How to Recycle Worn Out Clothing – Quick Guide

You probably have a mountain of worn-out and unwanted clothing taking up space in your wardrobe that you’d like to get rid of.

By default, you may think of throwing all those clothes away in the garbage or burning them.

This can lead to the release of harmful chemicals into our environment, and to the potential of some of these chemicals leaching into our water.

There are several ways to recycle worn-out clothing instead of throwing them into a landfill.

Ways to recycle worn out clothing

About 92 million tons of textiles are thrown out across the world each year.

Some of this was because of worn out clothing.

Worn out clothes contribute to the high level of textile waste and it leads to littering and air pollution, which is also harmful for human health.

This makes recycling unwanted clothing a convenient way to reduce the amount of textiles that end up in landfills.

The following are 15 environmentally friendly ideas on how to recycle your unwanted clothes in a fun and practical way.

Donate to an animal shelter

One of the best ways to recycle your worn out clothes is to donate them to an animal shelter.

Donating your clothes to animal shelters helps the homeless animals feel more comfortable, which can promote adoption.

It also prevents the shelter from having to spend money on buying bedding materials for these animals.

Animal rescue centers need all the help they can get to improve their conditions and keep the animals healthy.

So, your old clothes will definitely make a positive impact on the animals.

These clothes may not be quite as beautiful as new ones, but they will definitely add to the comfort of pets at animal shelters and rescues for free.

Recycle them

EPA estimates that only about 15% of the textiles that are manufactured and used end up in the textile recycling system.

This means people aren’t doing enough to recycle old clothes.

Recycling your worn out clothing helps preserve natural resources and reduce the amount of textiles that end up in landfills.

You are literally giving a second chance to precious resources such as water, trees, plants and seeds.

Make use of the recycling programs in your state, and you can easily recycle your old clothes in an environmentally friendly way.

Participate in local charity recycling events and collect points for every pound of clothing, shoes or accessories you have recycled.

Also, some of your favorite brands take back old clothes that have been worn for long.

They’ll recycle them and even give you a discount on an in-store purchase.

Make reusable tote bags

Tote bags are beautiful and practical.

They’re great for carrying groceries, holding your books, or going to the dog park.

You can make your own reusable tote bags out of old clothes.

The only supplies you’ll need are two pieces of large fabric that you like, a sewing machine and matching thread, and some stuffing for your bags.

If you want them to be strong enough to hold heavy things, you’ll probably want some thick fabric such as denim or canvas.

For softer bags that look more like traditional totes, try regular cotton fabric in any color you like.

If you choose sturdy fabric, try to leave a few inches of excess on each side of the seam so you can sew the two pieces together without stretching the fabric.

After that, you’ll have your own stylish and reusable bags.

Make a quilt

Quilts are beautiful and practical items that add warmth and style to any bed.

They are easy to make and don’t require the use of any special equipment.

You can make your own quilt out of old clothes.

Just start by gathering all the clothes in a pile and sorting them into appropriate piles.

After that, you’ll want to separate your pile into thinner and thicker fabric piles.

Thin fabric will be good for pillow cases, linings, and decorative cuts; while thicker fabrics will be good for back pieces, facing pieces, or coverings.

You can mix the fabrics by color, or you can make a set of similar styles in different weights and colors.

Make compost out of natural fabrics

Clothes made of natural fibers such as cotton, wool, and silk can be composted.

However, when it comes to synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon, composting is not possible.

Instead, you can make compost out of your old clothes and other natural fabrics like cotton sheets or old towels to make an eco-friendly garden soil.

Basically, composting feeds organic matter back into the soil and replenishes nutrients that plants need to thrive.

You will need some natural fabrics such as cotton sheeting, old towels, and other rags to make the compost, which can be added directly to your garden soil or mixed with other natural fertilizers.

That said, ensure the clothes are all natural and there is nothing synthetic such as polyester or nylon added to it to ensure they actually decompose.

Use this nutrient-rich soil to grow plants such as flowers and vegetables.

Use for art and crafts projects

Your old clothes can be used for all sorts of arts and crafts projects.

You can create your own unique accessories, beautiful home décor items, even new fashions.

All you have to do is use your imagination.

Whatever creativity you have is limited only by your imagination.

Create unique and attractive new items from your old clothes, and don’t forget to add a few of your own special touches.

You can even turn the used garments into a decorative piece for your home or give one as a gift to someone special.

Repurpose as a rag

There are many ways you can repurpose your old clothes.

One of the easiest ways is to use them as rags.

Rags are great for cleaning purposes, or you can use them to clean and polish your furniture.

