DIY Tea Stain for a Simple Tray Makeover

Any time I see a wooden tray in good condition at a thrift store, estate sale or charity shop, I buy it immediately. We use trays ALL the time. They’re lightweight, easy to clean and the handles make using it for multiple serving options totally fantastic. We use this tray so much I leave it on the coffee station for quick access.

Well, a few weeks ago when we were having a low key crab boil along with an easy summer inspired tablescape a makeshift ice bucket was slowly leaking on the tray. I didn’t even realize it until we were cleaning up and I noticed the wood rippling and starting to split.

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I really wanted to save the tray so I slowly started taking the wood pieces off the bottom. If you decide to do this at home, you need to make sure you use caution and care. These wood pieces can be unpredictable and fly in all sorts of directions and splinters can happen so make sure you’re using safety googles and everything.

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At first, I was able to pick the broken wood pieces off but some of them started to stick so I used a straight edge to help.

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Once all of the wood on the bottom of the tray was removed I gave the entire piece a good sanding.

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Given we use this tray on so many different surfaces I knew I wanted to keep a mix of light woodgrain and white. I really wanted it to be gray but I’m holding out hope we’ll be painting the kitchen cabinets gray soon. Fingers crossed. The kitchen cabinets are currently maple so I decided to stain the bottom of the tray with a homemade coffee and tea stain.

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Coffee grounds help give a bit of age to a diy stain. I knew the coffee grounds would be crazy messy so I placed the tray in a galvanized bucket and then rubbed the grounds all over the bottom of the tray. They dried this way in the sun for about an hour.

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While the coffee grounds were drying on the tray I was inside steeping 5 tea bags. Use caution and care as tea will be hot and could cause burns. Once the tea had cooled, I dipped a paint brush into the tea and brushed the tea stain directly onto the tray.

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I let the tea stain completely dry in the sun after each application. Once I achieved the color I wanted, I used a brush to remove the coffee grounds. This is the bottom of the tray after approximately 6 stain applications.

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With the bottom of the tray in place I decided to white wash the edges. White washing is when you water down white paint, apply the watered paint directly to the piece you’re working on, allow to the paint to sit but not set then wipe the excess paint off with a cloth.

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After you’ve achieved the white wash color you’re after, you need to add a waterproof protective top coat like a polyurethane or polycrylic.  Sealing the stain is a must because you don’t want the stain to come off on your napkins or other items if/when the bottom of the tray gets wet.

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I’m super excited I was able to save this little treasure. This is one of those projects that is relatively easy, budget friendly and can be completed in an afternoon. We’ve already put it to use too…

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See you guys back here tomorrow.  I’ve been in the kitchen baking moist rise and shine muffins to help make the morning rush so much easier.

Many blessings,


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  1. Ah-mazing. Did you whitewash your shelf over the bed too? My client wants to paint her World Market table and I think she’d like this whitewash look. Should I search your site for whitewash to get directions if you think we can do it on an 8 ft. table?

    1. Mary Beth, thanks so much! The mantel turned headboard is painted. Whitewashing is fairly easy to do. I will email you a few links today. It’s a great way to update a piece that you want to highlight the woodgrain without covering it up with paint. The main thing to keep in mind is the piece you’re working to whitewash has to be real wood. Hugs, CoCo

      1. Thanks Coco! I believe the table is real wood because the stain is worn in the middle from the kids. I need you to come over and tell me if it is real wood (pretty sure there’s no laminate on it, if that’s what you mean) Appreciate your help, mb 🙂

        1. Sounds like you should be good to go Mary Beth 🙂 I can’t wait to see how it all comes together. Send me a picture when you guys get it all finished. I know you’ll do a great job! Hugs, CoCo

  2. Hey CoCo – first we want to let you know that we love the new look of your site! Second – love how your finished tray looks. You know that we love trays too. It’ so great that you were able to save this one and give it a whole new look!

    1. I appreciate it ladies, thank you! We’ve been working to tweak some things with regards to the website and those goals are definitely coming together. As always, we’re striving to make sure the experience for you guys is the best it can possibly be because let’s face…you rock my world 🙂 I would be lost without easy trays like this one too. There’s so many different ways to use them. Hugs, CoCo

  3. This tray looks great, CoCo! I probably would have thrown it away but this makes me want to change my mind. I’m going to try to stain something small and see how it goes.

    1. ha ha you always make me laugh, Casey, don’t throw it away unless it’s no longer your style or you know that you know that you know, it doesn’t stand a chance being rehabbed 🙂 You can do this!

  4. Great save on this one CoCo. I like the two-toned look, it’s really pretty.

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