How to Coffee Dye or Tea Dye

By Noreen Doll.

Sometimes you want to craft with a dingy or antique white color fabric, and it can be difficult to find just the shade you want in a store.

By knowing how to coffee dye or tea dye, you can get just exactly the shade you need.

First you need to decide on what kind of fabric you want to use. 100% cotton seems to work best for dyeing, but do try other types of fabric content as well.

Some of the most useful types of fabric to dye are cheesecloth, white tshirts, white sheets (especially old ones), and muslin.

How to Coffee Dye

Prepare a pot of coffee. I use an old fashioned percolator, but the coffee wasn’t really strong.

When the coffee is ready, pour it into the container you will use for dyeing.

Adding the grounds will give you a grungy look – which I like.

Add the fabric you want to dye. Push it down into the liquid until it is completely covered.

Check it periodically to see how dark the fabric is getting. You will need to let it get a little darker than you want the finished piece to be, as it lightens in color as it dries.

When the color of the fabric is a little darker than you want, dry it in the dryer or hang it outside.

If it isn’t dark enough, you can put it back in the coffee and soak it longer. Or you can make a stronger batch of coffee.

How to Tea Dye

Use 2 or 3 tea bags, depending on how dark you want the fabric and how large a piece of fabric you are dyeing.

Put the tea bags in your dyeing container and add hot or boiling water until it is deep enough to completely cover your fabric. Move the bags up and down to help them release the color.

Let it get pretty dark.

Add your fabric to the tea water and push it down to completely cover it.

Start checking for color fairly quickly as the fabric absorbs the tea color rapidly.

Let the fabric get darker than the finished color you want.

My fabric got really dark, and I rinsed it a little with clear water while it was still wet to remove some of the color.

Dry in the dryer or hang outside.

A Comparison

The coffee dye created more the very light tannish color I was looking for.

The tea dye is on the left and the coffee dye is on the right.

The tea bags I used made the dye water very orange looking, and the finished fabric had a distinct orange look.

Different flavors of tea will produce different shades of brown or orange.

This is what my finished pieces looked like.

Both tshirt pieces dried lighter in color than I expected, but I did rinse a lot of the color out of the tea dyed piece  before I dried it as it was darker than I liked.


Some people soak the fabric in vinegar to set the color. If you aren’t ever going to wash the finished item, you won’t need to do this.

Noreen Doll

Crafty Journal

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