Are piles of old clothes sitting around your home?
Personally, I had a box of old clothing sitting in my closet for months before I decided on what to do with it.
Since the clothes were all in different conditions, I didn’t know the best way to dispose of them. Should I donate, repurpose, or recycle?
After doing my research, I realized there are multiple ways to dispose of old clothes and things to know beforehand.
Knowing the Condition of Old Clothes
Before you can choose what to do with your old clothes, you need to know what condition they’re in.
If all your old clothes have holes or stains, your only option will be to dispose of them.
But if your clothes are in good condition, a donation is an awesome option.
To understand what condition your old clothes are in, start by checking your clothes for any obvious signs of distress. Those include clothes with:
- Loose stitches
- General signs of heavy use
Aside from those signs, charities also don’t accept certain types of clothing. They don’t accept underwear of any kind or bathing suits.
If you plan on donating your old clothes, call your local charity beforehand to determine whether they will accept your old clothes.
Old Clothes Disposal Options
When it comes to how to dispose of old clothes, you have more options than you think.
Whether you donate, recycle, repurpose, or find another way to get rid of those old clothes, there are plenty of options for you!
Donate Old Clothes
Donation is the best option if your clothes are still in good condition.
We’ve already gone over the general condition that your old clothes have to be acceptable for donation, but you also need to ensure your clothes are clean and washed before donation.
Multiple large charities have clothing divisions.
The Red Cross operates many drop-off boxes around the country. With these boxes, all you need to do is drive up and deposit your old clothes in the bin.
They also offer home pick-ups for old clothing, although you must call ahead to verify.
Another large charity that operates across the United States is the Salvation Army. They donate some clothing to those in need, but also sell some in their thrift stores.
They then use the proceeds to perform other charitable activities across the country.
The Salvation Army has numerous clothes drop-off stations in their Thrift Stores. Just pull up and drop off your clothes, what could be easier?
Alternatively, you can schedule a pick-up time on their website.
Overall, if your clothes are in good condition, a donation is the best option.
Not only can you ensure your old clothes will help someone in need, but you can also be happy that someone will get to enjoy your clothes for years to come.
Brand Take-back Programs
Although this option is the least common, brand take-backs are a solid program that could become more common in the future.
Essentially, when you buy from a specific brand, they’ll take back your old clothes and repurpose them in exchange for a store credit or other incentive.
Currently, I know of two brands that utilize a program like this.
North Face has their Clothes the Loop program, which allows you to bring your old North Face products into the store for a $10 in-store credit.
They’ll take your clothes even if they have holes, stains, or any other problem.
Patagonia also has a take-back program called Worn Wear.
Bring your donation quality Patagonia clothes into any store and you’ll receive a credit towards your next purchase.
The amount of money on the credit depends on the quality of clothes you bring in.
Brand take-back programs may not be the most widely known way to dispose of old clothes, but it’s becoming more popular.
Before you try any of the next options, see if the brand you need to dispose of has a trade-in program. It might be worth your while!
Repurpose Old Clothes
Repurposing your old clothes is a solid way to dispose of those clothes that may have a few stains or holes.
Luckily, there are a million ways to repurpose those old clothes into something more useful.
If your clothes have a stain but are otherwise wearable, you can try your luck with dying. By dyeing your clothes, you can turn them into any color you’d like.
I dyed one of my stained t-shirts and now I use it on laundry days, but there are many other options for dyed clothes.
Another option is to cut out the usable fabric from your clothes, especially if they have a design you like.
My mom likes to repurpose old t-shirts into quilts. She cuts the old clothes into equal-sized pieces and stitches them together to create unique, recycled quilts.
Old shirts, socks, and underwear are the perfect clothes to turn into a kitchen or cleaning rag.
Aside from those common uses, you can also turn old clothes into:
- Planter tags
- Coin purse
- Tote bags
- Stuffed animals
- Sock dryer balls
- Fabric bracelets
- Any fabric item you can imagine!
Aside from these options, there’s one final option for your old clothing—continue wearing it!
Obviously, your old clothes aren’t acceptable when you’re on a dinner date, but what about mowing the lawn or cleaning your home?
It’s always nice to have a few old t-shirts around that you can get dirty without caring.
Recycle Old Clothes
The final two options for how to dispose of old clothes depend on the type of clothes you have.
If your clothes are made from polyester, nylon, spandex, or any other synthetic material, you’ll have to recycle them.
If you don’t recycle these types of clothes, they’ll end up in the landfill where they’ll spend thousands of years.
Synthetic materials don’t biodegrade, meaning they’ll be there forever.
That means recycling old clothes is the best option if they’re synthetic. Clothing recycling facilities are few and far between, so finding one can be a real hassle.
Recently, more cities are installing clothing drop boxes that are meant for recycling rather than a donation. Be on the lookout for drop-off boxes labeled “textile recycling.”
If all else fails and you can’t find a recycling facility, try using Earth911’s recycling search feature.
Their system allows you to look up recycling facilities in your area, including textile recycling.
Compost Old Clothes
Composting your old clothes is only an option when your clothes are made from natural fibers.
Natural fibers include, but aren’t limited to:
Clothes made from these materials will break down over time, meaning they’re a perfect addition to your compost bin.
Before you add any clothes to your compost, make sure they’re 100% natural materials. You’ll often see cotton blends that include polyester, making compost a non-option.
Once you’ve ensured your clothes are 100% natural, you can make space for them in your compost.
Remove any zippers, buttons, or non-natural additions before putting your old clothes in the compost.
Before adding clothes to your compost, it’s a good idea to cut them into smaller pieces. Small pieces of clothing break down better in the compost compared to a whole t-shirt or pair of underwear.
After you add clothes to the compost, make sure you cover them with a layer of dirt and other compostable materials, like fruit peels or coffee grinds.
By having a mixture that includes various materials, you can ensure your old clothes break down and form solid fertilizer for your garden.
When it comes to how to dispose of old clothes, you have more options than you may think.
Everyone knows that they can donate their clothes, which is still the best option for clothes without major damage.
When you donate, you know your clothes will bring joy to someone else instead of just ending up like a rag.
But even if your clothes have significant damage you have many options for repurposing them.
You can turn your old clothes into anything you can imagine. From newly dyed shirts to quilts to planter tags, you have so many options for your old clothes that it might be overwhelming!
Even if those options aren’t possible, you can still do more than just toss your clothes in the garbage.
From composting to recycling, you can always responsibly dispose of your clothes.
Now that you know what to do with them, how are you going to dispose of your old clothes?
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