What To Do With Old Clothes: 9 Eco Tips for a Worn-Out WardrobeImage by Sustainable Jungle#whattodowitholdclothes #howtodisposeofoldclothes #repurpoiseclothing #usesforoldclothes #recyclingoldclothes #whattodowithwornoutclothing #sustainablejungle
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What To Do With Old Clothes: 9 Eco Tips for a Worn-Out Wardrobe

In need of a closet purge? 

If you’re tired of staring at a worn-out wardrobe, or worse, wearing it, you’re probably wondering what to do with old clothes. 

Even if we don’t consciously embrace fast fashion’s 52 micro seasons a year, we can still end up with a mountain of them.

In fact, most of us only wear 20% of our clothes. 

As for the other 80%, most of it ends up in landfill. A garbage truck’s worth of clothing is burned or dumped in a landfill every second.

The solution? 

Keeping clothes in circulation for as long as possible. Instead of trashing last year’s impulse sale rack buys, it’s time we learn how to get rid of old clothes—and why we should—without burdening the planet. 

1. Repair Old Clothes

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If yoy’re wondering what to do with old clothes with somewhat minor flaws, repairing is the most sustainable choice. 

As Aldous Huxley wrote in Brave New World, “Ending is better than mending. The more stitches, the less riches.”

The wealthier we become as a society, the more we replace rather than repair—especially with the rise of fast fashion meaning replacing a garment is often cheaper than fixing it. 

And unlike previous generations, few of us are taught the skills to stitch up a tear in the bum, darn a sock, or fix a broken zipper.

Luckily, these are incredibly easy skills to teach yourself if you’re motivated to do so.

You don’t need a sewing machine, fancy tools, or much time to learn basic repair skills. With just a needle of thread (and maybe a few YouTube videos), you can have that torn knee hole patched in no time.

Turn it into a regular social activity by getting friends together to have a yarn (AKA chat), share sewing supplies, and make some repairs.

Clothing Alteration & Repair Services

For repairs beyond your ability (or beyond the time you have available), let professionals do the heavy lifting (er, stitching). 

This can come via a local tailor, repair cafe, or one of the following online clothing repair services:

  • Hidden Opulence is a queer and Black-owned business that simultaneously celebrates inclusivity and circularity by offering minor mends, more complicated repairs, alterations, and custom upcycle projects.
  • Send your garments to Hem Me Up, and they’ll be back, ready to wear, in 5 to 8 days. They offer a full repair and alteration service for all your clothing, including dresses, skirts, shirts, suits, and jackets. 
  • For repair, restoration, alteration, and cleaning, UK-based Clothes Doctor can revive just about anything using vegan, cruelty-free, and plastic-free repair materials and eco-detergents. 
  • Denim Therapy will breathe new life into your denim faves. They’re based in NYC, but you can complete their online form and send in your jeans and jackets from anywhere. 

2. Resell & Recycle Old Clothes With Brands

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If you’re wondering where to get rid of old clothes that are still in good condition, brand take-back programs are a great place to start. 

Some of our favorite eco-friendly clothing brands have programs that allow you to return your gently used clothing to be resold, upcycled into new products, donated to people in need, or recycled for money or store credit.

  • Patagonia’s Worn Wear program repairs, resells, and recycles old Patagonia gear and clothing.
  • Provided they’re in good condition, you can sell your preloved Outerknown pieces through Outerworn and get paid in store credit. 
  • Drop your old North Face gear off at one of their retail stores and it’ll be repaired for resale on The North Face Renewed. Items beyond repair will be recycled. 
  • Old Eileen Fisher clothes can be returned for resale in their Renew line. 
  • Send unwanted clothing (in any condition as long as it’s clean) to Girlfriend Collective and they’ll responsibly recycle it in exchange for store credit. 
  • Pact’s Give Back. Wear Forward program accepts all brands of gently used clothing, shoes, and accessories for donating to charities. 

3. Sell Old Clothes

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Interested in turning a closet purge into some extra $$$? 

