Throwing teabags in the sink? WTF?
October 16, 2011 2:37 PM   Subscribe

Why do people throw teabags in the sink instead of throwing them in the garbage can?

When I was growing up, my parents were in the habit of throwing their used tea bags in the sink. I never gave much thought to this, especially after I became older and adopted coffee as my drug of choice.

It never offended me but, looking back on it, it does strike me as sort of odd, especially when the trash can was only inches away.

Why do people do this? How did this pattern emerge? I know that my parents came from rather humble backgrounds. Once, about a decade ago, I remember talking about this with some African American co-workers and they laughed, said that their families had done the same thing. They also called the habit "pretty ghetto."

So . . . why do people do this? Any thoughts?
posted by jason's_planet to Society & Culture (40 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Did they re-use them later??
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:42 PM on October 16, 2011

posted by jason's_planet at 2:43 PM on October 16, 2011

I don't like throwing wet things in the trash. If I put it in the sink it will dry out a bit and then get tossed. My mother does the same for the same reason.

For reference I am white and was raised in a middle-class suburb of New York.
posted by munchingzombie at 2:43 PM on October 16, 2011 [23 favorites]

Drop the wet teabag in the sink until it dries somewhat, then toss it in the trash. That is how it always happened at my house.
posted by Mahogne at 2:43 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Because the path from the cup to the sink is shorter than the one to the bin? Especially when you're talking about a wet and drippy sack of smelly leaves. And you're lazy like me, opting to follow the path of least resistance until you've had sufficient caffeine to start doing things that make sense.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:43 PM on October 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'm with munchingzombie. The reason is that I'm cheap and use cheap garbage bags (or, more often, reuse plastic grocery bags), which tend not to be 100% waterproof. Nothing's worse than taking out the garbage and getting mystery trash liquid dripped onto one self.
posted by telegraph at 2:44 PM on October 16, 2011 [6 favorites]

We do the same thing. The teabags are dripping wet. Anything dripping wet goes in the sink, by habit.
posted by vacapinta at 2:46 PM on October 16, 2011

Did they have a disposal? I frequently toss used teabags down the disposal to be annihilated with the rest of the soft food stuff.
posted by jquinby at 2:47 PM on October 16, 2011

Yep, as said above. The sink is usually right beside where I'm prepping the cup of tea and I don't want to make a trail of teabag drips on the way to the trashcan.
posted by gaspode at 2:47 PM on October 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

Toss in sink, squeeze excess liquid out and then either bin or tear open and put contents in compost bin?
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:49 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's fun to toss them across the kitchen. They land in the sink (most of the time).
posted by Namlit at 2:51 PM on October 16, 2011

Oh, and to answer another question people will have:

I dont really want to squeeze teabags at that moment. My tea is hot and ready. I want to enjoy it. I'll squeeze that teabag later.
posted by vacapinta at 2:52 PM on October 16, 2011 [9 favorites]

The compost bin is under the sink and requires two hands to open. Dealing with the bag can wait until I'm done my tea.
posted by platypus of the universe at 2:55 PM on October 16, 2011

No, I'm with you. It's a final squeeze wrapped 'round the spoon into the cup, and then transport to trash still wrapped and riding the spoon, with my other hand underneath to catch drips. Step on can pedal, flick with authority into bin. Then, enjoyment!
posted by thinkpiece at 2:57 PM on October 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think the critical difference here is between paper and plastic garbage bags.

If you use paper, the bottom will rip out when you take it to the can if you throw wet things into the bag.
posted by jamjam at 3:01 PM on October 16, 2011

We usually just leave the bag steeping in the tea. It ends up in the sink when the cup does. Yes, we are barbarians. We are at peace with this. Otherwise, I am with those above who would throw it in the sink so as not to drip on the floor on the way to the can. It's too hot to squeeze out by hand right after steeping so leaving it in the sink gives it time to cool.

Incidentally, I saw a lady do a neat trick with her teabag once. After it was done steeping, she fished the bag out of the cup with her spoon, then, holding it over the cup, she wrapped the bag's string tightly around bag and spoon to squeeze out the excess liquid before she set it aside. No drippy teabag, no burned fingers, trash-ready!
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:02 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I also do this because it gives them a chance to dry out a bit before I throw them away - and the mystery trash liquid thing. I could squeeze the water out, but I usually don't feel like doing it at the time.
posted by fromageball at 3:03 PM on October 16, 2011

Bag is drippy. Bag will dry in sink. Then bag will go into trash.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:15 PM on October 16, 2011

"I'll squeeze that teabag later."

Snerk. I look forward to dropping that sentence into casual conversation very soon.

I also put my teabags in the sink to dry. The trash gets carried down 4 flights of stairs and when it drips ... ewwwwwwww
posted by bunderful at 3:21 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I pull off the little staple and string and throw them down the garbage disposal. I usually have a lemon wedge in there too. I guess I just thought of it as a minty lemony disposal freshener.
posted by Pork n Beans at 3:27 PM on October 16, 2011

Because it's too hot to squeeze properly. We use a percolator for coffee and the same principle applies - we'll take it out of the coffee maker and rest it in the sink until it's cool enough to handle to give it a good shakeroo into the garbage.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:49 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Even though you said your parents didn't reuse the teabags, that might also be the origin of their habit.

