What To Do With Old Socks To Be Toe-tally SustainableImage by Sustainable Jungle#whattodowitholdsocks #usesforoldsocks #recyclingoldsocks #howtorecycleoldsocks #reuseoldsocks #whattodowithholeysocks #sustainablejungle
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What To Do With Old Socks To Be Toe-tally Sustainable

Ahh, the question beckoning you from the top drawer: what to do with old socks and underwear?

We’ve tackled the “what to do with old underwear” part, so what to do with old holey socks should be as breezy as the holes in the heels… right?

Yes and no, because responsibly disposing of old socks isn’t as simple as snapping some pics, hitting “post,” and effortlessly selling used clothes online.

While old socks are far from the sexiest sustainable fashion garment, finding another use or proper way to recycle them gets a big thumbs-up from our planet. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of good uses for old socks. 

Let’s unravel our options.

And to discover why it’s important to learn how to dispose of old socks sustainably, unfurl to the bottom of the article.

1. Donate Unworn Socks

What To Do With Old Socks To Be Toe-tally Sustainable Image by Sustainable Jungle #whattodowitholdsocks #usesforoldsocks #recyclingoldsocks #howtorecycleoldsocks #reuseoldsocks #whattodowithholeysocks #sustainablejungle
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We’ll just come out and say it: No one wants your holey old socks. 

If you send holey socks to a thrift store or charity they’re going straight into the trash.

But can you donate used socks without holes?

Typically, yes. If have some gently worn or still-new socks you’d like to pass on to another pair of feet, there are a few options. Finally, a conscious way to deal with all those Christmas socks you’ve been gifted but never wear! 

  • Local homeless shelters: Used (even clean) socks aren’t usually accepted, but shelters often need new socks. Those who work with victims of domestic violence or people who’ve lost everything in a natural disaster, for example, might be more likely to take socks, too.
  • Local thrift stores: Some thrift stores will accept good quality or new socks. Call ahead to inquire whether yours is one of them. If you get the green light, make sure the socks are clean and in a wearable condition.
  • Freecycle: One person’s trash is another person’s treasure and you might find someone interested in your gently used socks on this platform. 
  • Families in need or friends with kids: Little feet don’t stay little for long! Hand-me-down socks are a great way to save money and keep socks in use for longer. 

2. Repurpose Old Socks

What To Do With Old Socks To Be Toe-tally Sustainable Image by Sustainable Jungle #whattodowitholdsocks #usesforoldsocks #recyclingoldsocks #howtorecycleoldsocks #reuseoldsocks #whattodowithholeysocks #sustainablejungle
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While donating used socks might be a viable option for those in tip-top condition, most of us have at least one pair of holey socks taking up precious real estate in our top drawer. 

Fortunately, endless options exist for transforming and upcycling socks into something else! 

If you’re wondering what to do with old mismatched socks or what to do with old socks with holes, here are a few fun, feet-sible ideas:

Uses For Old Socks Around The Home
  • Wrap valuables while moving. Packing paper and bubble wrap might protect items while moving, but they don’t protect the environment. Instead, reuse old socks to protect valuables and cushion them during transit. 
  • Protect shoes: If you’re traveling, moving home, decorating, or simply storing shoes, sliding an old pair of socks over them can help prevent damage. Similarly, you can stuff balled socks inside shoes or hats to help retain their shape while in storage.
  • Make a DIY dryer ball: One of the best (and easiest) uses for old wool socks is to turn them into DIY wool dryer balls.
  • Keep out the cold: To reduce your carbon footprint at home, how about using old socks? Stuff them under your door to keep the draft out. This will keep you warmer and increase the energy efficiency of your home.
  • Repurpose for cleaning: Wondering what to do with old cotton socks? Reuse them as cleaning rags or dusters for your zero waste cleaning rituals. You can put one on the end of a broom to reach high-up cobwebs or use them for polishing.
  • Wash hands after gardening: If you have an outdoor sink where you wash up after gardening, keep a bar of soap in an old sock nearby. Wet the soap while in the sock, and use the extra abrasion to remove dirt and grime. 
  • Help keep car windows fog-free: Fill old tube socks with cat litter, tie the tops in a knot, and place them on your windshield. The cat litter will absorb moisture in the air— an easy fix for those cold winter mornings.
  • Get that perfect ballet bun: Cut the toe portion out of the sock, then roll it into a donut shape. Roll your ponytail over the sock, and, voila—you have a ballet sock bun!
Fun Crafts With Old Socks 

