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 that can't be donated, can be given to textile and fabric recycling or reused 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 to reuse, recycle and upcycle old fabrics, rather than throwing them away. Here we share our ideas and tips on what to do with your old clothes, click below to jump straight to an idea that you fancy!

  1. Textile & Fabric Recycling
  2. Make Your Own Rags
  3. Make a reusable Facemask
  4. Make Your Own Fabric Patches
  5. Go Zero Waste and Turn your T-Shirts into Totes
  6. Fix and Repair 
  7. Give to an Animal Shelter
  8. Donate 
  9. Ask your Council about Textile Collections 
  10. Pass on or hand them down
  11. Rent your clothes
  12. Swap your old clothes
  13. Trade your clothes for cash

For old clothes that cannot be donated...

1) Textile & Fabric Recycling

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. 

2) Make Your Own Rags

Any clothing can be made into a rag which makes a more environmentally friendly alternative to paper towels or disposable cloths. Rags are great for cleaning your home, polishing furniture, mopping up spillages, washing your car, cleaning your bike and lots more. You can never have enough rags! 

3) 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! 

4) Make Your Own Fabric Patches

Perhaps your favourite jeans or jumpers have holes, or you just want to spice up some old clothing. Why not use an old t-shirt, top or pair of pants to create patches for your clothes?

5) Go Zero Waste and Turn your T-Shirts into Totes

If a t-shirt isn't your style anymore, can you turn it into something else? Could you make your old tops into a tote bag instead? This is a great way to skip plastic bags, save money on buying shop reusables and get creative too! Love Your Clothes has lots more creative ideas about you can turn your clothes into something entirely new like tote bags and even headbands. 

6) Fix and Repair 

Thinking of binning your clothes because of a tear, missing button or fallen hem and therefore can't be donated? Instead try fixing it first by teaching 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. 

7) Give to an Animal Shelter

Animal shelters and homes 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

For that are in good condition... 

8) 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.

9) Ask your Council about Textile Collections 

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. 

10) Pass on or hand them down

If you have friends or family with younger children, hand-me-downs are an excellent option as they're both environmentally friendly and save money too. Just make sure to be honest about any damage, wash the clothes before you pass them along, and post a picture of the item

11) Rent your clothes

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!  

12) Swap your old clothes

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.  

13) 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

If you're looking for more ideas to get rid of clutter, check out our tips on how to clear your clutter and excess 'stuff', how to swap, share and get rid of stuff sustainably and what to do with your old mobile phones