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How to Recycle Ruined Clothes

Updated on April 19, 2012

93% of all textile waste is recyclable, but 85% of it goes directly to the dump.

Wait, what? Did I read that correctly? Only 15% of all textiles are actually recycled. We have got to do something about that!

How to Save the Earth

In honor of Earth Day and of every other 364 days that she lets us all live here, take the time to say thanks and give back by committing to recycling all of your textile waste.

Recycle Old Clothing

Depending on the condition of the clothes you no longer wish to keep, there are lots of options before throwing any of it in the trash can. To some, this may seem like common sense, to others completely absurd, either way it's very simple.

Swap Them

A fun way to get rid of your old clothing, fabric, curtains, etc. is to get together with a bunch of friends and swap textiles. If your a craftsy crew or clothing is ruined, have a scrap fabric swap to get a variety of patterns and textures and upcycle into the fabulous list of fabric scrap crafts below.

Donate Clothes

For any clothes that are in good condition, it is a generous idea to donate them. Donated clothing is accepted at many non-profit organizations that assist others in need and you may even be eligible to get a tax deduction for your clothing donation.

Upcycle Textiles

If the clothing or textile material you have is damaged in some way, such as ripped or stained. Consider if it may be used in any of the following crafts. The process of turning useless materials into new and sometimes valuable products is called upcycling. You will find some of the ideas below may even bring in a bit of extra profit, such as selling your finished handmade products at local craft fairs or online craft sites like Etsy.

Upcycle Craft Ideas

For more ideas on how to upcycle, check out my hub, How to Find Free Craft Supplies.

Fabric Scrap Crafts

  • Eye Pillows
    Eye pillows are the simplest item to make even with little or no sewing experience. They are a thoughtful handmade item that is a great Mother's Day or birthday gift.

    1. Simply cut out a rectangular piece of silky or soft fabric, such as silk or bamboo.
    2. Fold it in half with the outside facing in.
    3. Sew up both sides to form a pouch.
    4. Turn pouch inside out.
    5. Fill about 2/3 of it with a mixture of flax seeds and your favorite, fragrant dry herb, like lavender or chamomile. Both of which contain relaxing properties when inhaled.
    6. Fold open end in and sew shut.
    7. Tie a ribbon around with a thoughtful quote, relaxing breathing exercise, or just a simple note.
  • Reversible Coffee Cup Sleeves
    These are simply adorable and by using them, you will help save trees too. I can just imagine using some of the flannel pajamas that my boys have outgrown to create these. If you make enough, you might even be able to sell some in your local coffee shop.
  • Fabric Cuff Your Jeans
    Super cute, right?! I have a couple of pairs of jeans that are just a bit too long, but would make great capris. Reusing some of my old fabric that I have purchased for other sewing crafts would make a lovely addition to the cuffs on them.
  • Rag Rug
    Yup! Remember latch hooking? Now you can use some of your ruined clothing to make a fun rug that you could use as a soft throw rug to place next to your bed, your feet will appreciate it too.
  • Upcycled Patchwork Shorts
    Turn your kids favorite, but outgrown t-shirts into these great shorts from the Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom blog.

Recycling T-Shirts

Who doesn't have too many t-shirts? T-shirts are great, but do you really ever wear all them all?

Check out these cool ways to recycle t-shirts:

  • How to Make T-Shirt Yarn
    A step-by-step photo tutorial demonstrating how to make yarn out of ruined t-shirts. The site also includes some patterns for using your t-shirt yarn.
  • Produce Bags
    Can you imagine how well these would sell at your local farmers market or CSA Farm? They are adorable, check them out!
  • T-shirt to Skirt
    Check out the before shirt, I would never have guessed that polo style t-shirt could become this cute skirt.
  • T-shirt Necklace
    If you like big jewelry, you'll love this necklace created from old t-shirts.
  • T-shirt Yarn Headband from Sugar Bee Crafts
    The Knotted Headband (from the You Seriously Made That?! blog) made with T-shirt Yarn
  • DIY: Scarf Made from a T-shirt from This Girl's Life blog
  • Patchwork Throw
    I have been saving all of my boys outgrown super hero shirts in the hopes that someday I will have the time to make them into a fun patchwork throw for each of them.

Miscellaneous Crafts for Recycling Ruined Clothing

Resources

For more information on recycling textiles, check out the following resources:

Need More Ideas?

Recycled Textile Crafts board on Pinterest
Recycled Textile Crafts board on Pinterest | Source

Comments

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    • thebookmom profile image

      thebookmom 5 years ago from Nebraska

      Wow! Fantastic hub. So many useful and good ideas. My favorite was using old clothing to make tote bags, I had no idea. Well done. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 5 years ago from Mexico

      With creativity wonderful things can be done. My only problem might be that I use and use and use things, especially cloths, until they are in quite a bad condition, looking very old and used ?; still, I could get creative if I made some time and got inspiration from hubs like this one.

