What To Do With Old Underwear & Bras: 7 Sustainable Tips To Sort Your SkivviesImage by Sustainable Jungle#whattodowitholdunderwear #whattodowitholdbras #underwearrecycling #oldpanties #donateoldunderwear #sustainablejungle
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What To Do With Old Underwear & Bras: 7 Sustainable Tips To Sort Your Skivvies

We’ve all been there—the unraveled elastane threatening to leave us underwear-less with one wrong wiggle or the escaped underwire stabbing the side of our boob. 

Even so, it can be tough to let go of something that has supported us for so long—especially when doing so isn’t very supportive of the planet.

Let’s get to the bare bottom of what to do with old underwear and what to do with old bras.

In a fast fashion world, most of us have an overflowing drawer of undergarments, but what should we do when our sustainable bras and organic underwear reach the end of their natural life?

Instead of relegating ratty underwear and stained sports bras to the trash, here are some planet-friendly ideas of what to do with used underwear and bras. 

And to learn more on why it’s important we learn how to dispose of old underwear, drop your drawers to the bottom of the article.

1. Donate Used Underwear of Certain Types

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Can underwear be donated?

Certainly not your typicaly tattered, stained pair of panties.

However, there are certain types of undergarments (bras, shapewear, and maybe a piece of lingerie you bought but never wore) that can be responsibly donated. 

Traditional thrift stores (i.e., Goodwill and the Salvation Army) normally won’t accept underwear donations, but some will accept bras, and if your specific location doesn’t, try one of these organizations:

  • I Support the Girls: Once your bras (in good condition) are received, they’ll be distributed to women in need. There are many drop-off locations across the US, but donations can also be mailed. 
  • The Bra Recyclers: Partnering with more than 100 non-profits around the globe, The Bra Recyclers has already donated more than 4 million bras to women in need. They accept all types of bras, as well as new panties.
  • Donate Your Bra: Accepting lingerie, bras, and swimsuits, DYB works to provide these items to breast cancer survivors around the globe.
  • Smalls for All: Helping solve the issue of what to do with old bras in the UK, Smalls for All distributes new and lightly used bras to women in need in the UK and Africa. 
  • Local Shelters: Check with any local homeless shelters or YWCA’s as they may accept donations of bras or never-worn underwear. 

2. Sell Old Bras & New Underwear

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Wondering what to do with old bras that don’t fit?

Bras and nursing bras are pricey, so you might want a little extra cash for them if they’re still in relatively good shape.

Much like selling used clothes online, a few of the big resale platforms also accept clean bras (including nursing bras) that are in good condition. 

  • Poshmark is a well-known leader in the world of peer-to-peer clothing sales. Download their app, snap some photos (modeling not required), and start the sales process. 
  • Depop has a long list of prohibited items, but bras and some types of sustainable lingerie are still accepted. Their Instagram-esque feed makes selling fun and easy.
  • Vinted is another user-friendly platform for passing on pre-loved items. Selling is free, and bras are accepted provided they are “properly washed and the description clearly states that the item has been worn.”
  • thredUP will also accept your gently-used bras. Order a bag (that comes with prepaid shipping), send it back with your bulk garments, and leave the rest up to them. Just be sure the bras are high quality and from an accepted brand, or ThredUp will donate them.
  • eBay is the OG of used goods. Used bras may be sold using the platform but must be clean and not modeled by a real human.

3. Upcycle Worn out Underwear & Lingerie

What To Do With Old Underwear & Bras: 7 Sustainable Tips To Sort Your Skivvies Image by Liliia Bila #whattodowitholdunderwear #whattodowitholdbras #underwearrecycling #oldpanties #donateoldunderwear #sustainablejungle
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Here’s where we can get a little creative. 

When it comes to upcycling used bras and panties, repurposing options aren’t as numerous as they are with old clothes like your fave faithful old jeans, but there are still more than you might think.

Let’s start from the top. 

For what to do with old lingerie and bras, try one of the following: 

  • Reuse the cups of unwearable bras by stitching them into a swimsuit, dress (perfect for backless dresses!), or top.
  • Padding can also be used as a shoe insert to help shoes maintain shape in storage or when jammed in your sustainable luggage.
  • Reuse the hook and eyes to create a bra extender. You can sacrifice one or two bras that don’t fit to save others that have grown a little tight in the torso.
  • Transform your bra into a bra purse. For those daunted by more in-depth DIY projects, rest assured: it only requires decorative items, scissors, needle and thread, and a hot glue gun or fabric glue.
  • Cut out lacy or decorative fabric sections from lingerie and use them when upcycling clothes of all kinds as embellishments and trim.

