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If you’re one who enjoys a nice cuppa every day, start building the habit of saving your used tea bags because there are plenty of ways to put them to good use. We’ve found 10 surprising ways you can recycle your brewed leaves and make your afternoon tea experience a more sustainable one.

1. Soothe your eyes

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Chill used teabags in the fridge before placing them over each eye and under-eye area to reduce puffiness and those dreaded dark circles. Bonus: use warm tea bags as a compress to alleviate the pain of pinkeye.

2. Heal sunburnt skin 

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To provide much-needed relief to sunburns, soak used teabags in warm water before cooling it with ice and gently dabbing onto the affected areas. Black tea works best due to their tannic acid and theobromine content. Tend to your skin on-the-go by keeping the chilled tea bags in a Thermos® Food Jar with some ice cubes.

 3. Add shine to your hair

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Brew the used tea bags and allow to cool until suitably warm before using it to rinse out your hair after shampooing. Tea gives a natural shine to dry hair and can also increase volume and hair growth.

4. Pamper your feet

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Add used tea bags to warm water and soak your feet in them to neutralise foot odours, soften calluses, and nourish your skin. If you’re trying to get rid of stink, throw in a used mint tea bag or some fresh mint leaves. Rebrew the old tea bags in a Thermos® Carafe to keep it warm and make it easier to pour into your bath water.

5. Clean greasy dishes

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Clean up that greasy mess stuck onto the bottom of your pan by soaking overnight with a tea bag and hot water. The tannins from the tea will loosen the grit, making it much easier to scrub off in the morning.

6. Eliminate fridge odour

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If your fridge is smelling a little stale, place a few used green tea bags in an uncovered bowl and leave it in the fridge for a few days. It should absorb the odour and leave your fridge smelling nice and fresh. 

7. Rust-proof your pans

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Keep the rust off cast iron pans by wiping its surface with a damp black tea bag after each use. The tannins from the tea will coat the cookware with a protective layer that prevents oxidation.

8. Clean glass windows

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Make a weak tea solution with your used tea bags and use it to clean glass surfaces, like windows and mirrors, before wiping down with a lint-free cloth. It will help to loosen up dirt, grime, and even fingerprints. Fill the solution in a spray bottle for easy application.

9. Dye paper and cloth

Dye Paper and Cloth
Photo credit: Rebecca Desnos

Brew used tea bags to make a dyeing solution to give white paper a faux antique parchment look or turn white cloth into a sepia-toned fabric. Feel free to experiment with different teas to create different shades of warm brown, orange, or even pale green.

Find out how you can paint patterns and dye your fabric using milk and tea in this tutorial.

10. Fertilise your plants

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Mix used tea leaves into your potting mix to give your plants a boost. Tea leaves are rich in nitrogen, which is required for plant growth and is also mildly acidic, which is perfect for plants that need acidic soil or if you need to neutralise basic soil.

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Ingredients (serves 4):