How to Recycle Clothes: All You Need to Know About Reusing Clothes

Did you know that the average American throws away 81 pounds of clothes each year? While this may not seem like a lot, it does add up considering how many people live in the US.

If we all recycled our clothes, we could save millions of pounds of waste from ending up in landfills and incinerators each year. Read on to learn more about how to recycle clothes and make a difference.

Learn in This Article

  • Why Is Textile Recycling Important
  • What Types of Textiles Can Be Recycled
  • Ways to Recycle Clothes in Good Condition
  • How to Recycle Damaged Clothes
  • What Happens to Recycled Clothing

Why Is Textile Recycling Important

The textile industry is one of the largest polluters in the world. Every year, billions of pounds of textiles are sent to landfills, where they release methane–a powerful greenhouse gas. Not only does this contribute to climate change, but it also wastes valuable resources. Textile recycling helps reduce environmental pollution and conserve resources.

When you recycle old clothes, these items are converted into new products. This process uses far less energy than manufacturing new materials from scratch. Just keep in mind that producing a pair of jeans requires up to 2,000 gallons of water. That’s enough to meet the daily water needs of 20 people!

Textile recycling also helps to preserve our natural resources. The production of new textile fibers requires large amounts of water and land. By recycling old textiles, we can help maintain these precious resources for future generations.

What Types of Textiles Can Be Recycled

Cotton, linen, wool, and silk are among the most natural recyclable fibers. Even synthetic fibers such as polyester, nylon, and acrylic can be recycled. Both natural and synthetic fibers are recyclable materials for clothing.

Recycled textiles can be used to make a variety of new products, such as insulation, carpeting, stuffing for pillows, and new clothing.

Ways to Recycle Clothes in Good Condition

If your clothes are in good condition but you no longer want to wear them, here’s how you can avoid waste and put them back to use.


If you’re looking to recycle clothes for money, you should consider selling them. In fact, reselling clothes is a great way to give them a second life while also making some extra money. Many online platforms, such as Poshmark and thredUP, make it easy to sell or consign clothes. You can also sell used clothes to a local consignment shop.

Clothing Swap

A clothing swap is a fun and easy way to get rid of clothes you no longer want while also acquiring new-to-you items. To host a clothing swap, invite your friends and family to bring any unwanted clothes. Then, let everyone rummage through the pile and take home whatever they like. Any leftover clothes can be donated to a local thrift store.


If your clothes are in good condition but you don’t want to sell them, you can always donate them to a local thrift store. Most thrift stores will happily accept gently used clothes, shoes, and accessories. Remember to check if any donation-based programs in your area take specific items, such as coats or business clothes.

How to Recycle Damaged Clothes

Just because a piece of clothing is damaged doesn’t mean it can’t be recycled. In fact, many types of damaged textiles can be used to make new products, such as insulation or rags.

Consider Composting Them

Composting is a great way to recycle damaged clothes made from natural fibers, such as cotton or wool. Simply cut them into small pieces and add them to your compost bin.

Learn How to Mend

If your clothes are damaged but still wearable, you may be able to mend them. Consider sewing a torn seam, patching a hole, or tie-dying clothes to cover up stains or fading.

Upcycle Clothes at Home

Upcycling is a great way to recycle worn-out clothing while also getting creative. There are many easy DIY projects you can do at home to upcycle clothes, such as turning an old t-shirt into a pillow, cutting up an old pair of jeans to make a patchwork quilt, or using it as a rag.

Put Them in Recycling Bins

If your old clothes are too damaged to be reused or upcycled, you can always leave them in a recycling bin. Keep in mind that every item has to be sorted by material type—that’s how you recycle effectively.

What Happens to Recycled Clothing

When you drop your donations off at the local thrift store, it’s easy to assume that all of your old clothes will be put to good use. However, the reality is that only a small percentage of donated clothing is sold in stores. The rest is either recycled or thrown away. So what happens to all of those unwanted clothes?

Most recycled clothing is turned into rags, which are used for everything from cleaning floors to polishing cars. Other items are shredded and used as stuffing for furniture or insulation for homes. Some companies even use recycled materials to make new clothing or other textiles. For example, recycled denim can make carpeting or soundproofing material.

So the next time you clean out your closet, don’t feel guilty about donating your old clothes to a thrift store. You may not know it, but your donations could be reused in various ways.

Frequently Asked Questions

Key Takeaways

  • When you want to get rid of your clothes, you can recycle them, host a clothing swap, or donate them.
  • Damaged clothes can be recycled, too—consider mending them, upcycling them, or putting them in recycling bins.
  • Recycled clothes are often turned into rags or used as stuffing for furniture, but some companies also use them to make new clothes.