Using Tea to Clean and Deodorize

Tea is so much more than just a delicious and healthy beverage. The uses of this pantry staple extend far beyond the teacup. With its natural antibacterial and deodorizing properties, tea can be used all around the home to clean, freshen, and sanitize. Read on to discover the myriad ways that tea can spruce up your living space.

Cleaning with Tea

Brewed tea makes for an effective eco-friendly cleaning solution. The tannins present in black and green teas have natural cleansing abilities. Tea contains just the right amount of acidity to cut through grease and grime without the use of harsh chemicals.


To give hardwood floors a clean shine, brew a pot of black tea and allow it to cool. Once cooled, dip a microfiber cloth or mop head into the tea and wring out excess liquid. Apply the damp cloth to the floors in sections, using a scrubbing motion on any extra dirty spots. The tea will help to lift dirt from the cracks and crevices. Rinse with a clean damp mop and allow to fully dry. The tannins in the tea will leave hardwood floors looking lustrous.

For vinyl, tile, or linoleum floors, follow the same method using cooled black tea. The tea will help remove stubborn grime. For an extra boost, add a teaspoon of baking soda to the brewed tea. The natural antiseptic properties of black tea will sanitize the floors. Always avoid allowing tea (or any liquid) to stand on vinyl or linoleum for too long, as warping could occur.


Wiping down kitchen and bathroom countertops with cooled black tea is an easy way to banish bacteria and grime. Brew a strong pot of black tea and allow it to fully cool. Dip a clean cloth into the tea and wring out excess liquid before wiping down counters and surfaces. The tannins in the tea will act as a disinfectant, while the mild acidity will help to dissolve grease and stuck-on food residue. Tea’s antibacterial compound known as catechin is ideal for eliminating germs in the kitchen and bathroom. Sparkling clean countertops without the use of harsh chemicals!

For extra scrubbing power, mix the cooled tea with a sprinkling of baking soda before applying to counters. Use a soft brush or balled up aluminum foil to gently scrub away any stubborn spots and stains. Rinse with a damp cloth and follow up with a dry towel to prevent streaks.


Brew a strong batch of black tea and pour into a spray bottle once fully cooled. Mist liberally onto windows and mirrors and wipe clean with newspaper or a lint-free cloth. The natural tannins in the tea will leave the glass clear and streak-free, without the need for chemical cleaners. For super shiny windows, brew a pot of hot black tea and allow it to cool completely before pouring into a bucket. Submerge sheets of newspaper in the tea to soak for an hour. Use the saturated newspaper sheets to wipe down each window pane. The tea will dissolve dirt and grease, while the newsprint adds a touch of vinegar and the gritty texture helps to polish the glass. This traditional technique always yields sparkling results!


Over time, food splatters lead to grime buildup inside the microwave. Instead of using harsh chemical sprays, brew up a pot of green tea to help loosen stuck-on food and sanitize the interior. Place a microwave-safe bowl filled with water and a green tea bag inside the appliance. Microwave the bowl for 2-3 minutes, allowing the water to boil and steam to fill the microwave. Carefully remove the hot bowl. While wearing an oven mitt, take a soft sponge and wipe down the inside surface of the microwave, using the steam to gently loosen any messes. The catechins in the green tea will naturally disinfect the interior. For stubborn baked-on food, try this trick using lemon tea: Squeeze the juice of one lemon into a microwave-safe bowl. Add the used teabag and water and microwave for 2-3 minutes. Follow the same steps to wipe away grime – the lemon juice helps dissolve any hardened food residue.

Cutting Boards

Sanitize and deodorize wooden cutting boards with tea. The natural antibacterial and antifungal compounds found in both black and green tea will eliminate bacteria like salmonella and E. coli found in raw meats and poultry. After pre-washing with soap and hot water, brew a pot of strong black tea. Submerge the wood cutting board in the tea and allow it to soak for at least 10 minutes, up to one hour. This step helps kill germs and odors that have soaked into the porous wood. Remove the cutting board from the tea and allow to fully dry before use. For regular maintenance, wipe the surface of the cutting board with a cloth soaked in cooled brewed green or black tea. This will sanitize the surface after each use.