If none of those ideas strike your foot fancy, and you’re still wondering what to do with old socks, crafts might the answer.

Here are some of our favorite fun AND functional things you can make with socks:

  • Bird feeder: Want to know how to increase biodiversity in your backyard? Take those thinning socks or pantyhose and make a bird feeder by filling it with seed and hanging it from a tree branch. 
  • Potpourri bundle: Add some potpourri to a clean sock, attach a ribbon or rubber band at the top, and throw it in your underwear drawer, closet, locker, or gym bag for the freshest basics around!
  • Aromatherapy pillow: Add rice and a few drops of essential oil to an old sock, fasten the ends, and either heat or cool the pillow before resting on your neck, back, or other sore spots.
  • Drink cozy: Cut off the ankle section of the sock to match the size of your coffee cup, beer can, or flavored kombucha bottle. Leave as is for a “no-sew” sleeve or, make it a little fancier through simple sewing. 
  • Pet toys: Fill a clean sock with either catnip or a few other old socks to make a cushy ball. You can make a cute dog sweater if you’re feeling extra ambitious. 
  • Leg warmers: Socks can be used as leg warmers by cutting off the foot portion or worn under mittens for an extra layer. You van also make ear warmers, arm warmers, or a DIY scarf.
  • Kids Toys: For a fun what to do with old socks DIY project, get the kids involved and make a cute sock puppet or some doll clothes

See? We toe-ld you the uses for old socks are endless!

3. Repair Old Socks

What To Do With Old Socks To Be Toe-tally Sustainable Image by Kislev #whattodowitholdsocks #usesforoldsocks #recyclingoldsocks #howtorecycleoldsocks #reuseoldsocks #whattodowithholeysocks #sustainablejungle
Image by Kislev

If your big toe has been gradually peeking out further and further, put those sewing skills to the test! 

While there are plenty of uses for old socks with holes, mending them is a quick and easy fix that means they continue being a pair of socks for longer.

Darning a sock takes less time than you think and only requires thread, a tennis ball, and a needle. Head here for step-by-step instructions. 

Even with sub-par sewing, it will provide a solution that few people will ever see.

4. How To Recycle Old Socks Through Brands

What To Do With Old Socks To Be Toe-tally Sustainable Image by Sustainable Jungle #whattodowitholdsocks #usesforoldsocks #recyclingoldsocks #howtorecycleoldsocks #reuseoldsocks #whattodowithholeysocks #sustainablejungle
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Wondering how to recycle socks

The best brands don’t only consider how to make eco-friendly clothing, but also how they can be properly disposed of.

Many companies accept old garments to be resold, upcycled into new products, donated, or properly recycled. Some will even recycle clothing for money.

While socks aren’t on the list of many (for hygiene reasons), there are a few who specialize in recycling old socks:

  • Nice Laundry provides a prepaid shipping label so you can return your old socks in the same packaging your order arrived in. Through their partnership with 2ReWear Inc., the socks are graded and then either donated or recycled. 
  • Zhano prioritizes past-their-prime socks. Send them your socks (made of any material) from any brand, and they’ll be transformed into carpet padding. 
  • Smartwool makes merino wool socks for hiking, skiing, and other tough-on-the-toe outdoor pursuits. Their Second Cut™ Project transforms socks of all brands, colors, sizes, and materials into things like eco friendly dog beds
  • The London Sock Exchange has prevented 100,000 socks from going to landfill since its recycling program started a decade ago. They’re scaling the program for relaunch.

