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What To Do With Old Clothes That Cannot Be Donated


It always feels so good to go through your closets and get them cleaned out and organized. It helps to start with a thorough decluttering session and make a bag of clothes you no longer fit or wear for donation to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or other charity stores. However, not all clothing can be donated. If the clothes you’re getting rid of are torn, stained, stretched out of shape, or have moth holes, donation sites and homeless shelters won’t want them. Only clean, gently used clothes in good condition can be donated. So, what do you do with the rest? Here are a several good options for what to do with old clothes that cannot be donated.

15 Things To Do With Old Clothes You Can’t Donate

What To Do With Old Clothes That Cannot Be Donated

The topic of what to do with unwanted clothing makes me think of that old adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” And it is so true! Even though you no longer need those old clothes, they may serve you or someone else well in another purpose. You can give new meaning to the term clothing swap by swapping out their use. Old clothes can actually have many new uses or become many new things!

1. Cleaning Rags

Old t-shirts make great cleaning and dusting rags. They’re perfect for polishing the car, dusting window blinds, or cleaning up greasy messes. If they’re not torn, old tees are also perfect to wear while you clean or craft. You won’t worry if you spill bleach or get paint on them.

2. Craft Projects

Get creative. Old clothes make great raw material for craft projects. Turn old socks into sock puppets or old denim into a clever memory box cover with a pocket.

family memory box

3. Hand-Me-Downs

Kids clothes are perfect hand-me-downs for younger siblings, cousins, or neighbors. If the second hand clothes are already stained your family member won’t need to worry about them getting dirty at the playground or while doing crafts.

4. Textile Recyclers

Do an online search for companies that recycle old clothes. You can ship your worn clothes off to find new life as something else. Some of these companies will even send you shipping bags for your old clothing.

5. Compost

If you’re a gardener, there’s good news. Natural fibers like cotton, silk, wool, hemp, bamboo, linen, and cashmere clothing are all compostable. You can add it to your compost pile and watch it break down over time and become nutrient-rich soil for your garden.

6. Donate to an Animal Shelter

Animal shelters use old sweaters, clothes, towels, and blankets to care for the animals at the shelter. They can use them for cleaning up and making beds for the animals. Your donation of old towels would help them out.

7. Make a Memorial Quilt

Old clothing with sentimental value can be repurposed into something you can keep. This is especially true if the clothing belonged to someone who has passed. Use their old clothes for a memorial keepsake quilt or even a stuffed animal for a little one left behind.

8. Redeem for a Discount

It might surprise you to know that some stores have a collection bin, like Madewell and H&M, and will recycle your old clothes for you! Some of them will even offer you an in-store discount on purchases you make the same day as your clothing donation. North Face lets you recycle your used apparel and footwear (any condition, any brand) at their stores and you will earn a $10 reward toward your next purchase of $100 or more!

9. Turn Old T-Shirts into Tote Bags

T-shirts make one-of-a-kind, eco-friendly tote bags for shopping. An quick online search will help you find instructions for a no-sew 10-minute project.

10. Make Patches

A great way to give second life to unwanted clothes is to use them to make stylish patches for jeans. A good pair of jeans with a hole can become a one-of-a-kind design by making a patch out of an old favorite shirt. Sew patches to cover stains and holes and make a beautiful piece of artwork you can wear.

11. Weed Barrier

Old cotton t shirts with yellowed armpits can be repurposed in your garden beds where you can use them as water permeable weed barriers under you mulch. They will prevent weeds from growing while still allowing water to get to your plants.

12. Repurpose Old Clothes Into New Clothes

Turn stained t-shirts into tie-dye shirts and you can keep them wearing them! Turn pants with holes in the knees into shorts.

13. Make Art

You can even use old textiles to make wall art by stretching it over a canvas as artwork. I have seen people do this for a cool effect using old band t-shirts!

14. Gift Wrap

Another convenient way to use clothing items in poor condition is to cut out the flawed parts and use the rest to create cloth bags for gift wrap giving. Or if you don’t sew, you can still cut the old fabric into squares and use as gift wrap cloth.

15. Make Accessories

Tons of textiles can make great secondary materials to be used as cool accessories such as headbands, scarves, necklaces and bracelets.

old t shirt infinity scarf

With an average of 70 pounds of clothing per person, per year, going to a landfill, finding uses for what to do with old clothes that cannot be donated is an environmentally friendly and responsible choice. Which ones of these ideas for ways to use unwanted items do you think you will try next time?

Related Posts:

3 No Sew Ways To Upcycle Old T-Shirts

DIY Baby Clothes With These Clever Upcycle Ideas

Repurposed Paper Craft Ideas for Spring



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