Trash Cans

Eliminate lingering odors in the kitchen or bathroom trash can by rinsing it out with cooled black tea. Brew a strong pot of black tea and allow it to fully cool. Remove the garbage bag and any debris from the bottom of the can. Fill halfway with the cooled tea and use a scrub brush to agitate the liquid and dissolve any grime. Dump out the tea and rinse a few times with clean water. Wipe dry. The tannins in the tea will destroy bacteria causing unpleasant smells. For a routine refresh, pour leftover cooled tea into the bottom of the empty can between uses to absorb odors.


Give fresh fruits and vegetables an antibacterial bath using green or black tea before storing them in the refrigerator. This will help destroy any bacteria or chemicals that may be lingering on the surface. Fill a clean bowl or salad spinner with cool, previously brewed tea and soak produce for 5-10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly afterwards. The catechins found in green tea are powerful antimicrobial agents, while the tannins in black tea do the disinfecting work. This will prolong the shelf life of the produce.

Meat and Fish

Marinating meat, chicken or fish in black tea before cooking will help reduce any lingering odors, tenderize, and introduce flavor. The tannins in the tea break down the proteins. Brew a pot of black tea, chill completely, and pour into a shallow dish. Submerge the protein in the tea and marinate for 20-30 minutes in the refrigerator, turning occasionally. Remove, pat dry and proceed with regular cooking method. Discard the tea after use.

Hand Wash

When soap and water aren’t available, cooled black tea can be used as a portable hand wash. The catechins and tannins in the tea will eliminate germs and odors left behind from foods, grease, trash, etc. Brew a strong pot of black tea and allow it to completely cool. Decant into a small reusable liquid container or travel bottle. Rinse hands with the tea, scrubbing well and allowing them to air dry. The antibacterial compounds in the tea will clean and sanitize hands on the go.

Deodorizing with Tea

Aside from its cleansing abilities, tea can also be used as a natural deodorizer around the home due to its fragrant aroma and antibacterial properties that neutralize odors.


For a quick way to freshen up a carpet between deep cleanings, sprinkle cooled used black tea leaves across the carpet surface. Focus on high traffic areas and allow the leaves to sit for approx. 30 minutes before vacuuming up. The tea will absorb odors and dissipate that “doggy” smell. For a more intense treatment, brew a strong pot of black tea and pour into a spritzer bottle once completely cooled. Mist carpeted areas generously and allow to dry fully before walking on the surface. The tea’s natural aroma will linger.


Eliminate funky smells lingering in the fridge by placing a small bowl filled with brewed black tea leaves inside for 24 hours. The odor molecules will be attracted to the tea leaves. For a quick fix, wipe down refrigerator shelves with a soft cloth dipped in cooled brewed tea. The antibacterial properties of black tea will sanitize surfaces and destroy odor-causing bacteria.

Garbage Disposal

Freshen up a smelly garbage disposal by pouring leftover cold tea down the drain. The tannins in the tea will help wipe out odors. For routine maintenance, pour used tea leaves down the disposal and run with cold water. The leaves will scrub the inside and their natural aromas will neutralize unpleasant smells.

Pet Areas

Wipe down a pet’s food and water bowls with a cloth soaked in cooled black tea to banish odors and germs. The tannins in the tea will destroy bacteria on these surfaces which can cause odors. Mist areas of the home frequented by pets, like dog beds, crates, and baseboards with cooled brewed chamomile tea. Chamomile has a sweet, pleasant aroma that will mask “pet odors”.