5. How To Recycle Old Socks Through Third Parties

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Aside from brand-sponsored sock recycling programs, you can responsibly recycle old clothes like socks through various textile recycling organizations. 

Here are our top suggestions for where to recycle old socks

  • Planet Aid Boxes: If you live in a big city, you’ve likely seen one of Planet Aid’s yellow bins around. If you don’t live close to one, you can mail in up to 70 pounds of textiles (including clean socks).
  • Terracycle: They have a Zero Waste Box™ for anything—from electronics to pair-less socks. Grab a group of friends, do a clothing swap, and have everyone bring their old socks and underwear to donate in bulk. They’re also in Australia and the UK.
  • Simple Recycling: This organization accepts nearly anything—including damaged or worn socks—to be transformed into new products. Schedule a free home pick-up, and they’ll take care of the rest.

6. Compost Socks Made With Natural Fabrics

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Wondering what to do with old wool socks or cotton socks?

Send those natural materials back into the soil through the magic of composting.

Composting isn’t just a perfect food waste solution, it’s the right answer for responsibly dealing will all kinds of unwanted organic matter, from pages of old books to those old crew socks that don’t stay up anymore.

The following fabrics are great for keeping your toes warm and snuggly but can also be composted or turned into worm food when they wear out: 

All you need is a healthy compost pile and time.

Before chucking those old holey socks in, ensure they contain minimal (preferably no) synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, or rayon, which reduces degradability and can introduce microplastics and chemicals to your compost.

You’ll likely see some elastane, but if that percentage is small (roughly 5% or less), it should still break down. 

Remove anything that won’t degrade (like lace or other decorative pieces) and cut the old fabric into smaller pieces to help the process along.

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Why Find New Uses For Old Socks?

The average American will throw away 82 pounds of textile waste every.single.year.

When old socks and clothes end up in landfills, they release microplastics and chemicals into our environment, as well as methane—a greenhouse gas that’s roughly 30 times more potent than CO2.

It’s also important to remember all the human and natural resources that went into making that pair of socks—even before they were shipped across the world to land on your cold feet.

When we extend the life of a pair of socks by mending them, passing them to another person, repurposing them into something else, or recycling them for their materials, we’re making a difference, one toe at a time.

How To Make Socks Last Longer

With a little bit of TLC, we can keep those socks hole-less for a little longer. 

  • Wash your socks inside out. This helps reduce pilling and prevents lint from forming on the outside of the fabric. Also, think about where all that sweat ends up after your run… it’s not the outside of the sock.
  • Tumble dry low or lay flat to dry. Avoid hanging socks as it might compromise their elasticity.
  • Don’t give up on lost socks right away: Before getting rid of your lone socks, check behind the dryer, under the bed, and pull out your sock drawer. You can designate an “odd sock basket” to store odd socks in while they’re waiting for their partner in crime to turn up. 
  • Wear mismatched socks: Unless socks are damaged and uncomfortable, try to keep them in use as long as possible. That might mean wearing mismatched socks of a similar style. 

Final Thoughts On What To Do With Worn Out Socks

Let’s sock it to fast fashion by supporting slow fashion brands who care about workers and the future of our planet. 

However, being a sustainable fashionista isn’t just about buying new eco-friendly socks to match your sustainable sneakers. It’s also about responsibly using and disposing of the socks we’re replacing.

And let’s be honest, we all have a drawer or bag of them stashed somewhere…those pairless socks we can’t throw away!

Nor should we. Remember, the best solution is to keep your wearable socks in use for as long as possible, and when they wear out, there are easily accessible DIY guides and recycling organizations at hand.

Know any friends or family with a surplus of old socks?

Share this article to knock their socks off and help spread the word about eco-friendly uses for old socks.

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5 thoughts on “What To Do With Old Socks To Be Toe-tally Sustainable”

  1. Soft Socks with threadbere heels. Cut off the shaft and cut off the foot part.. they are the perfect size to hold & protect Christmas tree ornaments in storage.


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