Finally got round to reorganising your wardrobe and left with lots of clothes you no longer want?

Just under 336,000 tonnes of clothing ends up in the bin across the UK every year (WRAP), but the good news is that old clothes, even damaged and holey ones, can be reused or recycled into new items such as face masks, padding for chairs, car seats, cleaning cloths and industrial blankets. So whatever their state, there's plenty of sustainable things you can do rather than throwing them away. 

Update, 2020: Under current gov recommendations, places to donate may be closed and we can't meet friends to swap and share, so some of these ideas aren't possible. Please don't try to give away your clothes just yet, get sorting but then hold onto them until it's safe to do so.

1) Fix it first

Thinking of binning your clothes because of a tear, missing button or fallen hem? Try and teach yourself using these easy tips on fixing a hem and sewing a button or with a YouTube tutorial. There are also lots of places that can repair your items like taking items to your local dry cleaners (they often have a skilled sewer who can do repairs!). We love The Seam who pair you up with locally skilled seamstresses. 

2) Make a reusable facemask

Old cotton fabrics such as t-shirts and towels are perfect for making into reusable facemasks. Globally we are estimated to use 129 billion every single month, and single-use masks aren't recyclable or biodegradable, so with everyone needing them day-to-day a reusable can make a big difference. Here's an easy tutorial on how to make a mask in minutes. 

Written method:

  • cut a piece of fabric 19cm X 30cm 
  • fold it in half as shown, with the patterned side inside 
  • fold two pleats into it and it should be about 8-9cm tall with the pleats in
  • iron the pleats in to hold their shape 
  • get two 15cm elastics (hairbands cut open will work nicely!)
  • place the elastics inside the fold, either side (these will be straps for the ears)
  • fold back in half, and sew down either side
  • make sure the elastics are placed correctly for the ends to be sewn into place, and the two pleats are still held neatly
  • Turn the mask inside out to reveal the patterned side, and it's ready to use! 

3) Go zero waste and get creative 

If something isn't your style anymore, can you turn it into something else? Maybe you could get rid of the sleeves, crop the fitting, and add embroidery to make it feel new. You could even turn it into something entirely different like sewing it to make headbands, tote bags, toys for your pets and more. Love Your Clothes has lots more creative ideas.

4) Donate

Clothes that are in good condition can be passed on to local charity shops, or there are often charities that will do collections. Uniforms and branded clothing are harder to get rid of but it's worth asking your employers to look into this for you. Old school uniforms can be donated on this website, or your local school uniform store might have a secondhand rail.

5) Ask your council

Many local councils offer clothes and textiles collections, so it’s always worth checking this out on local council websites. These collections are free to use and easy. As long as the clothing is good quality, they’ll be put to good use. 

6) Recycle 

Any clothing that isn’t good enough to be passed on can still be given a new life via clothing banks. You can find clothing and textile banks in supermarkets and local car parks. Visit Recycle Now to find one near you. 

7) Renting  

MyWardrobeHQ and ByRotation are both clothing rental platforms. Renting out clothes is a great option if you need space but don’t want to completely say goodbye. Spread the joy of a gorgeous garment and make a few pounds in the process. Equally, if there’s no more room in your closet but you want a stand-out outfit for a one-off occasion, renting might be the solution for you!  

8) Swapping

See if those closest to you – family, friends or flatmates – are up for exchanging a few items, so you all get some new pieces for free! Swapping will be easier with those you already live with or are in a social bubble with. You could also hold an outdoor meet up and get everyone to bring a few bits along.

Check out our Street Store guide with some helpful considerations on what a clothes swap might need.  

9) Trade your clothes for cash

If you want to turn your old clothes into cash, it’s easy to do and there are lots of different options. Try Depop, Ebay, Vinted for vintage and second hand high street clothing or Hardly Ever Worn It or Vestiare for higher end fashion. If an item is a bit faulty (missing button or the hem as fallen down), you can still sell it to someone who’ll repair it. Just make sure to put all the wear and tear details in the description when you list the item.

Children can seem to be growing faster than you can buy new clothes, which can leave a large pile of outgrown clothes still in good nick, Kidclo is offering to resell them for you or donate the proceeds to charity.  

Hungry for more?

If you want to cherish the clothes you're holding on to, there are simple ways to make them last longer, such as washing at a lower temperature and cutting down on ironing and tumble drying.

5 ways to make your clothes last longer