How old are your folks? They might have picked it up from copying THEIR parents: it was a pretty common habit back in the Depression years of the 1930s. (Reusing coffee grounds was common, too --- my father used to tell a story about how impressed he was when he was in boot camp in 1945, because the Navy was so high-class they only used their coffee grounds ONCE!)
posted by easily confused at 3:50 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

it does strike me as sort of odd

It won't, once you actually get some experience brewing tea. Swinging a used bag around on its little string means splashes of tea where you'd rather not. So as detailed above, the sink way-station, rather like a drunk tank where we let 'em dry out a bit. Maybe even re-use (as I do, maybe even three times).
posted by Rash at 4:04 PM on October 16, 2011

as a data point, I like to plonk the tea bag on a small plate or bowl if I'm going to reuse it- but our sink is pretty gross- not everyone has the same standards of cleaning.

But yeah, tea bags in the sink to cool down. You should go back for 'em if you are in an office kitchen though, pretty quickly (or dunk in a bowl) so you don't have other people having to deal with your tea bags. It's one of those intimate things that family can handle, but is rude to inflict on your work mates, I think.

Also, tea bags disintegrate way quicker in the compost if you rip them open first.
posted by titanium_geek at 4:28 PM on October 16, 2011

I vote that it could be a hangover from reuse. I've seen my father not only place his teabag in the sink or on the draining board, but actually then replace the bag in the cup once he's had his drink. I'm not aware that he reuses them (although that is his character) but his parents definitely would have done so through poverty.
posted by Jehan at 4:30 PM on October 16, 2011

Also- I find that you can totally get two or three cups out of one tea bag, if you don't like your tea so strong as to really taste the tannins.

Sometimes 'poverty' is just not being wasteful. :)
posted by titanium_geek at 4:56 PM on October 16, 2011

No, if you were going to reuse it you would hang it on the string hanging across your sink, not throw it in the sink. Oh the horrible memories of tea at my great-aunt's house.
posted by interplanetjanet at 5:41 PM on October 16, 2011

You could easily make a ceramic mug with a perch for the teabag built into the rim on the side of the rim opposite the lips (for right-handers), which would have an opening at the bottom so the bag would drain into the mug as you drank. Then you could throw it away drained or reuse it at your pleasure.

Exists or has existed already, I'd bet.
posted by jamjam at 5:56 PM on October 16, 2011

Not a black thing. I do it, and I am a Brit of Chinese descent.
posted by wutangclan at 6:03 PM on October 16, 2011

Yeah, wet bags in the sink is nasty-in-the-short-term, but wet bags in the garbage is nasty-in-the-medium-term when you find that the bag has leaked into the bin.

I put my used bags in a little bowl as a temporary way station, then dump all of them in the plastic bag destined for the green bin (squeezing only if necessary) later in the day.
posted by maudlin at 6:35 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is one of my greatest pet peeves in our house. (You, of course, may dispose of teabags as you like in yours.) But seriously, when I'm the one doing the dishes, and I have to reach into the pile of dirty dishes in the sink to pull out used tea bags (and worse: wet dish towels! Ugh, ugh, UGH!), I am very likely to declare a kitchen strike and leave the tea bag owner two days of dishes to fish his own damn tea bags from. Ahem.
posted by instamatic at 7:25 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a wet-trash (cut-off plastic former-bleach jug that fits a clear produce bag from the supermarket/produce store - they tend to be water/air proof and won't leak, but I'll open them up, pinch off the top, and test for air tightness before lining the cut-off jug) that I throw away each day to avoid smells, and a dry-trash bin under the sink with a 20-22L (5-6 gal?) store-bought trash bin and trash liner.

I don't use teabags, generally (and when I do, I just throw them out, when at home in the wet trash), but I'll re-use high quality loose leaf - after decanting the tea to something else, I'll transfer the tea leaves into a cleaned-out small glass jar with a good metal lid (re-used from commercial condiments or whatever) and toss into the freezer. I only re-use leaves once.
posted by porpoise at 7:28 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

I do it to let them cool down so I can put them in the compost.
posted by plumberonkarst at 8:21 PM on October 16, 2011

I do it because garbage water is the worst kind of water.
posted by matlock expressway at 8:39 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

My parents do this and it annoys the hell out of me when I'm in their house as I then have to scoop them out of the sink. Bags aren't reused, I think it's just a convenient way point on the way to the trash and lets the bag dry a little.

jamjam - those mugs exist, but I can only seem to google the ones with external bag holders. Plus there are delicate tea bag squeezers for those who are too posh to handle their bags.
posted by arcticseal at 8:55 PM on October 16, 2011

I know a guy who squeezes the tea bag into the cup between two spoons then bins it (office environment). At home ours used to go in the sink, then the garbage, until the council started collecting compostable waste and gave out bins for it. Now they go in the compostable waste. (It gets collected every two weeks. If you want gross ...
posted by Logophiliac at 9:43 PM on October 16, 2011

I used to have a roommate who did this, and it drove me crazy! Especially because she never, ever took the teabags out of the sink. (No idea whether my parents did it or not, they are coffee-drinkers all the way.) I put my teabags in the trash or compost, dripping wet or squeezed around the spoon if I'm feeling very tidy.
posted by mskyle at 7:00 AM on October 17, 2011

I wonder if those saying they do this don't take milk or sugar in their tea. Since I need a spoon to stir the milk in it gives me an extra reason to have a little saucer handy for the spoon and the teabag until it's ready to go in the compost bin.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 7:54 AM on October 17, 2011

OK. I've listened and I think I've got it.

Consider me enlightened.

Many thanks to all of you for opening my eyes to a whole 'nother world.
posted by jason's_planet at 5:05 PM on October 17, 2011

My mother does this too and drives me nuts when it's time to wash dishes. It makes no sense to throw in sink because chances are, the person will forget about it and the water from the sink or whatever tea is left in the cup will still keep it nice and wet. Yuck.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 10:05 PM on October 17, 2011

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