Workout Gear

Prevent funky odors in sweaty workout gear by soaking in black tea post-workout. Brew a few strong cups of black tea and pour into a basin, submerging smelly gym clothes. Allow to soak approx. 1 hour. Rinse the clothes in clean water afterwards. The tea will break down bacteria and lift odors. For workout shoes, stuff used tea bags inside each sneaker and leave overnight. The tea will absorb foul odors so your shoes will be fresh for your next trip to the gym.


Treat areas prone to mildew, like tile grout, with black tea to inhibit future growth. Brew a strong pot of black tea. Dip an old toothbrush into the cooled liquid and gently scrub on existing mildew spots. Wipe clean with a soft cloth. Next, pour leftover cold tea into a spray bottle and mist on surfaces that are prone to mildew like shower curtains, tile grout, etc. Allow to air dry. The tannins in the tea will prevent new mildew from forming.

Diaper Pail

Freshen up the diaper pail by sprinkling a few used black tea leaves into the bottom beneath the diaper bag before replacing. Leave for a few hours and the tea will help absorb unpleasant odors coming from dirty nappies. The natural aromatic properties of tea will mask bad smells.


What type of tea works best for cleaning and deodorizing?

Black tea is ideal for most household cleaning and odor elimination because it contains the highest level of tannins, which provide natural antibacterial and deodorizing abilities. Green tea is also effective due to its high concentration of catechins, antioxidants that act as disinfectants. Herbal teas like chamomile, peppermint, and lemongrass can also be used for their fresh aromas.

Is it safe to consume the tea after using it for cleaning?

It is not recommended to drink the tea after it has been used for cleaning purposes. Although the tea starts out safe for consumption, it can become contaminated when used to clean surfaces, trash cans, etc. Discard tea used for cleaning rather than trying to re-purpose it for drinking.

How should tea be prepared for cleaning uses?

Brew a very strong, highly concentrated pot of tea using about double the amount of tea bags or loose tea. Allow to steep for at least 10 minutes. The tea needs to be strong in order for the active cleaning compounds to be effective. Allow the brewed tea to fully cool to room temperature before using for cleaning. Extra liquid can be decanted into spray bottles or containers.

Is it necessary to rinse surfaces after cleaning with tea?

Most surfaces cleaned with tea can simply be wiped down afterwards with no rinsing required. However, it is recommended to rinse any surfaces that will come in direct contact with food, such as countertops, cutting boards or refrigerators. Rinsing will remove any tea residue.

Can tea stain light colored surfaces?

There is a slight possibility that over time, the tannins in tea could stain light colored grout, countertops, tile or fabrics. Test tea as a cleaner in an inconspicuous spot first to check for any discoloration issues. For light surfaces, use a more diluted tea solution.

What is the best way to store brewed tea for cleaning purposes?

To prolong the shelf life of prepared tea, store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Pour cooled tea into an airtight container or spray bottle. Be sure to label the container that it contains “cleaning tea.” Freshly brewed tea works best as a cleaner rather than old tea.

Is tea an effective enough antibacterial cleaner?

Studies have shown tea contains compounds like polyphenols, tannins and catechins that actively destroy bacteria, viruses and fungi. The antibacterial effects of tea used for cleaning have proven just as effective as traditional cleaning products. The natural cleansing and disinfecting power of tea should not be underestimated.

Cleaning and deodorizing with tea is an inexpensive, chemical-free, and ecologically sound method that has been relied upon for generations. With a humble tea bag, some hot water, and a bit of elbow grease, it is possible to whip your home into shape while avoiding harsh toxins. Harness the power of this pantry staple the next time you need to banish grime or odors in your living space.


Tea is truly a multi-purpose product with benefits that extend far beyond the teacup. With its unique antibacterial, fragrant, and acidic properties, this humble drink has the power to clean and deodorize every room in your home. Keep a supply of black and green tea on hand for tackling dirt, grease, odors, and germs in your living space without having to rely on toxic chemical cleaners. A small investment in some tea bags will pay off in the form of an eco-friendly, sparkling clean home.