What to do with old clothes

Four colourful tote bags filled with various clothing items ready to be donated or given away.
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What to do with old clothes

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

Our wardrobes hold 1.6 billion items of unworn clothes (WRAP), and alongside that one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in landfill every second (Greenpeace).

The good news is there are plenty of sustainable things we can do with them instead, from swapping and mending, to upcycling and recycling. Here are 10 tips to try.

These tips are part of something bigger. At Hubbub, we want to see a world where everyone makes choices that are good for the environment. Check out what we do and how your actions add up.

Clothes that still have life in them

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.

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!

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 and Vinted for vintage and second-hand high street clothing or Rethread, Hardly Ever Worn It, or  Vestiare for higher-end fashion.

If an item is a bit faulty (missing button or the hem has fallen down), you can still sell it to someone who is willing to repair it. Just make sure to put all the wear and tear details in the description when you list the item.

Ever sewn a button back on? Knowing how to do a simple stitch could save a lot of your clothes, from loose buttons and unravelling hems to pesky little holes. All you need is a thread and needle to get started! Try watching youtube tutorials for the particular mend you need, or head to Repair What You Wear to learn more.

Don’t fancy fixing yourself? No probs, there are also lots of places that can repair your items for you like Sojo app, or try 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.  If you've already mastered a needle and thread, why not host a Make Do and Mend event to share your knowledge? There’s something very wholesome about sitting together and putting a little effort in to improve something - that you can then benefit from!

Clothes that are in good condition can be passed on to local charity shops, or there are often charities that will do collections. The Charity Retail website will help you to find your nearest charity shop. Uniforms and company-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 through ‘old school uniform’, or your local school uniform store might have a second-hand rail.

Hand-me-downs are an excellent option as children grow as they're both environmentally friendly and save lots of money over the years. This can also be a great solution between friends, if say you’ve changed sizes and want your clothes to go to a loving home, gift them to a friend that fits! Remember to be honest about any damage, make sure they want and will use them, and wash the clothes before you pass them along.

Clothes that are too worn to wear

Clothes with damage stains or holes might not be wearable as they are, but the rest of the fabric could still be used. It could be upcycled in a craft or sewing project, turned into cleaning cloths, used as padding or stuffing, etc. Check out these 50 crafty ideas for ways to use up bits of fabric.

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.

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 and they will be put to good use.

Animal shelters often use old clothes, towels, and other old fabric and textiles for the animals they have 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. Here are some more tips on what you can donate to an animal shelter.

Want more on how to make your wardrobe work for you and the planet?

Tune into the new season of our podcast ‘Down to Earth’ to explore everything sustainable fashion in conversation with designers, experts and changemakers. 

See Hubbub in action

From Community Fridges that cut food waste to Ballot Bins that halve cigarette litter, our campaigns show what taking action that's good for the environment looks like in practice.