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11 Ways to Recycle Your Old Clothes

Guest Post by Bex Boffey

We’ve all been there after a wardrobe clear-out with bags full of clothes we no longer want or need.

It can be easy to simply throw them away or stuff them under your bed until the next annual spring clean, but it’s time to start thinking differently. In the conscious age of 2020, there are so many more options and alternatives to adding unwanted clothes to landfills. Here are 11 creative, innovative and simple ways to recycle your old clothes.



Arguably the most obvious thing to do when you’re wanting to get rid of some old clothes is to donate to charity. Not only does this give you that warm and fuzzy feeling inside (good karma coming your way) but it helps a multitude of people even by giving away a small amount. By adding Gift-Aid onto your donation too, it also increases the amount of money the charity receives! Those in desperate need of clothing can afford to buy themselves new items, plus the charity gains support and profits through people spending. There is literally no reason not to donate your garments to a charity shop! It’s worth noting that charity shops will accept ‘rags’ too. Just make sure they’re marked up as soon, so the charity shops know to not put them on the shop floor. They will work with local recycling units to recycle the old fabrics. 


Ever looked at your most favourite pair of jeans and thought, damn I wish I had a pair of shorts like you? Time to get familiar with the joys of upcycling. There’s no reason why your old favourites can’t become new favourites with a bit of imagination. You can turn jeans into shorts simply by giving them the snip. Change a plain white t-shirt into a multicoloured crop top with some tie-dying. Or make a jumper into a cardigan with a little know-how. Some DIY jobs can require a bit more expertise, so you may need to watch a few YouTube videos on how to sew or learn how to use a sewing machine. Who knew simply going to recycle old clothes could end up teaching you a handy life skill?


Of a similar vein, don’t throw out your old clothes because they’ve lost a button or developed a little hole here and there. So many repair works can be done simply by hand stitching and most sewing kits can be bought for a couple of pounds even from a supermarket. No excuses. Spend time looking after your wardrobe; washing less often, storing correctly and repairing any wear and tear as soon as it occurs. This way, you’re extending the longevity of your items without any cost to yourself or the environment. Alternatively, invest in a really good tailor. Whether something needs altering, taking in, or you don’t have time or the know-how to fix a problem yourself, take it to your local tailoring service and they can lend a helping hand. Supporting your local businesses AND recycling your old clothes? Double whammy in saving the planet! 


Mending Image


Ever thought of using an old top or jersey piece as a cleaning cloth? No? Well, welcome to a whole new use of your old garments! Instead of buying dusters or clothes to use to clean your home with, put those old pieces to good use and make the most out of them. If your items are looking a bit worse for wear, this is even better so you don’t waste an item that could be re-homed.

Additionally, make like our grandmas and make a patch-work quilt out of old patterns. Tear off fabrics and make patchwork jeans or tops too for a kitsch new take on wardrobe staples. Not your thing? Don’t worry, you can even use old clothes and textiles for padding in cushions, bean bags or stuffed toys. 


Does your best friend keep borrowing your clothes? Got your eye on something in your sibling’s wardrobe? Suggest a swap-shop! Gather all your pre-loved pieces, get your besties round and get thrifting between yourselves. Swapping clothes amongst your nearest and dearest not only means their life is extended, but you know your old ride-or-die dress is still within borrowing reach, if you ever need to pull it out of the closest again. It also feels like shopping without spending any money or contributing to mass-consumption, so who’s the real winner here? (spoiler alert: your bank account)


If you’re feeling a bit strapped for cash, a wardrobe clear out and subsequent afternoon uploading everything to a resale website is just what you need! Make money from your old pieces by selling them on sites like eBay and Depop. Only upload items that are in good condition, much like what you would donate to a charity shop. Instead of simply discarding old items, you’re giving the opportunity for them to be appreciated and loved by someone else (and making a little bit of money out of it in the process). After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.


Whether you’re sleeping, lounging, decorating, or doing any activity whereby nobody will see (or judge) your outfit, sometimes only old clothing will do. That oversized t-shirt you got from a music gig ten years ago? It’s PERFECT for going to bed in. Those jeans that have seen better days? GREAT for painting and decorating in. Make use of old clothes by wearing them for other occasions, and enjoying the nostalgia of their memories in doing so. Just because something is super pre-loved, a bit worn and torn, or just on it’s last legs, doesn’t mean you have to throw it away. Those cosy old garments are exactly the best kind to do ‘nothing’ in. 


If you have no room for storing old clothes, no charity shops near you or no time to upload to eBay, take advantage of apps like reGAIN. The premise is simple; you bag up your old clothes, send them off in their pre-paid packaging and they recycle the fabrics or send clothing to charities and those most in need of it. Similarly, a lot of shops offer recycling points in their premises. They have large bins where you can dispose of your old clothes and they will look after the recycling of them. It’s worth checking with your local council too, where your nearest clothes bank is.


Given the current climate (and law), why not turn old pieces into face masks for your and your friends? You can even turn socks into face coverings (make sure they’re clean first). There are thousands of tutorials on YouTube and social media that can teach you how to make face masks out of old fabrics. So, get a little arts-and-crafty and recycle that old top into something worthwhile! 


If you’re fortunate enough to own some designer pieces that have been gathering dust in the back of your closet, maybe it’s time to consider renting them out. Services like Hurr and Rotaro are available to not only rent clothing from but also take on your pieces and rent them out. Again, a great way to make some pocket money on the side, especially if you don’t want to part ways with your designer pieces. Give the gift of allowing someone else to enjoy it for a special event they have! 


Ever looked at pictures of your parents and grandparents and wished you could wear their clothes? From vintage-looking leather jackets to timeless bags, there’s nothing that doesn’t come back around in fashion. So, if you’re not wearing something now and it’s still in good quality, chances are it will be ‘fashionable’ again and you might want to pass it down to future generations. If you’re lucky enough to have access to ample storage, get stowing away wardrobe staples for your siblings, sons, daughters or even grandchildren! 

Written by Bex Boffey


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