When it comes to cleaning, the options are limited only by the volume of the clothes that you have at hand.

You can make face cloths, wash cloths, towels, dusters and more with these old clothes.

If you need a cloth to wipe spills and stains, choose soft cotton and make it nice and big.

If you need a smaller rag for wiping your furniture or polishing your floors, choose a sturdy, but still soft fabric.

Make handkerchiefs

Use old shirts as handkerchiefs.

You will find them useful whenever you need a piece of cloth to wipe your hands or face.

Just cut the shirt into square pieces, and then turn every corner into a triangle before sewing.

Don’t silently suffer from those seasonal sniffs without this handmade handkerchief in your pocket.

Send worn out clothes back to the manufacturer

Considering the impact that the clothing industry has on the environment, you might be surprised to know that many companies are now encouraging customers to send their old clothes back to their factories in the hope that they will be recycled and used again.

This is a great way to recycle and reduce waste while giving something back to the world.

So don’t throw your old clothes away when they get worn out.

Instead give them a second chance by sending them back for reuse.

Check with your favorite clothing manufacturers to see if they are involved in this recycling program and if so, how to go about getting your clothes back to them.

Patch fabric

Patch holes in your clothes with a spare piece of cloth.

Just cut the patch from the same fabric and then turn every corner into a triangle before sewing.

Not only will this patch fix the hole in your favorite jeans, it will also make for a unique decoration that nobody else has.

It might even add a pop of color to a dull outfit! So, don’t waste any time in making a whole new look for your old favorite outfit.

Turn into wall art

You can use your old shirts as wall art.

If you want to make wall art, simply take your shirts and pin them together in a creative way.

Either stack the shirts on top of each other or place them one next to another to make interesting patterns.

This is especially fun when you are doing it with friends or family.

You can also make a collage if you wanted to.

Then, frame it in a wooden frame or a photo frame for your wall decoration.

It will be a memorable piece of art that you can enjoy every time you walk past it.

Create trendy headbands

Old shirts are perfect for making trendy headbands.

Use them as a base material and then add any kind of material to them, such as lace, beads, or even fabric.

Also, give your handmade headband a unique look with these accessories by choosing the right colors or patterns.

This will turn the fabric into something new, different and stylish.

Turn heads wherever you go with these trendy, unique headbands and get noticed for your unique taste.

Turn into a sleeping bag

Use the old shirts and jackets as makeshift sleeping bags.

You can create something that will keep you warm during those cold winter nights.

Simply take the fabric and cut it into long strips before stitching them together at the ends.

Then, turn every corner into a triangle to make an eyelet on both ends of the fabric to make them sturdy.

You can use your sleeping bag to sit on in the backyard or to sleep in when it is too chilly for a blanket.

It will keep you warm and cozy all night long despite its temporary nature.

Kids dress-up closet

Little children love to play dress-up and make up.

So, instead of throwing away old clothes that you are not using, turn them into costumes for your kids.

Make a whole collection that will be available for your kids to play with anytime they want.

You can also add accessories such as hats, wigs, shoes and anything else you can find in your closet that you think your child will enjoy.

Allow them to get creative, and watch them play all day long in the comfort of their own home.

You can even change the outfits on a regular basis to keep them interested.

If you have more kids, this will keep them entertained for hours without a single fight over who will get to play with the wand first.

Make distressed jeans

You can use old jeans as a way to create something new.

Distressed jeans are trendy right now and stylish.

This is a great way to give your jeans a new look without going out and buying anything new.

All you have to do is get some rubber bands and a pair of scissors.

Cut the pants into different sections and then use the rubber bands to create patterns like rips, tears or holes.

You can make it as neat or as messy as you want.

The more distressed your jeans look, the trendier they will be.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, old clothes are not useless.

This is not only a way to keep your old clothes out of the landfill, but it’s also an opportunity for you to create something unique and fashionable.

Who knows, you may end up being the next big designer with all the ideas that you came up with from using your old clothes.

Now go out there and make something beautiful!


Can you throw clothes in the garbage?

If the label indicates that you cannot do that, then you should avoid throwing them in the trash.

In fact, most other countries in the world have similar regulations surrounding disposal of your clothes.

It’s not recommended to just throw clothes in the garbage because they end up in landfills and pollute the environment.

Can I get my clothes recycled for free?

Most clothing manufacturers are offering some sort of recycling program.

If you go to the website of a certain manufacturer and ask how to get your old clothes back, chances are they will give you some way to get it done quickly and easily.

It may cost you a little money in some instances, but it is better than keeping the burden of disposing the clothes on yourself.