This post and the photos within it may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a commission at no extra charge to you.
What to do with old clothes that cannot be donated?
Luckily, there are many things you can do with old stuff, and in this article, I will give you many cool ideas on what to do with unusable and old clothes that you can’t donate.
You will find 17 ideas divided into two categories:
- Upcycling super easy & quick ideas that require no sewing
- Repurposing & DIY options that require more time & sewing
Let’s jump right into it!
Upcycle: Easy & no-sew ideas
1. Repair first
Pretty obvious, I know. But really, before throwing something away, try to fix it. You can repair almost everything – stains, holes, stuck zippers; you name it.
Here are some ideas to consider:
- Remove armpit discoloration with lemon juice or baking soda
- Freeze chewing gum off your jeans
- Add a patch to hide holes in jeans, shirts, or jackets
- Fix snagged sweaters, jeans, or shirts by hand
- Use transparent nail polish to stop a run in your tights
- Fix a stuck zipper with an earbud dipped in olive oil
2. Recycle old clothing
You can send old clothes that you can’t donate to one of the 20 textile recycling companies or take-back initiatives.
Some brands also offer store credit for future purchases. A couple of options include:
- Close The Loop (The North Face)
- Eileen Fisher Renew program
- Madewell – Denim Recycling Program
- Worn Wear Patagonia
- Reset, Recycle and Refresh Program
You can also visit Recycle Now to find nearby clothing and textile recycling options.
3. Compost natural fibers
You can compost old clothes that you cannot donate that are made from natural fibers such as cotton, linen, bamboo, hemp, silk, jute, cork, cashmere, or wool.
Cotton, linen, jute, and hemp break down the fastest, while others, like bamboo and wool, will take a lot longer, but eventually, they will biodegrade.
To compost clothes from natural fibers:
- To keep the balance in your compost pile, make sure you add them alongside veggie peelings or garden cuttings.
- Don’t overwhelm your compost pile with too many fabrics.
- Cut down the materials into smaller pieces, so it breaks down faster.
- Remove all tags, buttons, zippers, etc., which aren’t biodegradable.
4. Give to animal shelters
Animal shelters often need sheets, blankets, towels, and old clothes, which is a great and easy way to sustainably get rid of old things that aren’t in their best shape.
As long as the fabric is clean and isn’t completely falling apart, animal shelters will likely be more than happy to accept old clothing or textile items.
They are usually handy for cleaning and making more comfy beds for the animals.
5. Give to local community centers
Perhaps a local school or community center can use your old clothes for various art & craft projects.
Many creative organizations and people are ready to take old clothes, bedding, and curtains and turn them into something functional and beautiful.
You can go around and ask if they need old fabrics, or you can even try to find local Facebook community pages & groups and ask there.
6. Make cleaning rags
Another super-easy way to repurpose old clothes is to cut them into squares and use them as cleaning cloths, rags, and dusters.
7. Make reusable tote bags
While researching, I found that you can easily create a reusable tote bag with most old t-shirts or shirts. In that way, you can use old shirts that you can’t wear or donate.
Best of all, making a reusable tote bag is extremely simple, beginner-friendly, and no-sew!
You will need sharp scissors, an old shirt, and ten minutes of your time. Check out this quick tutorial by WhatsUpMoms:
If you feel comfortable using a sewing machine, follow this tutorial.
Do you have a bunch of old, colorless, boring shirts, and you don’t know what to do with them?
Then, you can consider tie-dye. Tie-dye is the process of folding and twisting a fabric, then dying it to create cool-looking patterns.
I enjoyed this video a LOT; it gives many different tips and ways to prepare your clothing before dying it, so if that’s what you want to do with your old stuff, I recommend checking it out:
9. DIY handkerchief
If you use paper tissues daily, making a DIY handkerchief can be another excellent option for dealing with old cotton clothes.
Best of all, it is super easy, too. Cut squares out of old clothing into squares, and if you want to make them study and thicker, sew two equal pieces together.
This will help you reduce and even eliminate the use of tissues, which is a bonus point for the environment.
11. Make headbang from tights or t-shirt
You can create an easy DIY headband in about 10-15 minutes with old tights or a t-shirt.
If you want to upcycle old tights, there is a bit of sewing involved, but if you don’t have access to a sewing machine, you can hand stitch the headband.
12. DIY scrunchie
Instead of buying new hair ties, you can reuse fabric from old clothes to create colorful scrunchies for your hair.
In my experience, I always find a way to lose my hair tyes, so making a bunch of scrunchies can come in handy.
There are various ways you can do that, and some of the methods don’t require sewing. Check out some of the many tutorials on Youtube on how to DIY scrunchies.
Remake & DIY:
Creating something new is another excellent way to deal with old clothes. Instead of buying a new item, completely remake an old one!
In that way, you will save money and reduce waste. Some of these will require a little bit of experience with sewing, but they all are very beginner-friendly!
13. DIY apron
Creating a DIY apron with old clothes can be a fun and easy project to create something useful from waste textile.
You can also make the DIY apron as a gift for friends or family members who are cooking enthusiasts.
You will need thicker fabric, scissors, thread, pencil or tailor’s chalk, cloth tape measure, and a sewing machine.
For more details, follow this straightforward step-by-step guide.
14. DIY denim bags from old jeans
If you have an excess of old jeans and don’t know what to do with them, make DIY denim bags!
There are several ways of doing it, and the designs you can create are endless. However, these three particular options are the easiest ones I found online.
15. DIY toys
- Monkey toy with single socks – No matter how hard you try to keep your socks in pairs, you will always end up losing some and having a bunch of single socks. Instead of throwing them away, you can create a cute Sock Monkey Toy – ideal if you have kids or want to make a cute gift for a friend with kids.
- A monster or dinosaur toy with gloves – Similarly to the sock idea, you can repurpose single gloves and make toys like Glove Dinasours or Glove Monsters.
- Dog or cat toy – If you have a fluffy furry friend, you can DIY cute pet toys from old denim.
16. Pillowcase from a shirt or sweater
A fun, fast project that will help you repurpose old shirts or old sweaters, and best of all, you will need almost no sewing skills!
A bonus here is that you can repurpose old fabric scraps and clothing for pillow stuffing.
Follow this guide to make a pillowcase from a shirt and if you want to use old sweaters instead, follow this step-by-step video.
17. Stitched t-shirts blanket
If you have a bunch of t-shirts, you can make an easy t-shirt blanket! There are many great tutorials out there, but I found this one that’s super easy to understand and straightforward.
There you have it – 17 ideas and things to do with old clothes that cannot be donated.
All in all, there are many ways to reduce textile waste. You can do it by preventing old clothes from going to the landfill, together with:
- Mindful consumerism
- Purchasing second-hand clothes
- Choosing sustainable & ethically-made clothing
Are there other cool things to do with old clothes that I forgot to mention? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below!