Wednesday, November 29, 2023


How it Happened: The invention of the tea bag (plus unusual tea bag tricks!)

As with so many things, there is debate about the actual inventor of the tea bag. While I’m not an expert, I prefer the “accidental invention” explanation. It’s just more fun! Plus, since we’re talking about tea bags, I thought I’d share some tea bag tricks with you too.

So, here goes… Back in 1908, an American tea merchant, Thomas Sullivan, wanted to send samples of his tea to potential customers. Loose-leaf tea was shipped in tin containers at the time, and Sullivan wanted to cut his escalating shipping costs. After all, the tin containers weighed more than the tea itself!

From tin to silk

Sullivan thought and thought about an alternative way to ship his tea samples. Eventually, he came up with the idea of wrapping the samples inside small bags made from silk, tied securely with string. When customers received the tea samples, they mistakenly thought that the silken bag was to be used just like common metal tea infusers. They put the silk bags directly into their teacups and poured hot water over them. When word got back to Sullivan, he began packaging single-cup tea servings inside smaller silk bags. Over time, gauze replaced the silk and still later, a paper tab was added to one end of the string. This allowed users to more easily withdraw the tea bag once the tea had sufficiently steeped. The tab also prevented the string from accidentally falling into the cup.

So now you know how it happened—how tea bags were invented. You should also know about the many, many different tea bag tricks and the ways you can use them in and around your RV.

Why reuse tea bags?

Most tea bags are not 100% recyclable. By reusing your tea bags, you just might discover wonderful benefits from this small, unassuming, tea-riffic invention!

Tea bag tricks

RV fridge hack

Tea absorbs odors. So put two or three dry, used tea bags in the back of your refrigerator. The tea bags should keep the fridge smelling fresh for weeks. Change the tea bags out once a month, or as needed.

Soak away greasy grime

Tea contains tannic acid, which can break down grease. So, toss those greasy dishes into the sink along with some used tea bags. Let soak in hot water, and the dirty dishes will come clean quite easily.

Keep pests away

Sprinkle a couple of tea bags with peppermint oil and hang them inside your RV pantry or cupboards. The prepared tea bags will help keep insects and pests away.

Stop shoe smell

Tuck a used, dry tea bag into stinky shoes or hiking boots. The tea will absorb the smell, and keep your RV closet fresh.

Shine furniture

Steep reused tea bags in warm water to make a weakened tea mixture. Dip a microfiber cloth into the mixture, wring out the cloth, and apply to your RV furniture. Buff with a dry microfiber cloth and the wood surfaces will shine like new!

Protect metal cookware

Rub clean cookware with a used, damp, black tea bag. The tannins in black tea will keep rust and corrosion away. Your pots and pans will thank you.

More tea bag tricks: Surprising beauty treatments

  • Apply a warm, damp tea bag to each of your eyes. This should reduce dark circles and puffiness.
  • You can also put used tea bags into the RV fridge. Then apply one cooled tea bag to each eye for a one-minute eye treatment that will shrink blood vessels and help you look (and feel) refreshed!
  • Brew three or four used tea bags to make a weak tea mixture. Apply the mixture to your hair and let it sit for approximately ten minutes. Then use your shampoo and conditioner like you normally do. The tea will help hydrate your hair, leaving it smooth and shiny.
  • Place several used tea bags into warm water for a soothing foot soak. The tea will neutralize foot odor, soften calluses, and make your feet feel smooth and soft.

By the way, if you need help keeping your tea bags organized and save space in your RV, these tea bag organizers can be incredibly helpful!

Do you have additional uses for tea bags? Share in the comments below or over in my forum.


Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.



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Lorie (@guest_166757)
1 year ago

A cooled used tea bag will take the sting away if you forgot to put sunscreen on and find yourself with a nasty sunburn 🥵.

Jesse Crouse (@guest_166750)
1 year ago

All the hints in the article say used, but what flavors. Green maybe?

David V (@guest_166719)
1 year ago

It’s good to have some tea bags in your first aid kit too. The link lists a few uses for tea bags, including bleeding control from wounds.

GWM (@guest_166773)
1 year ago
Reply to  David V

Yes, that is correct. I had to have a tooth pulled some months ago and the dentist gave a zip- lock baggie with some new tea bags. She said to just wet the bags with warm water and bite on it where she had pulled the tooth. It works!

Bill (@guest_166677)
1 year ago

Tea-riffic article .. again!

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