New Uses for Stained Clothing and Towels - ToughNickel - Money
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New Uses for Stained Clothing and Towels

Minimalism is catching on, and I'm excited about streamlining. I'm sharing what I've learned about decluttering and simplifying our lives.

Ack, This Shirt Is Ruined by a Bleach Spot

recycling-stained-clothing

Finding Ways to Use Old Clothing and Towels

We try to be environmentally aware and avoid adding to the overflowing landfills. What do you do with clothing, socks, and towels that are stained or for some reason not suitable to donate? We hate to just throw them away, but what are the other options?

When a friend posed this question to a minimalist group they had some great ideas for repurposing old clothing that couldn't be worn any longer. Sheets and towels with stains or rips can be reused too. Check out all the ideas below.

Here's What Happened to My Bleach Spotted Shirt

I added more bleach spots and then used a Sharpie marker to make designs of those. Unique and fun.

I added more bleach spots and then used a Sharpie marker to make designs of those. Unique and fun.

No Toilet Paper? No Problem

I heard about this idea in some of the frugal groups on Facebook but didn't pay much attention to it until there was a toilet paper panic. Staying safely in your home during a pandemic led people to worry about running out of toilet paper.

Here's the solution

Take those raggedy old cotton or cotton/blend t-shirts and cut them up into squares. Stack them near the toilet for drying yourself after urinating. After a single-use, put it in a covered container. When laundry time comes, empty the used cloths into the wash. Once they are clean, return them to the bathroom.

What size should they be?

That depends on the heaviness of the fabric and how well it absorbs. Try a few before you cut up lots of squares.

Can they be used for poop too?

There were different suggestions for this. You could dampen one and have it ready for defecation. Clean yourself up, then discard it in a covered trash bin. You'll want to empty that trash bin regularly to avoid a stinky bathroom. You'll need a good supply of ragged clothing to go with the use-and-toss method. Alternate solution: treat it the way cloth diapers are washed. Flush the toilet to remove the waste, then rinse the cloth of poop by sloshing it in the toilet. Flush again. Collect them in a bucket for laundering and reuse later.

Cloth Instead of Toilet Paper

Squares of old t-shirt fabric ready for use in place of toilet paper.

Squares of old t-shirt fabric ready for use in place of toilet paper.

Why Is Old Clothing a Problem for the Environment?

Brandi in the minimalist group had a good explanation for why it's worthwhile to recycle or reuse fabrics. "It's a complicated question. Materials that break down cause gasses to be produced in our landfills that are damaging to the environment. Some larger cities are turning this into energy, but smaller cities can't afford to do it and it just puts out an overabundance of gasses. Also, most textiles can be recycled, which means that the resources (water, for instance) being used to grow cotton could be used for food. Just something to consider, especially since many charities sell textiles for recycling."

Don't Add to the Landfills

recycling-stained-clothing

Recycling Options for Tattered Clothing

Cotton clothes can be cut up and composted. And some places where you donate clothes also do textile recycling, so you should ring them and check. You might still be able to donate! It depends on where you live. Some charities sell textiles for recycling, some cities have locations for collecting textiles that have holes or stains

Brandi K. explained that "I live in a very small city, but found a place about an hour away that does it. I have a bin in my carport I have been saving rags in and will be taking it there soon. I'm sure any large cities have it and the city I am going to is fairly small. My city is 33,000 people and the city which does the recycling is bigger, maybe 100,000. Inquire with your city's Recycling Coordinator. It isn't available everywhere.

Also, contact your charity shops like Salvation Army and Goodwill and see if they do it. Some charity shops sell fabrics too tatty for sale for 'rag weight'.

Look into sending them to H&M. They recycle the totally unwearable ones into fillings for car parts etc... They give you a 15% discount vouchers for each bag.

Take Towels to an Animal Shelter or Animal Hospital

Animal shelters need old towels, sheets, and blankets to make bedding for the cats and dogs there.

Animal shelters need old towels, sheets, and blankets to make bedding for the cats and dogs there.

Find an Animal Shelter Near You - Donate Towels and Bedding

Make Dog Beds from an Old Sweater for Your Dog or the Shelter

Cutting up a Sock for Other Uses

The top part of this sock gets repurposed into a doll dress. The bottom part becomes a cleaning rag.

The top part of this sock gets repurposed into a doll dress. The bottom part becomes a cleaning rag.

Treat your doll to a sweater dress made from a sock.

Treat your doll to a sweater dress made from a sock.

What to Do with Old Socks or Ones without a Match?

  • "Those really fuzzy socks that never stay up and are awful colors and way too hot and bulky make great furniture dusters/oilers. ( lemon oil)." I personally like to toss out a saturated oily cloth after one use to avoid any risk of spontaneous combustion. When I apply teak oil, I really soak the cloth. If it's an old sock, then I don't feel guilty. If I'm just applying a furniture spray and spreading it around with the old sock, then I wash and reuse those a number of times.
  • "They also make good spot wipers ... the cotton sports socks make decent sink cleaners ... for a quick wipe ... I kept a few oddball socks for these reasons."

Search for a Textile Recycling Site Near You

I repurpose clothes with holes or stains that can’t be fixed. I’ve found that hydrogen peroxide, a squirt of dish soap and an old fashioned washer board take care of most stains.

— Jenny H.

I Use Old Sheets to Protect My Patio Plants from Frost

I keep the old stained, torn sheets folded in my garden storage bin. When a frost is predicted for Central Florida, I pull the sheets out to protect my plants.

I keep the old stained, torn sheets folded in my garden storage bin. When a frost is predicted for Central Florida, I pull the sheets out to protect my plants.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: What can I do about a stain on a piece of clothing that I can't get out in the wash but the shirt is fine otherwise?

Answer: Look for an applique that you can sew on or iron on to cover the spot on your shirt. Maybe a little bumblebee or a heart would conceal the spot and add some pizzaz to the shirt.

© 2017 Virginia Allain

Do You Have More Ideas for Worn Out Clothing?

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 16, 2017:

I am so glad that you mentioned that charities can use clothing in less than perfect condition. They can sell excess clothing in just about any condition to be sold by the pound. Much of it is shipped overseas and new things are made from it.

Thanks for bringing attention to this. We are way too wasteful in this country!

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on June 01, 2017:

The minimalist group that I belong to on Facebook keeps getting me to clear out stuff or at least put it to use.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on June 01, 2017:

I love collecting the buttons and other hardware from old clothes to use in craft projects. Never thought to use the old cloth for pet bedding. Excellent idea.