What to do with Old Clothes (Recycle Clothes)
How To Recycle the Right Way
April 11, 2019 | Kathryn Kellogg
Last Updated on June 29, 2022
Been wondering What to do with Old Clothes? It’s important to find ways to recycle old clothes so they don’t just end up in landfills.
We will explain where to donate old clothes and give you plenty of tips on how to recycle clothing. Old clothing that gets sent to landfills emits greenhouse gasses that are so bad for our environment. Learn what you can do to recycle clothing.
why recycle clothing
Have you been bitten by the KonMari bug?
I assume you know what the KonMari method is because Marie Kondo took the world by storm AGAIN when her TV show on Netflix, based on her best selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, launched in the last few years.
If you’ve been living under a rock and/or are unfamiliar with the tidying guru, the first place you start your untidying journey is in the closet!
According to the chief design officer for California Closets, the average person wears only 20% of their clothing 80% of the time.
The idea is that we whittle it down to just the 20% we love and wear ALL the time.
As you go through your closet, you’re probably left with a lot of items that don’t spark joy and you’re not sure what to do with them.
what to do with old clothes
I’ve rounded up a list of where to donate old clothes!
You might want to box them up and drop them off at your nearest thrift store, but I’d really urge you not to.
This is a great blog post by my friend Leah from Style Wise.
She’s the manager at a thrift store and talks a bit about the complexities of dropping off all of your clothes.
Not everything we drop off at thrift stores is going to be sold, recycled, or even put on store shelves.
There’s not enough space, depends on styles, depends on quality, and whether or not the thrift store has partnered with a textile recycling facility.
What’s most important is to make sure when you recycle old clothes that they are in GOOD CONDITION.
where to donate old clothes & recycle clothing
If you have clothes in good condition, maybe call up some of your friends and host a clothing swap. It’s a great way to recycle clothing and get a new wardrobe!
If you’re looking for tips on hosting your own clothing swap, check out this post where I chatted with Martha Stewart.
If you want to recycle old clothes that are in good condition and in current styles, you might want to consider selling some of your clothes.
You can do it on apps and websites like Poshmark and eBay, or check out Bunz — an app for sharing, swapping, and trading in your local area.
RELATED: Learn more about the Bunz App and the Sharing Economy!
If you want to take a more hands-off approach, you could also bring your clothes to a local consignment shop.
You can take a look at some of my favorite consignment shops in my Going Zero Waste Guide to the Bay Area.
When I am trying to decide what to do with old clothes, donating is at the top of my list. When it comes to donating, try to find specific charities for specific items.
I talk about this at length in my book 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste.
Women’s Work Wear:
Have work attire? Check out Dress for Success.
“Dress for Success is an international not-for-profit organization that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire, and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.”
If you have a bra that’s a bit too tight or a bit too big, check out I Support the Girls.
It’s also a great organization to donate your leftover pads and tampons if you still have a stockpile from when you switched over to zero waste period products.
“I Support the Girls collects and distributes donations of new and gently used bras, and individually sealed tampons and maxi pads to women and girls nationally and internationally.
“Whether they be homeless, refugees, in transitional housing, or fleeing domestic violence, women and girls should never have to compromise on dignity.”
Men’s Work Wear:
If you are looking to recycle clothes for men, especially men’s suits, check out Career Gear.
From their website, “We promote the economic independence of low-income men by providing financial literacy training, a network of support, professional attire, career development tools, job-readiness and essential life-skills training that help men enter the workforce, stay employed and become role models and mentors to their families and communities.”
Are you looking to donate your wedding dress? Can I recommend Brides Across America?
From their website, “Brides Across America (BAA) is a non-profit committed to loving one another by gifting weddings and wedding gowns to our military & first responders.
Whether it’s for love of country or love at the altar, our military and first responders deserve our very best.
Since 2008, Brides Across America has played a role in making their dreams come true by giving military or first responder brides a free wedding gown during an “Operation Wedding Gown Event”.
To date, we have gifted over 20,000 wedding dresses and over 20 free weddings.
Each year we host dozens of Operation Wedding Gown giveaway events at participating bridal salons nationwide. Events are held in July (around Independence Day) and November (around Veteran’s Day).”
Do you have some formal gowns, clutches, or sparkly earrings collecting dust in the back of your closet? Check out W Girls, Project G.L.A.M.
From their website, “WGIRLS Inc. created Project Granting Lasting Amazing Memories (G.L.A.M.) to provide economically disadvantaged young women with prom dresses and accompanying accessories so they are able to enjoy the rite of passage of high school prom.
To date, WGIRLS Inc. has outfitted over 14,000 young women in need for prom.”
Have a few extra coats? Maybe one or two your kids have outgrown? Check out One Warm Coat.
From their website, “One Warm Coat is a national non-profit organization that works to provide a free, warm coat to any person in need.