      Very good idea for an e-article, I can see that you did your research and I love the fact that you explored recycling and planet-helpful themes.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country

      Lot of good ideas.I like how you used Pinterest.

      I had a lot of old clothes that were not suitable for wearing any more-- but I hated to send them to the landfill.

      I asked the lady at the Goodwill dropoff place what I could do with them. She said, as long as they were washed, Goodwill would take them and send them to a place that makes dog toys. (Take the buttons and zippers off-- they can be reused.)

    • veggie-mom profile image
      Author

      veggie-mom 5 years ago

      Thanks, thebookmom! I know, I am anxious to try making t-shirt yarn.

    • Joesy Shmoesy profile image

      Joesy Shmoesy 5 years ago from New England

      Yahoo for you! This Hub was great. I love the patchwork shorts that you linked to. Who am I kidding, I loved them all! Thanks for the super fun read. Voted UP and Awesome! Can't wait to use some of your ideas from Pinterst.

    • veggie-mom profile image
      Author

      veggie-mom 5 years ago

      Thanks, Claudia! I'm happy to hear that you get long-term use out of your clothing. If everyone did the same, we would have so much less waste! Keep me posted if you decide to try out any of the crafts.

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 5 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      Fantastic hub vegie-mum and yes we do need to do something about the rest of the 85%... and fast. Thanks for this.

      Up awesome and wish their was an important as well.

    • veggie-mom profile image
      Author

      veggie-mom 5 years ago

      Thank you, Rochelle! Great to know that Goodwill will accept donations even if the clothing is no longer suitable for wearing. Dog toys are a great idea for crafting with ruined clothing too, thanks for sharing.

    • veggie-mom profile image
      Author

      veggie-mom 5 years ago

      Thanks so much, Joesy Shmoesy, I am glad you enjoyed the hub and crafty resources!

    • veggie-mom profile image
      Author

      veggie-mom 5 years ago

      Thank you, carter06 for your kind words & accolades! I'm glad you enjoyed the hub!

    • alliemacb profile image

      alliemacb 5 years ago from Scotland

      Lots of great ideas here. I have to admit to being guilty of throwing clothes away when they could actually be put to some other use. Voted up and awesome.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      At our home we either donate clothes or make carry bags from larger clothes. Recycling should be in our list of to do things every day. To stop overuse of natural resources all of us have to do our bit. Your hub is a welcome reminder.

      Thanks for sharing. voted up & useful.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      Great ideas! I think many of the old-time crafts are coming back into vogue. My aunt (age 96) still makes rag rugs, and we all cherish them!

    • adjkp25 profile image

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      We try to get everything out of our clothes as well. Goodwill benefits from stuff that doesn't fit anymore or we just don't want. We also put an old sweatshirt on our black lab a year ago because he was cold.

      The more we keep out of the landfills the better!

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 5 years ago from San Jose, California

      Very interesting ideas on Recycling T-Shirts. I usually donate all the clothing we don't need. Maybe I should try out some of your fun ideas.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 5 years ago from United States

      I recall an old neighbor (in her nineties) making rag rugs and crazy quilts. They were really gorgeous and sturdy. Am glad people are still pursuing the old crafts these days.

    • Amy Gillie profile image

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Veggie-mom, I love this! Totally trying some of these. I especially like the idea of fabric cuffs on jeans. Voted up!

    • TFScientist profile image

      Rhys Baker 5 years ago from Peterborough, UK

      Great ideas that can be done by the whole family. I need some extra wardrobe space too...

      Voted up and useful

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 5 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      Great hub with so many ideas how to reuse and recycle old t shirts. Best hub I have read so far. I'm gonna try one of your ideas. Voted useful!

    • katecupcake profile image

      Kaisha Howell 5 years ago from Texas, USA

      veggie-mom, I am blown away! I love your hubs and the creativity of your pinterest page.

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 4 years ago from Oklahoma

      Great hub! I love upcycling fabric. so many possibilities, and you have just given me some new ideas too. I like the idea of the eye pillow, for using up small pieces of fabric. I have a pattern somewhere for making a sleep mask too, but never tried it. Now is the time!

    • Longfield profile image

      Longfield 4 years ago

      Making use of older clothing helps one find a new purpose for them. Thanks again for outline of uses. Longfield

      http://recycles-green.blogspot.com/

    • Argonaut Jess profile image

      Jessica Salmon 4 years ago from Newcastle Upon Tyne

      A wealth of information here!! love it all!

    • CharronsChatter profile image

      Karen Robiscoe 3 years ago from California

      Wow! The Tee shirt necklace and skirt were just amazing--the skirt especially. It looked just bought! And the patchwork throw is so fun. Great article. :)

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