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24 Things to do with Old Clothes that Cannot be Donated

Many of us regularly donate our old clothes to organizations that collect old clothes from individuals and donate them to those in need or sell them to make money for charity – which is great!

But what if you have unwanted clothing that doesn’t meet their guidelines? What do you do with it?

There are many reasons why a piece of clothing might not make the cut for donation, but this does not mean it has lost its usefulness.

These tips and repurposing ideas will help you find a new life for old textiles and avoid them ending up in landfills.

Local Thrift Stores – Donation Requirements

If you decide to make a clothing donation, make sure they are clean and dry.

Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and other thrift stores and charity shops only accept certain items (such as coats, shoes, books) and they don’t want clothing in poor condition.

what to do with old clothes that can't be donated

Your donation must be in wearable with no rips or tears.

If you are donating your clothing because you think it is not in a good condition – either too damaged or too bobbly to wear – then chances are thrift stores won’t want it either!

Mending of course is always an option. But if your clothes are too far gone for that there are plenty of ideas below.

Animal Shelters

Sometimes a local animal shelter will accept old clothing for use in pet beds, but not all – so check ahead if this is an option you have been considering.

Some will also accept fabric scraps for use in bedding.

Textile Recycling Companies

Some textile recycling companies can recycle your old clothing, but not all of them do.

You may need to contact more than one before you find a company willing to take what you have.

Be aware that textile recyclers are usually only interested in clothes made from natural fibers like wool and cotton so synthetic fibers such as polyester won’t be accepted by these types of companies either.

Also keep in mind that textile recycling companies are often located in Asia even if donations are accepted in the US or UK, so shipping clothes there might negate the environmental benefits of recycling them!

Insulation and Building Materials

Yes, you read that one right! There are some super innovative companies that are using upcycled clothing to make insulation material and even bricks!

You may be able to find some companies in your area who would take donations but not all – so have a quick google of insulation made from clothing + the area you live in and see if you can find anyone keen to take your clothes!


If most of your piece of clothing is in a usable condition but it just doesn’t suit you anymore or it has enough damage to be un-donatable then ‘refashioning’ it into another type of garment or outfit accessory could be an option.

Here is another post all about ideas for refashioning and rewearing your old clothes:

Turn your Clothes into Fabric

If you sew – you could cut up usable parts of your old clothes to use in scrappy sewing projects or quilts.

leg fabric from cut up jeans
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

Turn your Clothing into Cleaning Rags

As well as the upcycled craft idea below, clothing can usually be repurposed into cleaning cloths, rags and dusters no matter how far gone it is – so do not throw them out just yet!

Use a pair of pinking shears to cut your clothing into manageable rag sizes – the pinking shears will stop the edges from fraying so you don’t need to hem them.

I often do this with semi-moth eaten tops made with that waffle textured t-shirt material. They make great scrubbers!

Here is a post about some other practical household items you can make from upcycled textiles:

Upcycling & Repurposing your Clothing into Something Completely Different!

Below is a list of fun project ideas and tutorials to get you started reimaging your old unwearable clothing!

What will your old t-shirt or sweater become next?

Upcycling Crafts for Old Clothing that Can't be Donated

These aren't refashioning projects. These are crafts and upcycle projects made with old clothes that have been completely transformed into all manner of fab creations from handbags to Christmas ornaments, wall art, and more.

I hope this post has helped you find some ideas to give your unwanted clothes a second life! I’d love to hear about other ways you have upcycled and repurposed your old clothes. Leave me a comment or tag me on social media @upcyclemystuff!

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