When it comes to what to do with old panties, repurposing ideas are fewer, but we still came up with the following:

  • Turn your old underwear into reusable paper towels, wood polishing rags, or even a zero waste toilet paper solution (not for the squeamish, but they’re already well-acquainted anyway!). We’d recommend obviously *not* using that old pair of briefs to clean a kitchen counter.
  • They can be shredded and used as pillow filling.
  • Ruff ruff, repurpose! Making DIY eco-friendly dog toys is super simple and the perfect answer to what to do with old men’s underwear. As you would with a t-shirt, cut the boxers or briefs into threads and braid to make a dog toy! Finally, a way for dogs to be allowed to chew up your underwear.
  • While you’re at it, sew 4 cups of two bras together and stuff with some shredded old underwear to create an earth-friendly dog or cat ball.

4. Repair Old Panties

What To Do With Old Underwear & Bras: 7 Sustainable Tips To Sort Your Skivvies Image by Sustainable Jungle #whattodowitholdunderwear #whattodowitholdbras #underwearrecycling #oldpanties #donateoldunderwear #sustainablejungle
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What to do with old bras and panties that you aren’t ready to say goodbye to?

Perform a little granny panty glow-up.

We often throw away panties for stains, even though it’s typically just one spot. Since the rest of the fabric is still useful, kill two birds by repurposing an old cotton shirt into a new gusset

What about when the elasticity wears out? 

Instead of tossing that thong, wash your underwear in hot water to shrink them. While it won’t provide a long-term solution, it should somewhat extend the life of your underwear. 

If there are larger rips or the elastane isn’t so elastic anymore, you can use fabric glue to mend those tears or tighten the band. 

You can also use a ripped pair of underwear to practice your sewing skills (no one will see that messy sew-job, will they?). 

Now for brassieres, which also have a few quick fixes!

Underwire peeking is a well-known issue for old bras, but it’s also one of the easiest to fix. 

You can even use medical gauze for a quick fix. 

Broken bra problem number two: broken straps. A quick sewing session with needle and thread will re-attach your strap in no time. Use similar methods to amend stretched-out straps (or replace them entirely).

5. Recycle Old Underwear Through brands

What To Do With Old Underwear & Bras: 7 Sustainable Tips To Sort Your Skivvies Image by Sustainable Jungle #whattodowitholdunderwear #whattodowitholdbras #underwearrecycling #oldpanties #donateoldunderwear #sustainablejungle
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Our favorite fashion brands have adopted practices of circularity, with programs in place to repurpose or recycle old clothes when they wear out.

The following brands offer easy answers to how to get rid of old underwear in any condition:

  • Subset accepts old undies from any brand to be recycled by a NYC nonprofit. Underwear is sorted and broken down by fiber before being transformed into rags, rugs, and insulation. You’ll receive $15 towards your next order as a thank you. 
  • Soma partners with I Support the Girls (mentioned above) to donate new or gently used bras. You get $10 as a reward for participating.
  • Hanky Panky partners with Green Tree to recycle your old undies into industrial insulation. Request a shipping label and drop your package (minimum of 4 items) at your nearest UPS. 
  • M&S: UK readers can recycle their preloved bras via M&S’s Shwopping program. Items are sent to the charity Oxfam for resale or recycling. 
  • Bravissimo is another UK brand offering in-store swimwear and bra recycling bins (from any brand). Bravissimo makes a donation to Women’s Aid for every kilo they receive. 

6. Recycle Old Underwear Through Third Parties

What To Do With Old Underwear & Bras: 7 Sustainable Tips To Sort Your Skivvies Image by Anetlanda #whattodowitholdunderwear #whattodowitholdbras #underwearrecycling #oldpanties #donateoldunderwear #sustainablejungle
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Wondering how to recycle old underwear?

When selling, donating, and repurposing aren’t viable options, you can send your old undergarments to be sustainably recycled through the following organizations:

  • B.R.A. (The Bra Recycling Agency): This woman-owned organization is on a mission to keep bras out of landfills. They take your old bra, pulverize it, magnetize it, and transform it into carpet padding. The proceeds from underwire recycling help support Breast Cancer Research. 
  • Planet Aid Boxes: Drop off old clothes to Planet Aid’s yellow bins located in major metro areas or print a shipping label and mail them up to 70 pounds of clothing. Helping solve the burning question of “what to do with old underwear and bras?” they accept both, provided they’re clean and not beyond repair. 

7. Compost Worn Out Underwear Made Of Natural Fabrics

What To Do With Old Underwear & Bras: 7 Sustainable Tips To Sort Your Skivvies Image by Sustainable Jungle #whattodowitholdunderwear #whattodowitholdbras #underwearrecycling #oldpanties #donateoldunderwear #sustainablejungle
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It’s getting hot in here…so compost all your clothes!

