Thursday, 14 June 2012

tea and rust

I've been using tea as part of my rust print process without really realizing its significance.  My first experiments used tea to wet my paper because I liked the colour and the tide marks it left when drying.  It is only more recently that I've understood that the tea is playing a significant part in producing the results I'm getting.

Tea has tannic acid in it and this reacts with rust.  I found someone on the internet using tea to help remove rust from old watch parts and some a nice pieces on tea and rust here and here.

I find that the tea also darkens the marks from an orangey colour to something much darker: browns, greys and sometimes almost black.

During conversations at the Open Studio event a couple of weeks ago I felt a little foolish that I couldn't explain the science of it.  I did a little experiment to prove to myself that the tea really was making a difference.  Scraps of the same fabric were left wet (one group with just water and one with tea) with rusty items laid on until dry.  The image at the top shows the ones with tea on the left and just water on the right.

When I returned last weekend to some rust bundles I'd left in the lighthouse I added a bit of tea to the already stained fabric and immediately there was a change:  



  1. Cool! Great info for when I get down to trying out the rusting... !

  2. I did exactly this last weekend and was stunned by the immediate colour change. Have you tried green tea? That was different again.

    Thank you for the links, I like the idea of using red cabbage, that takes me back to where I started with this making cabbage-paper!

  3. Hi Alice. A really informative post. Thanks. I know when I rust paper one of the baths always used is of tea - I had never really thought through the 'why' though. Like Fiona in her post on rusting bits on paper, I too put a few rusty bits out. I didn't use teabags and the results I had were far less impressive than hers .... will have to try again next time rain heads our way.

  4. I use white vinegar and of course you can mordant paper and fabric with salt water and soya milk as well as vinegar.
    Its almost always a wonderful surprise what you end up with. Lovely to follow your record of what your noticing and learning as you go along the journey.

  5. Thanks so much for the explanation Alice - it makes such simple and perfect sense. Different to the vinegars and salts and lemon juices which increase rusting; the tea just removes the rust and deposits it onto the paper in a way. Love it!

  6. Hi, Alice. Thanks for this great post. It's always interesting to know the scientific stuff. I'm tucking all this info away for a rainy day when I can play with rust and tea...not for the immediate future unfortunately!
    best, nadia