What can you do with old clothes that cannot be donated?

In a world grappling with the environmental consequences of fast fashion, the quandary of what to do with old clothes that can’t be donated looms large. Beyond the traditional routes of giving away gently worn garments, there exists a realm of possibilities for those torn, stained, or out-of-fashion pieces. The key lies in embracing textile recycling and discovering innovative ways to breathe new life into your old clothes.

  1. Upcycling Old Clothes: A Stylish Revival

When confronted with a pile of old clothes that may not be suitable for donation, consider the art of upcycling. This transformative process involves turning worn-out garments into stylish, unique items. Denim jeans, for instance, can be repurposed into trendy tote bags, throw pillows, or even a fashionable denim jacket. The versatility of upcycling ensures a second life for your old clothes, showcasing your creativity and contributing to a more sustainable lifestyle.

  1. Quilting Memories: A Nostalgic Textile Recycling Approach

For clothes with sentimental value that may not fit into a donation bin, quilting provides a heartwarming solution. Stitch together pieces of old clothing to create a cozy quilt that preserves memories and showcases cherished textiles. It’s a timeless way to repurpose old clothes, transforming them into a functional and meaningful item.

  1. Rags and Cleaning Cloths: The Practical Side of Textile Recycling

Not every old garment is destined for a fashionable reincarnation. However, they can still find purpose in your home as cleaning rags. Cut up old t-shirts and worn-out fabrics to create a stash of reusable cleaning cloths. This practical approach not only extends the life of the fabric but also reduces the need for disposable cleaning products, aligning with the principles of clothing recycling.

  1. Textile Recycling Programs: Local Solutions for Global Impact

Communities worldwide are waking up to the importance of textile recycling. Research and participate in local textile recycling programs that accept old clothes in any condition. These programs work towards diverting textiles from landfills, with some companies specializing in transforming old fabrics into insulation, carpet padding, and new textiles. By contributing to these programs, you actively engage in clothing recycling, promoting a circular economy.

  1. Composting Natural Fibers: Nature’s Recycling Bin

For old clothes made from natural fibers like cotton or linen, composting offers a sustainable end-of-life option. These fibers break down naturally, enriching your compost with valuable nutrients. Before tossing them into the compost bin, ensure the removal of buttons and zippers. It’s a simple yet effective way to align with the ethos of textile recycling at a grassroots level.

  1. DIY Cleaning Products: Crafting Sustainable Solutions

Certain fabrics lend themselves perfectly to the creation of DIY cleaning products. Repurpose old clothes, particularly those made from natural fibers, into reusable cleaning wipes or mop heads. This innovative approach reduces dependence on disposable cleaning items, showcasing how even the smallest contributions can play a role in clothing recycling.


In the quest for sustainable living, don’t let old clothes that can’t be donated become a burden on the environment. Explore the diverse avenues of upcycling, quilting, and textile recycling to weave a new narrative for your worn-out garments. Each stitch, each cut, and each contribution to textile recycling programs forms part of a larger tapestry—connecting you to a more eco-friendly and responsible approach to clothing disposal. Your old clothes, once destined for the landfill, can now be champions in the ongoing story of sustainable fashion.

If you'd like to discuss how we can help your organisation with textile recycling, please don't hesitate to get in touch!

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