Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tea Stains on Cloth, Accidental and Intentional

Though not as bad as coffee stains, tea stains can be unsightly accidents. If you spill some tea, don't worry--it's not too difficult to clean up. Here's how:

1. Fold a paper or cloth towel and blot the stain immediately.
2. Use a sponge dipped in cold water to lift off the stain and dampen the fabric. (Do not use warm or hot water, as that will set the stain.)
3. There are three options for step three. Pick one and run with it.

a. Apply a small amount of stain remover. (It doesn't take much.) Wait five minutes and proceed to step 4.
b. Combine one teaspoon white vinegar and 1 quart cold water. Spray onto the stain until it is saturated and then blot it up with a towel. Proceed to step 4.
c. Moisten a cloth towel with cool water. Sprinkle a teaspoon of baking soda onto it. Rub into the stain. Rinse. Proceed to step 4.

4. Follow the cloth's washing and drying instructions.
5. If the stain remains, blot it with a combination of 1 tbsp ammonia and 2 cups water.

If the stain is on a rug or carpet, try this:

1. Blot thoroughly with a towel.
2. Dampen the area with cold water and blot again.
3. Apply a carpet stain remover OR a mix of 1/2 tsp mild detergent and 1 pint cool water.
4. Rinse and blot thoroughly.
5. If the stain remains, spray a 50/50 mixture of cool water and white vinegar, let sit for 8 minutes, and then remove with a damp sponge and a dry towel.

Things to avoid:

1. Heat (it will set the stain)
2. Rubbing (it will push the pigment into the cloth)
3. Taking your time (the sooner, the better!)

However, if you WANT to create a tea stain, er, to dye with tea, it's quite easy. You'll need natural fibers (synthetics won't take the color), a strong black tea (such as Assam CTC), hot water, and buckets or other containers to hold the tea. Steep the tea so that it is very strong (5 minutes or more, about 2 teabags/tablespoons of tea per cup water, and about 4 cups water per yard of fabric). Fold, bind, or scrunch the fabric as you desire, or stir it constantly as the dye soaks in. Soak about an hour for a pale color, or leave the fabric in the dye longer for a darker color. Set the stain by drying the fabric on high heat or by ironing it on a high temperature. After setting the stain, launder your creation by handwashing it in cool water with a mild detergent. You can also selectively remove your tea stains with bleach for an interesting effect. Here's a fantastic tea-stained vest by a young designer I recently met on the subway:

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