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The One Way You Might Not Be Using Your Tea Bags

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My old roommate, bless his heart, moved out of our apartment last month. He’s a pretty nice dude, and he did a pretty good job clearing the space of his belongings. Save for our fridge.

Yes, Your Tea Has a Shelf Life (+ How to Extend It)
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Yes, Your Tea Has a Shelf Life (+ How to Extend It)

There’s a cabal of rotting condiments and yogurts he left behind, their expiration dates stretching as far back as 2014. His mess is now mine to reckon with.

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Dealing with another person's mess—especially when it gives rise to potent odors—is never any fun. But it's especially horrifying when dealing with a space like a fridge, which is supposed to keep your foods fresh and appealingly edible. Growing up, baking soda was my family’s preferred fridge-deodorizer, and we applied it with equal enthusiasm to shoes. Baking soda remains our tried-and-true cure-all. In the Sen household, the best way to de-stench a pair of smelly kicks is to coat their soles with a light dust of Arm & Hammer.

But I’ve recently, thanks to the Tea Board of India, discovered a more cost-effective method than baking soda to deodorize my revoltingly grody fridge: used tea bags. It’s almost deceptively simple. After your tea’s done steeping, stick your tea bags in an open container—I used tupperware, but a mug also works—and stick it in the locus of the odor. There, it’ll absorb those unwanted perfumes.

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I approached this exercise with a heavy dose of suspicion, as I'm generally skeptical of these so-called home hacks that tend to ricochet across social media. But quelle surprise: Give it two days, and it works. My fridge now smells as fresh as a batch of pine cones. I’m a fiendish tea drinker these days, and I’ve been used to discarding my pockets of raspberry rooibos in my garbage bags, where they soak. In other words, I haven’t really known what to do with them.

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How to Brew Your Best Cup of Tea

I'm told used tea bags serve a motley of other purposes, too: as dish degreasers, as pasta-fortifiers. (They're also good for shoes.) But I'll experiment with those later; for now, as long as my fridge has this aggressively uninviting aroma, I'll put my tea bags in a fridge. For a fridge whose odor may make you keel over, a used tea bag is a vaccine.

How do you use your tea bags? Let us know in the comments.