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How to Recycle Old Clothes

written by: Jennifer Claerr•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 5/23/2011

If you've got old clothes sitting in your closet, don't throw them away. Instead, recycle them. Recycling your clothing is an excellent way to save money, reduce clutter and reclaim wasted space in your home.

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    Basics About Recycling Old Clothes

    Most of us have old clothes in our closets that we never wear. There are many ways to recycle clothes. Even if your used clothes seem stained, tattered and torn, you can reuse and recycle them in many different ways. If you can't find a use for them, chances are there's somebody else that can. Recycling your old clothing can reduce the clutter in your home, recovering wasted space and saving you money at the same time. If you reduce, reuse and recycle, you can get some extra mileage out of your old wardrobe, reduce your consumption of new products and avoid adding to the size of landfills. At any rate, it would be a shame to waste old clothing, when there are so many people in need and so much waste going on today. There are many resources, both in your phone book and online, where you can recycle your old clothing. There are also easy do-it-yourself methods for recycling old clothes.

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    Recycle Old Clothes into Cleaning Cloths

    Used clothing can make ideal cloths for cleaning your home. By cutting up old terrycloth socks, for example, you can create cleaning cloths that will last for years. Just cut the back edge of the sock from the ankle to the toe. You don't have to hem them, but if you're handy with a needle, sewing the edges may prevent fraying. These recycled cloths are very useful for cleaning windows, mirrors and counter tops. They're also great for dusting. Since recycled cleaning cloths are reusable, they can save you a lot of money on paper towels over time. Be sure to keep some recycled cleaning cloths in or near the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry room where you can easily access them. You can also put them over a Swiffer Sweeper instead of buying the disposable cloths made by the manufacturer. Any type of terrycloth sock will do for this purpose, but the dark ones will help you to see the dirt you've picked up more clearly. When you're finished using the recycled cloths for household cleaning, simply throw them in the washing machine and wash them in hot water.

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    Recycle Old Clothes by Giving Them Away

    Giving away the old clothes you never wear can benefit both humanity and the planet. Organizations such as The Salvation Army and Goodwill will accept used clothing donations. In many cases The Salvation Army will come to your house to pick the old clothing up for free. Charities resell donated clothing and use the money for a charitable cause or give the clothing away to people who can't afford to buy it, such as the homeless and victims of domestic abuse. Even if your old clothes seem unworthy of being given to charity, someone could still use them. Many charitable organizations give clothes they can't sell to textile recyclers. You can also give your clothing away on a recycling website called Freecycle. To ensure that your used clothes will be reused or recycled, contact the charity before giving the used clothing away. Always wash and dry the clothing before donating it to charity. Never give away clothing that is severely torn or heavily soiled with substances that won't come out with washing.

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    Use Old Clothes in Art and Craft Projects

    Old clothes make the perfect material for recycled art and craft projects. Sleeves and pant legs from old clothing can be easily used to make puppets. Socks also make good puppets, and can be cut and sewn to make finger puppets, as well. You can remove the buttons from the clothes and re-sew them to create eyes for your puppet. If you're particularly skilled with a needle and thread, you could recycle the old clothes into pillows, purses, dolls or stuffed animals. You can use fabric paint, beads, studs or embroidery to cover up any stained or damaged areas. Websites such as Thriftyfun.com have many ideas about how to create new and interesting crafts out of recycled clothing.

    If you follow these tips, you'll never again put another scrap of clothing in a landfill. You'll be amazed just how easy and natural it is to reuse and recycle clothes for other purposes. For more ideas on this topic, read Making Crafts from Recycled Materials.

    Sources:

    "Textiles: Common Wastes & Materials." Epa.gov

    "Clothing Donation to Salvation Army or Goodwill." CharityGuide.org