Minimalism is catching on, and I'm excited about streamlining. I'm sharing what I've learned about decluttering and simplifying our lives.
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.
I read that the average American tosses about 70 lbs of clothing a year.
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 clothes 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.
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."
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.
Check out These Tips for Making Use of Old Clothing and Towels
Find an Animal Shelter Near You to Donate Towels and Bedding
- Animal Shelters in Your Area; Search for Dogs and Cats.
Animal Shelters by location, find the animal shelter nearest you. We show thousands of pets everyday from animal adoption centers across the country.
Call the shelter near you to be sure they need the donation.
Cotton clothing torn into strips will decompose if you put it into the compost heap with garden trimmings.
Moms can cut up cotton clothing into squares to serve as washable, reusable baby wipes.
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."
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.
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.