“One Warm Coat supports individuals, groups, companies, and organizations across the country by providing the tools and resources needed to hold a successful coat drive.
Coats are distributed in the communities where they were collected, to children and adults in need, without charge, discrimination. or obligation.
Since One Warm Coat’s inception in 1992, we have worked with our volunteers to host more than 31,000 coat drives and have given away more than 5 million coats.”
I feel like kids are best known for one thing – growing quickly.
There are numerous charities and organizations that accept gently used kids’ clothing and toys.
If you’re in Los Angeles, try Baby2Baby.
If you’re in NYC or Boston, check out Room to Grow.
If you’re in Washington, check out Clothes for Kids.
For something a little less location specific, try your Ronald McDonald House chapter or your local Women and Children center.
Have some shoes in good condition? Check out From the Sole.
From their website, “We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on collecting, refurbishing and giving away shoes & clothing to the homeless in New York City and other metropolitan areas.”
recycle old clothes:
Now, what do you do when you have a bunch of clothing that isn’t fit for swapping, selling, or donation?
Then it comes down to textile recycling.
Now, with all recycling, I’m a little wary.
Recycling is not a charity — it’s a business and it relies on having a market to sell the products.
So, just because we can recycle it doesn’t mean it will be recycled.
This is why it’s better to reduce, reuse, and THEN recycle.
Cotton t-shirts make great rags.
Think about cutting your tees into squares of fabric for cleaning, napkins, hankies, etc.
If your clothing is made from natural fibers like cotton, wool, silk, etc. you can compost it.
However, the threads used to stitch it will 99% of the time be synthetic.
If you’re in San Francisco, there’s a textile recycling program run through the SF Department of the Environment.
I:CO is working towards closing the loop in the clothing industry and recycling textiles into yarn, shoe soles, etc.
- Blue Jeans Go Green is dedicated to recycling denim and turning it into insulation in homes. Madewell, Jcrew, and Rag and Bone pop up in stores all across the US.
Regrind your shoes with Nike regrind and turn them into basketball courts or tracks.
Check out your local reuse center like the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse a lot of towns have these, so maybe check around to donate scrap fabric.
Terracycle has a zero waste box specifically for textiles but it is spendy!
fixing the cause:
While donating and recycling are great, I can’t leave this blog post without mentioning that we should change our consumer habits.
It’s important to reduce the amount we buy, hone in on our personal styles, shop only with lists, implement a buy ban like waiting thirty days, and stop shopping as a hobby.
I hope you’ve found this blog post helpful and will use it as a reference the next time you clean out your closet!
Great post – I will definitely be looking into some of these places! I started a journey towards zero waste last summer, and I have been donating a lot of my clothes to the Salvation Army in my city. But, it looks like there are some better options for specific things! Thanks for sharing!
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They are so many things to do with old clothes! when I am lazy, I just donate them. but I am keeping some now to sew some produce bags for grocery shopping 🙂 Thanks for the great article! Natacha
Hello, thank you for the post. Why didn’t you mention H&M for recycling? What do you think about their program?
Hey Kathryn! I Love your post! donate and recycle your old clothes is a good idea, as everything that is recycled saves our natural resources that will be useful for our future generations.
Really it is a very interesting topic and thanks for sharing such a valuable topic with us.
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Great ideas. However my on-going solution is to donate to my local clothing/food bank. I have however donated to Sucess at YWCA before. Old shoes to Sole Perfection for grinding.
That is true! we need to reuse or give it for Repurpose. We in Pune, India have the best collection system of used material and kept aside as waste or give away stuff. Our one center where everyone and anyone can donate and take things for minimal cost so it will be 100% used.
SWaCH is a Cooperative organisation of more than 3500 waste picker who are authorised by Pune Municipal Corporation for primary waste collection (DTDC-Door To Door Collection). SWaCH currently collects segregated waste from more than 8Lac households of Pune. Our 3000+ waste pickers gets benefited by this SWaCH V Collect Project. We have dedicated helpline for the same.
SWaCH Helpline: +91-9765999500
Email: [email protected]
You shouldn’t donate to thrift store regardless that upcoming chick Marie Kondie or whatever her name is created the decluttering your lifestyle. We all had it in its we just needed someone to watch or guide us mentally. Look, we are all adults different subject but I came from a large family. Then I became a single mother to living in the shelters. Why I’m bringing this up is because… Goodwill never served the poor people in our community. Poor people couldn’t afford goodwill & they still can’t until this day. But what happens is the community falls back on Marie because she created the trend & open up peoples perspective. For some material means everything for others like me not so much.
Great post! Thred Up is also a great option for donating women’s and children’s clothes. They also accept shoes and some designer pieces and you make a bit of money for every piece that you donate that sells. They are also a great place to buy used clothing from.