Recycle Your Old Clothing

You don't want to throw it away, but there's no other option in sight. What do you do with your old clothing? Recycle it - here's how!

It's falling apart.

It doesn't fit anymore.

The wife hates it.

You just don't like it anymore.

These are some of the most common reasons to get rid of used clothing. While the first instinct is usually to toss said items into the garbage can with the rest of your trash, it shouldn't be something you do unless it's absolutely necessary. In nine out of ten cases, your old clothing can be recycled to help yourself or somebody else.

The obvious first choice is to donate to a charity or thrift store. They will in turn wash, sort, and display your old tee shirts, jeans, and dress pants. You might not get any money out of this deal, but you'll get the tax write-off - and, of course, the good feeling you get from knowing that you're helping somebody else AND contributing a little less to the landfill.

This is only going to work if the items are still in decent condition. If you've just outgrown them, or decided that you don't like them anymore, they'll probably work as a charitable donation. However, if you have three-year-old undershirts that are yellow as gold and holy as the apostles, it's a safe bet that nobody's going to want it.

Then there's the sentimental attachment that you have to some of your favorite clothing. You might not be able to wear that Van Halen tour shirt from the 1980s anymore, but it brings back such great memories of high school. You can't just throw it into the trash can; that would border on sacrilege.

What do you do with this sort of item, then?

Recycle it around the house. There are tens of millions of ideas floating around, most of which are pretty good depending on your needs and preferences. (You might not want to dye your old tee shirts in your local high school's colors and make rally rags out of them, but somebody else would love the idea.)

Here are just a few suggestions to get you started. Let your own creativity - and, of course, preferences - get you going the rest of the way.


If you're into sewing, you can cut old jeans, shirts, et cetera into sections and use them for a "family memories" project. Just think: a wall hanging made from Grandpa's old ties, Sis's favorite tee shirt, and your high-school football jersey would make a great conversation piece - and bring back all sorts of great memories.

Old jeans can be cut into sections and put on the embroidery hoop. With a little bit of tracing (carbon paper works best), you can recreate your favorite band logos, slogans, or even your own unique designs. Once the embroidery is done, you can cut the material around it into a patch and sew it to your backpack, purse - or even another pair of jeans.


Even old panty hose can be put to use: they're perfect for buffing newly-polished leather shoes or boots. This is usually picked up while you're in the military, but civilians can benefit from it too.

These also work in a pinch if a belt in your car breaks and you absolutely, simply MUST drive it a couple of more miles to the nearest service station. It won't work for long distances - and it's probably very hard to reach into the engine compartments of newer cars - but it can work wonders in certain situations.

NOTE: don't use the old panty hose to cover your face while you rob a liquor store. It is understood that this practice is highly uncomfortable (considering that you really can't breathe or see well), and that it is also very illegal. Other than that, go nuts.

COTTON (tee shirts, underwear, socks, and the like)

Old tee shirts make great flags. They'll probably last longer if you display them inside - say, in Junior's bedroom - than if you put them outside. Either way, it's a fun project to do with your children.

Turn the kids loose with fabric markers, in an area they can't destroy, and let them go crazy. They can color and decorate inside and out, on all sides: this is supposed to be fun, so let them go for it.

Now you can hang it wherever you want. Small thumbtacks can be pressed into the wall from the inside of the shirt: the tacks are hidden, and the shirt looks great.

NOTE: let the fabric marker dry completely before hanging. You really don't want to stain the wall.

Simpler projects include cutting the tee shirts into strips, picking out the best-looking pieces, and letting the kids decorate them as headbands. This is especially great for anybody who's into the ninja-style cartoons (Ninja Turtles, anyone?). You can fold the edges inward and seal them with fabric glue to create that all-important finished look.

You can make a dust rag out of just about any cotton clothing. This includes tee shirts, handkerchiefs, and even old underwear. (Just be sure to wash them first.) In fact, old clothing of almost any sort can be used for some sort of cleaning, buffing, polishing, or application (such as car wax).

Take some of your old socks and ball them up. Stuff one or two into a larger sock. Do this again, with another sock, and knot the two together at the tops. Now you have a great dog toy; one that can be used when you and your canine pal want to wrestle together.

An alternative is to fill it with catnip before you knot it closed: if you're fortunate, your cat will enjoy it for days, or even weeks, on end.

There are literally billions of other ideas out there. These are just to get you started. With a little thinking and inspiration, you can turn just about any piece of clothing into something useful, attractive, or nostalgic.

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