract that. A tea bag should only be used a total of two or three times.
The best teas when it comes to reusing are green tea and white tea, although you may have guessed that they were lighter blends. While darker blends such as black teas are generally stronger than their lighter counterparts, brewing tea repeatedly with the same tea bag tends to lead to super-bitter brews when it comes to darker teas.
Reusing tea bags is a habit best handled by those who drink several cups of tea a day as tea bags cannot be kept too long without breeding bacteria. If you wish to consistently brew new cups of tea with old tea bags without having to constantly have a cup of tea in your hand, share with your garden!
While it is mentioned above how gardens can benefit from used tea bags as fertilizer and compost, the tea brewed from leftover used tea bags can be used to water your garden to give your plants a boost!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.