We love sustainable fabrics mainly because they’re far more environmentally friendly to produce and dispose of. 

Fabrics like organic cotton, hemp fabric, ethical wool, peace silk, and linen can be turned into nutrient-rich compost after being tossed into the compost bin.

Just be sure your underwear/bra is made with 100% natural fibers and not mixed with synthetic fabrics (i.e., polyester, spandex/elastane, nylon, rayon fabric). This reduces the degradability of your underwear and, worse, introduces toxic chemicals into your compost bin. 

If there is just a small amount of synthetic fabric in the underwear or bra (because most are blended with a little bit of elastane/spandex, especially sustainable sports bras), you may still be able to compost them. 

Try to keep the content of synthetics at a minimum (less than 5%). 

Before chucking anything in the compost heap, we recommend doing the following: 

  • Get rid of anything that won’t biodegrade. Remove any decorative pieces on the underwear, plastic buttons, or metal zippers. Similarly, remove any tags and labels unless 100% natural, i.e., cotton. For bras, remove any foam padding and the elastic straps.  
  • Cut or rip the undergarments into small pieces. The smaller the pieces, the faster they’ll break down.
  • Undergarments = “brown material.” Food scraps and garden materials = “green material.” You need a balance of the two colors to keep your compost happy. A subject for another post which you can find here: what is compostable versus what is not compostable.
  • The higher the temperature, the quicker those old panties will disappear. Heat your compost bin by following these tips.

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Why Learn How To Get Rid Of Old Underwear Sustainably?

Sustainable and ethical fashion is not just about moderating our clothing consumption; it’s also about how we responsibly dispose of the clothing we’re replacing. 

Every year, the textile industry produces a staggering 92 million tons of waste. 

Affordability has taken precedence over quality, meaning cheap underwear is often made with synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon

In addition to being pretty bad for your privates, plastic-based textiles can take hundreds of years to break down and add to microplastic pollution. Research by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that 35% of ocean microplastics come from washing synthetic clothing. 

Hence, using a Guppy Friend wash bag to trap microplastic fibers when laundering your synthetic garments is important. 

Responsibly recycling old underwear made from synthetic fabrics makes the best of a bad situation—but be sure to replace them with natural alternatives.

How To Make Bras & Underwear Last

How can we wear underwear in a way that won’t throw our planet under the bus?

While they’re worn more often than other garments, the general advice to replace undergarments every six to 12 months(!) should be ignored if you’re properly caring for your underwear. 

Here are a few under-the-belt recommendations for proper undergarment based on advice from HelloGiggles!

  • Don’t wash with the rest of your laundry. We know that sometimes separating colors seems like too much work. But washing your unmentionables separately can do a lot to improve their longevity. (Plus, it’s good to wash underwear in hot water occasionally, which you should avoid doing for the rest of your clothes.)
  • Instead, first rinse them in cold water. Unless you have a drawer full of cotton undies (that prefer machine washing), hand washing with cold water is best. Gentle scrubbing, but no stretching or tugging (no matter how annoying that period stain is).
  • Opt for a delicate-friendly detergent. You’ll find the gentlest ingredients in eco-friendly laundry detergents, but you can also look for the words “gentle” or “delicate” in the description.
  • Consider a lingerie bag. If adding another task to laundry day is too much, use a lingerie bag for machine washing. It’ll help keep your intimates intact (and catch any microplastics if you’re using one of an appropriately fine mesh).
  • Always skip the dryer. Dryers are misshaping monsters, especially for bras. Hanging dry is the way to go. Hang at night to wear a dry, fresh pair in the morning.

Final Thoughts On What To Do With Old Bras & Underwear

Many of us have jumped aboard the Marie Kondoesque decluttering train or begun incorporating a minimalist wardrobe mindset. 

While reducing what we own is crucial, we also need to be conscious about how we dispose of what we’re saying sayonara to—even if that something is as small and skimpy as a pair of panties.

We don’t want to (ass)ume, but we’re hazard a guess that everyone could stand to learn more about what to do with old boxers, underwear, and bras, so please help us spread the word by sharing this article.

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What To Do With Old Underwear & Bras: 7 Sustainable Tips To Sort Your Skivvies Image by Sustainable Jungle #whattodowitholdunderwear #whattodowitholdbras #underwearrecycling #oldpanties #donateoldunderwear #sustainablejungle
What To Do With Old Underwear & Bras: 7 Sustainable Tips To Sort Your Skivvies Image by Sustainable Jungle #whattodowitholdunderwear #whattodowitholdbras #underwearrecycling #oldpanties #donateoldunderwear #sustainablejungle

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