Selling used clothes online thanks to a wealth of thrift and vintage platforms that are sparking the circular fashion revolution

If you’re wondering how to get rid of old clothes for money, consider the following platforms:

  • thredUP is a hassle-free way to get rid of bulk clothing. Order a bag (which comes with pre-paid shipping), fill it, and mail it back. ThredUp will handle the rest. Any they can’t sell will be properly recycled. 
  • Poshmark is a popular peer-to-peer thrifting website with an app that makes selling old clothing as easy as 1-2-3. 
  • Depop is best for unique and quirky clothes and has an Instagram-esque feed. It’s available in the U.S. and U.K.
    • Vinted is similar to Poshmark but focuses on higher-quality and well-known brands. 
    • Etsy has a huge market for unique or vintage second hand clothes. Plus, they carbon offset all shipping. If you do opt for this one, learning how to start a thrift store properly will definitely improve your chances.

    4. Swap Old Clothes With Friends

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    Wondering what to do with your old clothes and want to have some fun at the same time? 

    Arranging a clothes swap with friends is the answer. 

    Invite a bunch of friends—the more, the merrier. If everyone brings a variety of garments, shoes, and accessories, no one will be left out. 

    Put on some upbeat music, share drinks and snacks (wine and wardrobe redesign, anyone?), and strut down the runner rug runway.

    If there are garments nobody wants at the end of the clothing swap, brainstorm ways to upcycle or plan a group trip to a local thrift store or local homeless shelter to donate. 

    Alternatively, you can join a community clothes-swapping event and spread the pre-loved love even wider. 

    5. Donate Old Clothes

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    While donating unwanted duds is an easy way to a less clutterd closet, it’s not necessarily the best way to get rid of old clothes. 


    Because a whopping 90% of clothes donated to thrift stores go unsold and are sent for recycling (or thrown away) instead. 

    While textile recycling can be positive, it shouldn’t be the first option. Remember those 5 R’s of zero waste

    Refuse, reduce, reuse, rot, and recycle—notice which one is listed last.

    The aim (after refusing fast fashion and reducing the number of clothes we buy) is to keep clothing in circulation for as long as possible and only turn to recycling when other options to reuse old clothes have been exhausted. 

    Another issue with donating is that some clothes are sent overseas—around 700,000 tons worth a year. This can hurt local textile economies, leading to some countries wanting to ban imports

    Donating isn’t necessarily bad; it’s just not a one-size-fits-all solution to getting rid of old clothes. 

    How To Donate Effectively 

    We need to be savvy about what (and where) we donate our old clothes so if you do decide to donate, follow these tips to maximize their chances at success of finding a new home:

    • Donate/sell your clothes to off-the-beaten-path thrift stores or nonprofit organizations (AKA charity consignment shops that only take pieces mostly guaranteed to sell).
    • Only donate clean clothes. Just one BO-saturated or mildew-y garment can result in the whole bag being thrown away. 
    • Donate to local homeless shelters, women’s shelters, schools, or theaters so clothes are distributed to people who genuinely need them, rather than resold for profit.
    • Prioritize local organizations since larger charity thrift chains make it harder to trace what’s happening to your clothes (and profits from them).

    Keep the cycle going by buying secondhand goods and creating the demand.

    6. upcycle Old Clothes

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    What to do with old clothes that cannot be donated or resold?

    How about giving them a makeover and upcycling them into new(ish) upcycled clothing?

    There are an untold number of ideas on how to repurpose clothing DIY style.

    For instance, a men’s dress shirt can become a cute shirt dress, while flannel shirts make for cozy scarves.

    Old jeans are full of upcycling potential. Chop off legs that are too short and turn them into cut-off shorts. If they have a hole in the butt, turn them into scrap and use them to patch holes in other jeans.

    Recycle old t-shirts into new clothes by using interesting cuts or ties to create a new t-shirt or tank top and remake old sweaters or knitwear into a new winter beanie

    If you’re wondering what to do with worn-out clothes, try turning them into scraps to spice up other boring pieces. Add corduroy elbow patches to a sweater or inlay brightly colored inserts into basic tops. 

    For further inspo, check out some upcycled clothing brands that have turned the art of upcycling into a sustainable business. 

    7. Downcycle Old Clothes

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    Still wondering what to do with used clothing? Especially that which is beyond repair or ability to upcycle into something wearable?

