What to Do With Old Clothes That Cannot Be Donated

What to Do With Old Clothes That Cannot Be Donated

If you have kiddos, you know better than anyone how quickly they outgrow clothes. In the first months and years of a child’s life, they seem to never stop growing, and clothes can only fit them for maybe a few months before they hit their next growth spurt.

This leaves you with quite a lot of clothes that don’t fit anymore. You can donate or sell some of these clothes if they are clean, stain-free, and free of holes or tears. Unfortunately, many of our young ones are a bit rambunctious and prone to causing some wear and tear on their clothing.

With these damaged items that cannot be donated, you may be looking for other good and sustainable ways to repurpose them. In some cases, they can be repaired, but in some, not so much. Here are a few reasons why your old clothes wouldn’t be accepted as donations and what you can do with those pieces you cannot donate.

Why Can’t Some Clothes Be Donated?

There are actually quite a few reasons that clothing may not be accepted for donation. The most common reasons are stains, holes, or excessive stretching. If you want to donate clothing that your kid has outgrown, they may have tried to stretch them a bit too much, causing pants and shirts to start ripping apart at the seams. 

Damaged clothing isn’t accepted because it’s considered unwearable. Chances are if the items of clothing you are donating can’t be worn by you because of how torn apart they are, they won’t be usable for somebody else, either.

Though these holes and stains make them not ideal for reuse as clothing, that doesn’t mean that these clothes are a lost cause. You can still find many different ways to use and repurpose many of those old pieces, even if they aren’t really used as “clothes” anymore.

What Can We Do With These Clothes?

So you find yourself with a few unwearable items that you were planning on donating. It seems like a waste to just let them go unused, as the fabric can still be repurposed into something.

If you want to make a greener choice, there are quite a few things you can do with those old clothes. Here are a few ideas for a few things you can do to avoid trashing old clothes.

Donate Them to Animal Shelters

You may not be able to donate them to used clothing centers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t donate them at all. Call up your local animal shelter and see if they take old clothing donations. Sometimes they will accept old t-shirts or sweatpants to use as warm bedding or something to play with for the shelter cats and dogs. Why not help out our furry friends?

Make a Quilt

This one is especially good for old t-shirts. If your child is involved in theatre, choir, dance, or sports, they may have amassed quite a few t-shirts from events or shows. To keep those memories alive while preventing waste, cut out the center of their favorite t-shirts and sew them all together in a nice quilt that they can put on their bed to remember those happy memories.

Save Fabric for Other Sewing Projects

We all know (or are) a seamstress. If you have old jeans or clothing made out of interesting or unique fabric, you should consider keeping it around just for the fabric. You never know when you’ll need some scraps to patch up holes or add an accent trim to a piece. This also can save you money on buying new fabric for small projects.

Rags and Handkerchiefs

For especially damaged articles of clothing that seem beyond repair, cut them up into squares for waste-free rags that can be used to clean and polish things in your house. Or, use them as handkerchiefs or to replace paper towels, allowing you to cut down on all of that excess paper usage. When they get dirty, all you have to do is throw them in the wash and use them over and over.

If It’s Cotton, Compost It

If you have 100% cotton pieces, you can actually throw them in your compost pile. Composting is a great habit to get into, and it can make the plants in your garden grow strong and thrive. If you do decide to compost your fabric, make absolutely sure it’s cotton since anything made with oils or synthetics can ruin the delicate ecosystem of your compost pile. Then tear it up into small pieces so that it doesn’t take forever to compost.

Brand Take-Back Programs

Some brands offer take-back or buy-back programs for their products that have become unusable. Do a quick search to see if the item you have is from a brand that has a program like this, and you can even make a few bucks or get a discount for recycling this way.

Make a T-Shirt Rug

If you have a bunch of t-shirts that are in cute colors, and you want to keep them in your house, consider making your very own t-shirt rug. All you need is a needle and thread (sewing machine optional) to make a cute, one-of-a-kind rug that will make a great addition to your kitchen, bedroom, or even bathroom floor.

Make a Reusable T-Shirt Bag

Double down on your sustainable lifestyle choices by sewing up an old t-shirt to make an easily reusable bag for groceries. All you will need for this one is a pair of scissors and a needle and thread. If you already have reusable bags, trust us; you can never have too many of these. Plus, the t-shirt version is easier to wash than other bags. 

It’s a good idea to just keep a few of them in your car so that you never have to worry about forgetting to bring them with you when you go shopping.

Recycle Them

If you’ve done all of the above crafts and still find yourself with too many old clothes that you have nothing to do with, you can always just recycle them. This may be news to you, as many of us think of recycling in terms of things like paper and metal cans. 

Why You Shouldn’t Throw Old Clothes Away

No matter what you do with those old clothes, you should try to do anything but throw them away in the trash. If you’re not convinced, here are a few key reasons not to chuck those clothes into the garbage.

It’s Always Better to Cut Down On Waste

We’ve come to realize that our landfills are too full and don’t need anything else added to them. A lot of trash can leach its way into groundwater or worse, end up in the ocean (if you haven’t heard of it, look up the Great Pacific garbage patch for proof). The more we can reuse and keep out of the landfills, the better.

Fast Fashion is Bad For the Environment

From creation to waste, fast fashion releases a lot of carbon emissions and pollutants into the air. In its production, fast fashion emits far more carbon per item versus more ethically manufactured garments. When this clothing breaks down in the huge landfills it occupies, it actually releases toxic gases into the atmosphere.

Most Can Be Recycled

Believe it or not, as many as 95% of textiles can be recycled or repurposed. That’s a real number, folks. That leaves you with basically no reason not to do something sustainable with those old clothes, no matter how torn up or damaged they may be.

Be Kind to the Earth

To avoid having to throw away clothing in general, buy more sustainable, natural clothing pieces in the first place. With natural fibers, you can be sure that your garment will last longer than a cheaper item of clothing that will wear out and break down faster.

If you really want to go even greener, look to purchase clothing made from recycled cotton so that your item has already cut down on waste. Buying clothes that have already been recycled is way better for the environment than any synthetic item of clothing you could buy.

Buying more sustainable clothing may not seem like much, but every little bit helps when it comes to making our world a better place to live.


Can I Compost Old Clothes? | Compost This

Make a Braided T-shirt Rug : 5 Steps (with Pictures) | Instructables

9 reasons you shouldn't throw away clothes, and 4 things you can do instead. | Upworthy

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