Dear PoPville – Recycling Old Clothes

Photo by PoPville flickr user Vileinist

“Dear PoPville,

Hi! I was wondering if you could ask the POP readers if they know where you can recycle/repurpose clothes that are too worn out to be donated? It seems like such a waste to throw them out in the trash.”

I thought we talked about this once before but I can’t seem to find the old thread. Does anyone know of/remember any good recs?

22 Comment

  • I was just wondering the same thing about shoes. I regularly shop at Goodwill and the Salvation Army and have never seen anything that looked as worn as my shoes, so I tossed them in the trash.

  • If you’re crafty and there are big enough salvageable pieces, I think that making something like this could be neat:

    Otherwise, I wonder if animal shelters would be looking for cleaning rags or something like that?

  • A couple of things:
    -A lot of thrift stores take the older clothes and sell them to a wholesaler who either ships them to Africa/Latin American or sells them as rags. But, you never know, it still could end up in the trash.
    -Advertise on craigslist. A number of folks (like me!) would be delighted to pick up old clothes to use for patchwork quilts.

  • There are Salvation Army bins at 18th and California.

  • SouthwestDC

    It’s possible an animal shelter would take them to use as bedding.

  • I would suggest putting them outside in a box with a sign that says “free.” I do this frequently with unwanted clothes/household items and they are gone within minutes. Depending on how busy of an area you live in, you can put the box on a corner or near a bodega.

  • Quilters are often happy to take worn jeans (and maybe clothes of other fabrics). The more worn, the softer (and better) and they need smaller pieces so can work around holes in knees and crotches. I’ve been able to give things like that away on freecycle.

  • The Lupus Foundation will accept clothes donations, and they will even come and pick them up:

  • I bet if you talked to the girls who run Ginger Root (16th & U) they would be able to help. They do a lot of work taking used clothes and turning them into something new.

  • Non-profits like Goodwill and the Salvation Army will repurpose clothes too worn out to re-sell or donate. I’ve seen that done at donation events I’ve been involved in, but I don’t have the details on how it all works. I bet you could contact them to find out if you just donate as per usual.

    More info here:

  • T-Shirt Quilt!

    I will be getting a queen size quilt for my husband for Christmas with shirts that are slightly too worn out to wear.

  • I know this post is for clothes that are too worn to donate but thought I’d add my plug…If you have women’s business clothes to donate you should consider this awesome organization that I donate to called Our Place. “Our Place, DC is a unique non-profit organization in DC dedicated to providing gender-specific direct services and advocacy to help formerly and currently incarcerated women come back home from prison.”

    • This is great! Thanks for sharing. What do you mean by business clothes? I have a lot of stuff that I’ll wear to my office on a normal day, but it may not be intverview-appropriate.

    • ah

      Anything for men’s suits?

      I have a few that are somewhat worn, but probably wearable by someone who doesn’t have one and needs one for an interview (for example, the material is a bit worn around the wallet pocket or the cuffs are a bit worn on the bottom).

      I know I’ve moved on from these suits because I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford replacements, but if they have some wearings left in them it’s better than turning them into rags.

  • There are a bunch of “Planet Aid” clothing donation bins around DC. Just plug in your ZIP here and it will tell you where the closest one is: It took me years to find a place to donate clothes in DC – it’s much harder than it needs to be! Plus, this organization “collects and sells donated clothing and shoes to support sustainable development in impoverished communities around the world.” Very cool.

  • Goodwill can sell unusable clothing in bulk.

    From their website.
    What happens to donated items that aren’t sold at Goodwill stores?
    Our goal is to try to generate money to fund Goodwill programs from every item that is donated. So in most cases, we’ll do what we can to get items in salable shape.
    As for items that can’t be sold in our stores, we’ve found other creative uses for them. For instance, some member Goodwills recycle old clothing scraps into industrial wipes (cleaning cloths) for industrial buyers. Other items that are too damaged for retail sales are sold to salvage brokers.

  • Goodwill also sells clothes to wholesalers who clean, iron, sort and ship the items to other countries by the container cargo load. It’s $$ for Goodwill so who cares where it ends up? For a while there in the 90s my landlord was making good money shipping used US jeans and sneakers to Japan, where there was a demand for vintage stuff.

  • You can donate old denim to American Eagle through Sunday and get a discount:

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