14 Things to Do With Old Clothes That You Can't Donate


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Only clean clothes in very good condition can be donated. As you are going through old clothing, you might be scratching your head wondering what to do with clothes that aren’t in good enough condition to donate. Perhaps you inherited a house full of stuff, or you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to clean out your closet. 

There are many different options for what to do with clothes that aren’t in excellent condition. From textile recycling to t-shirt tote bags, we’ve got you covered with a list of 14 things to do with old clothes that you can’t donate.

Our Picks for Putting Old Clothes to Use

Jump ahead to these sections:

1. Textile Recycling

This image shows 14 things you can do with clothes you can't donate

There are many companies that recycle and upcycle textiles that you can bring or send old clothes to. It is estimated that textiles make up 5 percent of US landfills and that Americans throw away textiles at an alarming rate — 70 pounds per person per year. 

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2. Hand-Me-Downs 

Hand-me-downs are both environmentally and also budget-friendly. If you have friends or family with younger children, hand-me-downs are an excellent option. 

If you have expensive baby or toddler clothing, sometimes you can even sell these items in “play condition.” Just make sure to be honest about any damage, wash the clothes before you pass them along, and post a picture of the item. 

3. Art Projects

Stretch old clothes over a canvas or make a patchwork poster. Cut the design out of an old t-shirt and frame it. Turn socks into adorable sock monkeys. Get creative, there are truly endless possibilities.

4. Rags

Any item of clothing can become a rag. In fact, ditching paper towels and using old clothing instead is an amazing step towards a greener household. 

Rags can be used for cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, cleaning up spills, or even washing your car. You can truly never have enough rags, and the more you have the less laundry you have to do!

5. Give to an Animal Shelter

Animal shelters use old clothes, towels, and other textiles for the animals in their care. They use them to clean, make beds and blankets, and help the shelter feel more like home for the animals. Consider bringing old sweaters and t-shirts to help a fluffy friend in need.

6. Compost Cotton

If you have old clothing that is 100% cotton, we have good news for you. Cotton can be composted! Silk, wool, cashmere, hemp, bamboo, and linen clothing can also be composted. 

When you compost, you are turning these fabrics back into soil that can grow vegetables, fruits, and other plants. This is the best possible option for the environment. If you don't have a compost bin, you can easily find them online. We like this small white compost bin that comes with a charcoal filter.

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7. Bring to a Store for a Discount 

Some stores, such as H&M and Madewell will take old clothes off your hands and recycle them. As a bonus, they often offer a discount on anything you purchase that day.

More and more companies are joining this movement, so if you can’t find a nearby store on this list, do a quick search for something local. 

8. Make a Memorial Quilt or Stuffed Animal

If you have old clothes with sentimental value or that belonged to a loved one who has passed, you can use the clothing to make a stuffed animal or quilt. 

These make for beautiful memorial keepsakes. If you have baby clothes that hold sentimental value, these also make beautiful stuffed animals. 

Read our guide on memorial quilt ideas for more.

9. Make a Dress-Up Box

Kids can have fun with your old clothes too. Decorate a wooden crate or box and fill it with old clothes, scarves, hats, and shoes. You will be amazed by how imaginative your kids can be with old clothes. Your clothes make for the best playtime dress-up.

10. Send Back to the Manufacturer 

Some manufacturers take responsibility for the full life-cycle of their clothing and will recycle clothes that you send back to them. Patagonia is an example of a company that offers this and will also give you store credit. 

11. Repair Them

If you are unable to donate clothes because they are torn or missing a button, try repairing them. Whether it’s mending a tear, replacing a button, or patching a hole in your favorite jeans, there are easy fixes you can do at home. 

If there’s something in your wardrobe that you can’t imagine life without, don’t buy a new version. First, try to repair it. If you are unable to repair it, you can always take it to a local tailor or ask a crafty friend for help. You can either enjoy your clothes in their repaired state or donate them if they’re now in good enough condition.

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12. Turn T-Shirts into Bags

T-shirts make supremely cute tote bags. This is a very environmentally friendly way to upcycle your old t-shirts. Skip the plastic or brown paper bags at the grocery store, and don’t waste money and resources on store-bought reusable bags that are often made of plastic. 

Bring your new homemade tote instead. Here are easy instructions for a no-sew, ten-minute “t-shirt to tote bag!”

13. Use Fabrics as Patches

Perhaps your favorite jeans have holes, or you just want to spice up a pair of old pants. Use a t-shirt, flannel, or anything colorful to create patches for your pants. 

14. Make a Pocket Scarf or Handkerchief 

Just like eliminating paper towels, using handkerchiefs instead of tissues is great for the environment. Cut squares out of old clothing and make fashionable pocket squares or practical handkerchiefs.

The Options are Unlimited

You truly have endless options for clothing that can’t be donated. All it takes is a bit of creativity. While you are cleaning out your closet and decluttering your home, you might come across other documents, items, and things that need to be taken care of.

This is a great time to make sure all of your end of life planning documents are also in order. It’s never too early, and Cake makes it easy.

If you're looking for more ideas to get rid of clutter, check out our guides on where to donate books you don't need, what to do with old cell phones, and how to embrace Swedish death cleaning.

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