Why You May Want To Think Twice Before Using Tea To Darken Your Laundry

If your favorite jeans started out black but have begun to look more gray, you might have heard about using tea to get them back to their original color. Yes, some believe that the dark cup of tea you enjoy in the morning could be used to help put the pigment back into your faded black clothing. Simple, right? Not necessarily. Though it sounds like a DIY-ers dream, this laundry hack isn't as good as it seems on the surface due to factors like the DIY dye not lasting long and not working for all fabrics.

The hack supposedly works by adding 2 cups of brewed tea to your rinse cycle, with the finishing effect being that your clothes won't smell of tea but will instead be renewed to their original look. However, this isn't always the case. Instead of clothes that are freshly revived to their original black color, using tea in your washing machine could result in dyeing your clothes an odd color and general disappointment when the hack doesn't work out the way you planned, not to mention the amount of tea it takes.

There are quite a few downsides to this hack

A major issue of using tea as a dye is that it doesn't last very long. Speaking to The Guardian, dye expert Kate Wilkins stated that, while most natural dyes will work well, a few don't have much staying power. Wilkins also revealed that using natural dyes won't work well on synthetic fabrics, so if you're trying to dye an item made from a synthetic like polyester with tea, the result likely won't be one you're satisfied with.

In addition to not being overly effective on certain fabrics and being unlikely to stick to your clothing, dyeing your clothes with tea is relatively costly. Because brewed tea needs to be used rather than a single tea bag, the cost will quickly start to add up. Though this doesn't sound like much on the surface, when you think about how many times you will have to re-dye your clothes, adding 2 cups of tea per cycle will use up a box of regular tea very quickly. 

There are better ways to get your black clothes back to their original color

For now, ditch the tea and use a fabric dye to get your clothes darker instead. Fabric dye isn't natural but will absorb into your clothes more deeply. Before going in with the dye, remember that any type will work better with hot water. To get your gray pants back to black, you'll need to wash them before. It may sound counterintuitive if you're trying to avoid fading, but clean clothes will take much faster to dye than dirty ones. Fill up a large tub (like a bathtub) with hot water and add in your chosen dye per the manufacturer's instructions.

For a more efficient dyeing process, add a cup of salt when dyeing cotton, linen, and rayon fabrics or the same amount of vinegar for nylon, silk, and wool. These extra ingredients will help the dye to stick. Leave the clothes to soak for up to an hour — remember that wet clothes will appear darker than dry ones when accounting for the color you want. Wash the clothes on a cold cycle to finish for a result that will last much longer than using tea.