What to do with old clothes that can’t be donated?

Have you recently had a big clear out?
what to do with old clothes that can't be donated

It feels great and lots can be given to friends and family or charity shops but what can you do with old unwanted clothes that can’t be donated?

If you’ve recently discovered Marie Kondo or just having an annual clear out streamlining your unwanted clothes can make you feel good. There is a lot of sense in the less is more train of thought. We live in a society that is driven by consumption and paring back possessions can help clear the mind and make you feel like you could be taking a small step in the right direction.

Personally the concept of a capsule wardrobe would really suit me but clearing out can be hard. Once you have admitted to yourself you can get rid of items you might “one day fit into”, or might “come back into fashion”, quality items can easily be donated. But, what do you do with old clothes that can’t be donated? A skirt with a hole or a stain for example, it seems wasteful to just discard it. I’ve come up with some top tips of things you can do with unwearable clothes before sending to various clothing and textile banks.

1. Mend or Repair

sissors threat and buttons

If at all possible clothing should be mended or repaired to extend its life. You can often repair things quite easily yourself. For those that are challenged in the sewing department there are still options. Here is a guide from homemaking.com on how to fix a hole with some webbing. You could also depending on where the garment has failed used broaches, badges, clothing transfer or applique amongst many other crafty solutions and depending on your skill set.

2. Recycle the clothing yourself

This option is probably more applicable to the more craft experienced. However you could easily make other items. A simple option is to make tote bags from old clothing depending on the item you could make large or small bags. Melanie Ham has a great tutorial. 

You could also make a cushion cover from an old sweater or jumper in 15 mins see this tutorial from Angeline

These are just a couple of beginner options and with a bit of imagination you could come up with a whole catalogue of ideas.

If you are not at all crafty there are still options. You can send items off to be made into keepsakes. Love Keep Create makes your old clothes into items such as bears and dolls which can be passed onto other family members. 

There are also lots of people who do this as a hobby and often can be found on places like etsy and facebook.

3. Composting

Natural clothes made of materials like cotton, wool, and silk can be composted. This means that they turn back to organic matter that returns to the soil. It can then be used to grow plants. 

You have to ensure the clothing is all natural and also free from anything synthetic like polyester or nylon as these will not decompose. You would also need to remove any buttons, zips, clasps etc. 

4. Take them to your local animal rescue centre

puppy in a blanket

Animal centres are always in need of old clothes as well as blankets and towels. They can be used as bedding for animals as they are easy to clean and often get chewed and scratched by the animals. 

5. Cut them up to use as dishcloths or cleaning rags.

A great option for an old t-shirt for example is to turn it into tea towels or cleaning cloths that you can use around the kitchen to dry and clean up spills. 

I’ve repurposed a lot of old t-shirts and all my baby’s old muslins which were all stained as I also used them as bibs when they were weaning. I’m sure you could find many practical cleaning uses for your old pieces of fabric.

What about your old underwear?

Even if this is in good condition it’s unlikely you will be able to donate this anywhere. So look for local recycling solutions. For example send your old underwear to A Warning About Clothing/ Apparel Recycling

Various retailers offer to recycle your old clothes for you, however some like H&M are vague. In 2019 they collected over 29,000 tonnes and it’s unlikely these were all recycled. T

hey have since launched Looop a machine which recycles materials however they don’t appear to have that many and considering the 3 billion garments they produce every year. 

Therefore if you do want to recycle with a retailer a little bit of investigation can demonstrate the reality of their actual clothes recycling program.

You might also wonder what charity shops do with all the clothes they can’t sell? Usually they will be sold to a textile recycling company and therefore still make money for the charity.

Finally, love your clothes have some great ideas for upcycling your unwanted clothing. Check it out for inspiration.

We hope you found this guide useful and if you want to find out more about the impact of fast fashion click here.

Read our post about the best sustainable slippers here

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