    Beyond refreshing your wardrobe with upcycled clothing you can downcycle old clothes into all sorts of useful and decorative things for the home. 

    The options are endless, but if you need some inspo for things to make out of old clothes, here are some of our favorite clothes recycling ideas.

    • Collect your favorite old t-shirts and make a blanket that will keep you warm (literally and figuratively) with embedded memories. 
    • Make an adorable sock monkey to give as a gift for kiddos.
    • Chop old clothing into cleaning cloths and double your sustainability efforts by using them as reusable paper towels.

    8. Compost Old Clothes Made Of Natural Fabrics

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    Much like old books, clothes made from organic cotton, linen, hemp fabric, silk, kapok, wool, bamboo fabric (some, depending on how it’s processed), alpaca, and ethical cashmere can be composted. 

    However, natural fibers are often blended with synthetics (like nylon, elastane, and polyester), which diminishes their ability to biodegrade and, worse, can contaminate your compost with chemicals and microplastics. 

    If the garment includes a small percentage (<5%, though professional opinions differ and range from 1% to 9%) of synthetics, you might still be able to compost it, but be careful and don’t feed it to worms. When in doubt, keep synthetics out.

    Here are more tips for how to compost clothes:

    • Remove pieces that won’t biodegrade. Cut out zippers, remove buttons, cut off plastic tags and labels, and remove anything that’s been printed on the garment (as it’s likely PVC or some other plastic). 
    • Don’t add too much. Your compost shouldn’t be more than 25% of old clothing. 
    • Rip/cut into shreds. The smaller the pieces, the quicker they’ll break down. 
    • Consider clothes “brown material.” Add them to the heap with lots of “green material” (i.e., food scraps, grass cuttings, etc.) to keep things balanced. Have a look at our guides on what is compostable versus what is not compostable for more info. 

    Composting is a great solution to what to do with stained clothes that are threadbare and beyond repair. 

    We’d still recommend finding other uses for old clothes first, like cleaning rags, but even those old rags will eventually need to go.

    Composting is also an eco-friendly way to dispose of leftover natural scraps from your upcycling projects.

    9. Recycle Old Clothes With Third Parties

    What To Do With Old Clothes: 9 Eco Tips for a Worn-Out Wardrobe Image by MachineHeadz #whattodowitholdclothes #howtodisposeofoldclothes #repurpoiseclothing #usesforoldclothes #recyclingoldclothes #whattodowithwornoutclothing #sustainablejungle
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    We can compost worn-out clothing made from natural materials, but what about the whopping 69% of textiles that contain synthetic fibers?

    If you’re wondering how to sustainably get rid of clothes made out of plastic and they can’t be resold or donated, look into textile recycling services.

    Often, brand take-back programs (covered above) will recycle old clothes they can’t resell. 

    Here are some other suggestions: 

    • Helpsy is a Certified B Corp and the largest clothing collector in the Northeast U.S. Drop off your old clothes to one of their collection bins or schedule a home pickup. 
    • Drop off worn clothes to a Planet Aid yellow bin or print a shipping label and send up to 70 pounds of clothing.

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    Why Sustainably Dispose Of Old Clothes

    In America alone, 85% of consumed clothing ends up in landfills every year (about 80 pounds of clothes per person). 

    Most clothing is not biodegradable and can take around 200 years to break down (releasing harmful gasses in the process). 

    It’s also a huge waste of resources, considering that the production of one pair of jeans uses up 3,781 liters of water and that our clothes are responsible for 10% of global GHG emissions.

    Sustainable and ethical fashion means moderating clothing consumption, keeping clothing in circulation for as long as possible, and thinking carefully about what to do with clothes you don’t want

    Final Thoughts On How To Get Rid Of Old Clothes Responsibly

    In the past 20 years, the amount of clothing we consume has skyrocketed by 400%

    It’s being discarded at an equally shocking rate— an astounding 92 million tons of textile waste is created each year. 

    Slow fashion doesn’t just mean buying consciously; it means getting rid of clothes consciously, too.

    There’s no need to throw something out that can be rehomed or transformed into something new. 

    Since everyone has them (whether they want to admit it or not), share this guide for what to do with unwanted clothes with fashion-loving friends and help spread the word about a conscious closet clear-out. 

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