Homesteading is all about finding natural, resourceful ways to accomplish everyday tasks, and there is no substance less pure and useful than tea. First discovered more than 4,500 years ago — according to Chinese legend — tea has been in peoples’ pantries for ages, and you better believe we have been doing more with the little leaves than just sipping them. Here are my 10 favorite alternative uses for tea that don’t require a sugar pot and cream.
10 Ways to use Tea Outside of the Teacup
1. Clean Wood
Wood furniture and floors aren’t the easiest to take care of; harsh chemical cleaners often strip them of color and shine. Instead, you can brew a tea-based cleaner to keep them healthy and gleaming. Boil two teabags in a quart of water, and let it cool. Then, dip a soft cloth into the tea and wipe down any grime-covered wooden surfaces.
2. Deodorize Feet
Some people have foot funk — that’s the way of life. However, you can save yourself from the foot smell by soaking your toes in a daily tea bath. About 20 minutes in lukewarm tea should relieve your tootsies of any lingering stench.
3. Dye Hair
If you’ve noticed a few strands of gray in your hair, you can hide them with this all-natural remedy:
- Steep three teabags in a cup of boiling water, and add sage and rosemary (or your other favorite aromatic herbs).
- Let the mixture sit overnight.
- Shampoo your hair has usual, and then saturate your hair with the tea mixture by pouring or spraying.
- Do not rinse your hair; instead, blot it dry with a towel.
- Repeat as necessary to achieve desired results.
4. Feed Gardens
Tea is healthy for plants, too. Burying new or used tea bags under soil and mulch in flowerbeds or pots encourages substantial plant growth. After a watering, the tea holds in water for the plants to drink and leeches its nutrients into soil to give plants a boost.
5. Freshen Carpets
Carpets are effective at hiding hard use, but if yours are looking and smelling their age, you might want to cover them in a layer of green tea. Tea leaves attract dirt and soak up foul odors; all you have to do is sprinkle unused green tea leaves on your carpets, let them sit for about 10 minutes, and vacuum them up to have fresher carpets.
6. Make Soap
Tea is wonderfully fragrant, which makes it an excellent additive to soaps. Many homesteaders are already confident making their own soaps, but if you are new to soap-making, you might want to pick up a soap starter kit. You will add your tea (and any essential oils you also want) once you’ve mixed together the soap base. The best thing about this trick is its versatility; you can try all sorts of different teas in your soaps for different looks and scents:
- Rosehip tea
- Hibiscus tea
- Juniper berry tea
- Anise seed tea
- Feverfew-lemongrass tea
- Wild cherry bark tea
- And more!
Strongly brewed tea holds its color exceedingly well, and plenty of artists have experimented with it as a medium to create stunning pieces. All you need is a canvas, a brush, and a cup of tea, and you can have a wonderful work of art in no time.
8. Read Futures
I’ll admit this tea trick is less than scientific, but reading tea leaves is an incredibly fun, interactive activity. Add a pinch of loose tea leaves to a cup of tea, drain the tea, and analyze the leaves for pictures. Any images you find are said to be portents of future events!
9. Soothe Sunburns
Wet teabags have a cooling effect on skin, which can take the sting out of aching sunburns. If it was a long day at the beach and your whole body is lobster-red, you can steep the teabags in a bathtub for all-over relief. This trick works on other minor, first-degree burns, as well as nasty razor burn.
10. Tenderize Meat
The toughest cuts of meat are often the cheapest, which makes them excellent budget-savers on shopping lists. Fortunately, if you have some tea in the cabinet, you don’t have to worry about wearing out your jaw. Simply pour a teapot-full of black tea over a seasoned cut of meat and bake it in a Dutch oven at 365 degrees Fahrenheit for about 90 minutes, and you will have everyone thinking you bought strip steak.
Tea is relaxing, rejuvenating, and delicious both inside the teacup and out. Most people don’t realize how versatile tea can be when it isn’t confined to a small, paper pouch. The next time you are ready to order more tea for your cupboard, you should consider all the other ways to use this curious natural cure-all around the house — and stock up on a little extra than usual.