Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Never Waste a Teabag

This is a story of progressive frugality. One learns as one goes along.

I have always used teabags twice when possible to save money; that's nothing new. One day as I was about to toss a twice-used teabag into the garbage, I happened to think that the string might be useful for something. Granted, it was a short piece of string, but I thought several could be tied together to use... well, to tie things together or something. With no more thought than that, I started saving them until I had a handful, then sat down and tied them together and wound them into a small ball.

I could almost say "end of story" and stop there, except that I was cleaning out a shelf and found an old dust mop cover (a real dust mop, for those of you who think they are disposable) that I had made from a skein of unwanted cotton yarn. I wondered if I could ever get enough teabag strings together to make another one. (Yes, I still have the same dust mop from at least 20 years ago.)

Why not? So I started saving teabag strings without tying them together and now I have a pretty big handful.

Then, one day, again as I was about to toss a used, now stringless, teabag, I happened to think that, since I throw looseleaf tea onto the compost, I could just as well throw teabags on the compost. Eventually I discovered that the bags take a lot longer to decompose than I wanted to wait. Next step: Let each teabag dry so I could rip off the end and dump the tea out. Now there was only the tag and the empty teabag to throw away.

I did this for awhile, then, as my mind slowly progressed to more frugal ways of looking at teabags, one day I decided to see if I could save an empty teabag to reuse. I could. I cut a narrow strip across the top of the teabag and dumped the contents out. The teabag seam stayed crimped. Now all I have to do is put my own tea, herbal or otherwise, into the teabag, fold it again and staple it at the top, just like it came originally.

So now the process goes like this: One teabag, used for two cups of tea, go on a clip on the stove where it can dry thoroughly. Once it's dry, which takes a couple of days, I take it down, pull the string off (still don't have enough for a dust mop cover) and cut carefully across the top. I then empty the dried tea leaves into a container, fold the teabag and put it away with the others, to be used as the summer produces herbal tea material. Eventually, I empty the container into the compost and start over.

Now I'm trying to come up with some way to fasten the teabags without having to use staples. Glue either isn't safe to imbibe or dissolves in boiling water, so that's out. Any other ideas?

EDITED: I went ahead and used staples and made teabags from loose dried hibiscus flowers. It worked very well! I will continue to save teabags! :)


  1. You could use thread to hold the tea bag together. If you loop the thread, you can probably even reuse it easily for other tea bags. :-)

  2. Good idea! I'll try it. :)

  3. Use a steel paperclip or a long hair clip - these can be put into a cycle of perpetual and easy reuse, once you get the method sorted.

  4. Another good idea, Bryce, thanks! I have some small paperclips that should work.

  5. Ha ha, that is awesome and extremely frugal!

    I would suggest though buying a metal tea strainer thing and only using loose leaf tea.


  6. Forest, I have a tea ball and use loose leaf tea for regular tea. Some herbal teas only come in teabags, or are prohibitively expensive to buy loose leaf, that's why I wind up with teabags.

  7. I'll pass on this one Pat. I just threw away a tea bag - (string and all). Oh the shame of it. :^(

  8. I use the string to crochet coasters or dish rags, the tags can be glued into a pretty pattern or flower for scrap booking. I guess the papers could be used to make paper roses and be dyed any color.

  9. Good ideas, Granny Pat! I actually knitted a dishcloth one time from string from animal feed bags but wasn't too happy with it. I should have doubled the string, I guess.

  10. Tea bags always seem to be strong so it makes sense to use them more than once. Thought I was the only one that did it. Nice to know I am not alone.