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Food Hacks

10 Brilliant Uses for Black Tea Bags Besides Making Tea

They're good for more than you think.

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A hot cup of black tea can help you feel relaxed, rejuvenated, and hydrated. Did you know that your black tea bag can do even more than just create a mug of joy for you? Read on to see these tips on how to get more use from your black tea bags.

1. Rust-proof cast-iron pans.

You love using your cast-iron pot to make casseroles, but you’re not a fan of the hard-to-remove rust it’s prone to accumulating. To the rescue: Black tea bags. First, wash and dry the pot as usual, then wipe it down with a damp tea bag. The tea’s tannins help create an invisible protective layer that prevents rust-causing oxidation. Your cookware will remain like new.

2. Stop a paper cut from bleeding.

Ouch! You accidentally sliced your finger on a piece of paper while sorting through the mail. Put an end to the bleeding fast with a used black tea bag. Just hold the damp bag directly on the cut for at least 30 seconds. Tea’s tannic acid promotes clotting to nix the bleeding and soothe any pain.

3. Tenderize beef with ease.

The last time you made slow-cooker beef, it was still somewhat tough, even after hours spent in the pot. Next time, steep four or five tea bags in water for 10 to 15 minutes, then combine
the liquid with equal parts double-strength beef stock and add to your stew or roast. Tea’s tenderizing tannins break down the beef’s tough fibers for a buttery-soft texture.

4. Hydrate houseplants.

Constantly watering your indoor plants to keep them thriving? Enlist the help of tea bags. To do: Tuck two or three into the soil near the base of each plant. Then whenever you water them, the bags will absorb (and slowly release) any extra liquid that would otherwise drain out, ensuring your soil stays damp for twice as long. Bonus: The tea also deposits fertilizing nutrients into the soil.

5. Rescue a broken nail fast.

One of your fingernails cracked and it went so far down the nail bed, you can’t simply file it away. Try sealing it with a tea bag. To do: Cut a tiny piece of the bag’s netting (it’s similar to gauze), brush clear nail polish over the crack and gently press the piece on top. Seal with a coat of polish and voilà!

6. Ensure clothes smell fresh.

Potpourri is a great way to add a fresh scent to your drawers, but offerings made with potent, artificial fragrances can leave you with a headache. Instead, tuck a few tea bags into each dresser drawer for a subtle, natural aroma.

7. Add shine to wood furniture.

A low-cost and natural way to spruce up your dining table, which has started to dull over time: Black tea bags. Steep two to three bags in a kettle filled with boiling water and let cool to room temperature. Dip a soft cloth in the mix and use to clean the furniture. Tannins in the tea will condition the wood and reveal a glossy shine.

8. Banish foot odor in a blink.

The hike you went on was completely invigorating. The only problem? All of that walking left your feet sweaty and smelly. To nix the odor, submerge five tea bags in a cup of hot water, then let them steep for 10 minutes. Next, pour the liquid into a basin of tepid water, soak your feet for 30 minutes and let them air-dry. Tannic acid in the tea kills odor-causing bacteria and dries out skin pores to cut down on excessive perspiration.

9. Shrink under-eye bags, stat.

Argh! On the morning of a family reunion, you wake up with puffy eyes. To the rescue: Steep two tea bags in hot water for five minutes. Remove bags and squeeze out liquid. Let cool until bags are just warm; apply to closed eyes for 15 minutes. Together, tea’s anti-inflammatory properties and blood vessel–constricting caffeine reduce inflammation for puff-free in minutes.

10. Soothe a dog’s bug bites.

Your pup had a bit of fun playing with the dirt in your yard—until she bulldozed over an anthill and now has multiple bug bites. To soothe her skin, steep a tea bag in boiling water, then let it cool. While still moist, dab the bag onto her bites. Antioxidants and astringent properties in the tea will help soothe irritation and nix any resulting itch, so your pooch feels better in no time.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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