Guide to recycling old clothes around the house
Young woman folding clothes

When it comes to garbage and landfill overflow, we often think of products that are plastics, metals or other tough materials. But did you know that one of the biggest culprits when it comes to trash is textiles? According to this article by the BBC, 92 million tons of textiles are thrown out each year globally. That statistic is expected to jump up to 134 million tons per year by 2030.

Furthermore, only about 12% of the material used for clothing ends up being actually recycled. Recycling clothing is very difficult for several reasons; first off, it needs to be separated, often by both material and colour. This needs to be done by hand and can be very labour intensive. You also may need to remove some trims, zippers, buttons or seams which takes skill and, again, a lot of time. This means that, at the end of the day, recycling clothing is actually very expensive, so often doesn’t get done. Instead, these pieces end up in landfills where they can take decades to break down.

So, what can you do about it? Well, you can recycle your old clothes yourself by repurposing them around the house! Here’s how.

Rags and cloths for cleaning

One of the easiest things to do with old clothing that you don’t use or wear anymore is to cut them up and use them as rags for cleaning. These can be multi-purpose cleaning tools and are easily reusable, unlike one-use cleaning wipes or paper towels. Once you are done, just throw them in the wash and they will be ready for next time. Chances are these rags will last you ages, which is a perk for the environment (and for your wallet!).

Create cushion or pillow covers

If you have some clothing with a cool print or design that you really like, why not repurpose it into a cushion cover? It will take some sewing skills (or hiring someone to help) but it’s a great way to hang onto some of your favourite pieces and add some more décor to your home in the form of throw pillows and decorative cushions. You could even make multi-purpose cushions for both indoor or outdoor spaces.

Rag rugs

Speaking of getting crafty, rag rugs are another fun way to recycle your old clothes around the house. These colourful rugs are often found for sale at craft shows and look great in the kitchen and bathroom - but why buy them when you can create your own? Sure, they look a little intimidating to create, but there are plenty of step-by-step tutorials that will show you how to make them online. Check out this tutorial video on YouTube.

Hair scrunchies

Hair scrunchies are back in fashion, so why not take advantage and make your own? With some basic sewing skills, a needle and thread, material scraps, and elastics, DIY hair scrunchies can be an easy sewing project to take on. You’ll get a few cute accessories and help Mother Nature - win win! Take a look at this YouTube video for a scrunchie-making tutorial.


If you like bigger projects, turn your favourite old clothes into a quilt. This can be really fun with a mix of different prints and patterns or even a theme, like concert t-shirts. You can make it as big or small as you want and get creative with the pattern and design, depending on your sewing experience and skills.

Wrapped clothing hangers

If you can’t sew but still want to repurpose old clothing, then grab some fabric, glue, and metal coat hangers. Fabric-covered clothing hangers come in really handy for a lot of pieces that can sometimes slip off the hanger. Sometimes the thin wire hangers also leave crease lines on your clothing – by padding the hangers with reused fabric, you can help prevent that.

Make a bag

One more creative way to recycle old clothing in your house is to use them to make bags. They can be little pouches for jewellery or coin purses, or even larger tote bags that you can use for your groceries. Again, this is a fun way to be as simple or as creative as you want with the fabrics and materials that you have on hand.

What else can you do?

Repurposing and recycling your clothes at home is a great way to be more environmentally friendly, but you should also make an effort to be more conscious when shopping as well. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind when shopping and buying new clothing:

·       Avoid cheap, fast-fashion type clothing as much as possible

·       Invest in quality staple pieces that will work with your wardrobe long-term

·       Shop at vintage and second-hand stores

·       Look at brands that use recycled materials to create their clothing

·        Try clothing swaps with friends instead of buying new

·       Donate responsibly

Hannah Logan is a Canadian travel writer who dreams of being just like Indiana Jones. You can follow her travels on her personal travel blog Eat Sleep Breathe Travel where she shares her travel tales and (mis)adventures around the world.

Hannah Logan is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.
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