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Can Torn Clothes Be Recycled?

July 30, 2022 4 min read

Torn clothes can indeed be recycled! There’s more than one way to ensure your damaged clothes avoid the landfill and find a new lease of life, and thankfully, doing so is incredibly straightforward.

Clothes are bound to suffer from wear and tear over time, but this doesn’t mean you need to throw them out the second they start showing signs of overuse. Even if you aren’t too excited about getting some sewing done to revitalize your torn clothes, there are still plenty of other options.

If you don’t know where to start, it’s well worth checking out the guide below – it should help point you in the right direction.


1.    Turn Your Old Clothes into a T-Shirt Blanket

If you can’t bear to get rid of your favorite t-shirts when they start to become tatty or torn, you could always think about turning them into a t-shirt blanket.

This is a great way to honor your old t-shirts while at the same time making them functional once more. All you have to do is gather your old t-shirts, send them to us, and we’ll transform them into a comfy blanket for you.

This is a superb way to recycle clothes without having to expend too much energy (like you would in many other recycling processes), and you get a sentimental blanket you can keep forever as a result.

You can hang your blanket from the wall, use it as a spread that brings back countless happy memories, or simply use it to get snug on the couch as you watch a movie – whatever you decide to do, your torn t-shirts can be given another shot at life.


2.    Search for In-Store Recycling Options

Some stores in the United States will accept torn clothes for recycling purposes, provided they’re the ones you bought the clothes from in the first place. Brands that do this include H&M, Zara, and Patagonia. Still, many others have dedicated textile waste recycling programs, so make sure to check before throwing anything out.

It’s also worth noting that sometimes, retailers have a section in their store that houses recycling bins for your torn clothes. This might be independent of the brand, acting instead as a separate recycling location, in which case, you may be able to search on Google and find out where your nearest recycling bin is.

There are a few companies that can help you find textile recycling drop-off points in your area, too, like Recycle Now and Earth911, so you may want to check them out. 


3.    Reach out to Goodwill

Not every Goodwill location will be willing to accept your torn clothes, but those that have recycling programs in place may take them off your hands.

It’s worth checking to see if your nearest Goodwill location accepts torn clothes, because in many cases, clothes donated to Goodwill simply get sold on to textile recyclers anyway – the profits of which are donated to charity.  


4.    Compost Your Clothing

This one may be a little surprising, and it is dependent on the material, but your unwanted clothing can be used as compost in some situations.

Provided the clothes are made from wool, silk, hemp, linen, ramie, or cotton, and there isn’t any plastic, metal, or synthetic parts involved, they can be composted down. It’s worth mentioning that the wool must be pure wool, and you can also compost clothes that are a combination of the materials above.

To do this, you’ll need to add them to your compost with wet items like old vegetables and ensure that your clothes don’t take up too much space. About 25% percent of your heap should be old clothes at a maximum; otherwise, they’ll have a hard time breaking down at all.

Also, it’s important to be aware that your shirts printed with logos or lettering might contain PVC and, therefore, potentially harmful chemicals, which makes them unsuitable for composting.


5.    Donate to an Animal Shelter

Animal shelters may be willing to take your torn clothes, as they often use old fabric as blankets for the animals that they’re looking after. This may be a long shot, so it’s worth calling them up before you start loading your car with torn clothing.


6.    Donate to a Thrift Store

If your clothes are only partially damaged or they’re still in perfect working order with a few scrapes, they may be worth taking to a thrift store.

It’s important to understand that most thrift stores will not want to take completely torn clothes off you, as they won’t be able to sell them to someone else. Plus, they probably don’t want to undertake your recycling for you if they haven’t got a dedicated program in place.

That said, some thrift stores may want to take your torn clothes to use as material for making repairs, or they might want to try and fix up the clothes to sell later. Similarly, textile stores might wish to take your torn clothes off your hands for this very reason.


7.    Make Kitchen Rags

You can never have enough kitchen rags, and thankfully, your torn clothes can serve this purpose extremely well, especially if they’re made out of tightly woven cotton. This is technically upcycling, but it’s still a great way to avoid having to throw out your clothes into a landfill.


8.    Use Them as Fabric Patches

Fabric patches can serve to be quite the fashion statement at times. If you’re handy with a sewing machine and have some time to kill, turning your torn clothes into fabric patches can rejuvenate a pair of old jeans. Better yet, if you use torn clothes to repair tears in your jeans, you’ve doubled your efficiency!

The fabric patch look was a ’90s staple, and fortunately, ’90s fashion trends are back in a big way, so you might be able to replicate some classic looks without having to fall prey to the woes of fast fashion.

If you’re still not sure what to do with your torn clothing items, it’s worth looking on your local government’s website to see if they have any recycling programs in place.

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