Recycling Fabric to Save and Go Green

Next time you get ready to throw out a piece of clothes, linen or textiles consider recycling as alternative option. Often times, fabrics being thrown away could be reused for another purpose or given to somebody else to get further use out of. Not only can you save some real cash, but also reduce your environment impact.

Textile Recycling Industry

The textile industry in America is a massive industry. Just go to any mall or shopping center, you are bound to find tons of clothing stores or home good stores. In America alone, there 11.9 million tons of textiles or just under 5% of all waste ended up in landfills in 2007.

With this much waste every year, this really opened the doors for textile recycling industry. Every year, fabric recyclers are able to save approximately 2.5 billion pounds of textiles or a little more than 1% of all postconsumer textiles wasted every year. Some of the fabrics are used by the recyclers and the rest is sold to manufacturers that make materials with the used materials. Contrary to what you may think, used textiles have a fairly high value and all parties are able to at least recover all costs in the process. What’s neat that many types of fabrics can be recycled in some fashion including cotton, fleece, denim, linens and many more.

Reuse Fabrics

The easiest way to recycle those extra fabrics laying around the house is to reuse textiles. All you need is a good all around sewing machine and your good to go. Whether you make repairs to existing items or creating unique pieces out of several different types of fabrics, it’s easy to see how you can really make a huge impact. Think of all the money you spent on buying the particular item, why not get more use out of it? Even if you didn’t spend a lot of money, why contribute to overfilled landfills when there was no reason to throw it out. Some great ways you can reuse fabrics include:

Photo by binaryape.


Quilting can be a wonderful idea for just about any type of fabric scraps laying around your house. Nothing is new about this concept, especially back in the days when there wasn’t a Jo-Ann fabric right down the street, along with many not living as lavishly as we do now. People had to be much more creative with what they had available. Try creating a new family tradition by finding clothing and other fabrics laying around the house and sew a quilt with your children. You can even make quilts or donate fabrics to make quilts for charity.


Just because you lost a button or an item has a small tear, there is no reason to throw it out. People are so sensitive to wearing something that is not in perfect condition, but will buy clothes already ripped or faded? Save yourself some money and either make simple repairs by yourself or get somebody you know who is good with a sewing machine to make them for you.


One great example of re-purposing is in terms of under shirts that I wear. By the time I am done with them, they usually are stretched out and can’t be reused as a fabric in other purposes. I reuse them by cutting them up for use as a small towels to wipe things up around the house. I save money on paper towels and I don’t have to throw those old shirts out.


Another great way to recycle those extra fabrics you have laying around the house is to donate them. Donating them allows other people to have items that you no longer want either free or a very inexpensively. Many people clothing items just sitting in their closet that were only worn a few times, if at all. Why not donate those items and allow others to get use out of them. Some great places to donate those items are:

Donating Clothing
Photo by alanstanton.

There are other ways to recoup some of the cost of those clothing, while still providing a way for people to buy quality clothes at an affordable price:

  • Ebay – Auction off the items.
  • Consignment shops
  • Classified ads
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  1. Funny you posted this today. Yesterday I had button disapprear on my shorts. I am gutting it out though, thanks to a belt!

  2. Personally I am not too handy with a sewing machine, so I usually donate my old clothes to Goodwill or local charities.

    However, I do also do the same thing you do with old undershirts, which is to turn them into rags. The last time I did a major clean of my home, I actually cut up one of my shirts and it made an excellent rag.

    • Pays to Live Green
    • April 1st, 2009

    I’m with you tiger, I have used a sewing machine and I would probably damage my clothes more than fix them. That’s why I get my fiancee to fix them for me :)

  3. I agree that reusing is the easiest way to recycle fabric. But I do like donating whenever my clothes are in good enough condition. I would NEVER throw fabric away!

    • lola
    • October 29th, 2009

    As a worker who sifts through tonnes of clothing every week that is donated to a charitable organization I have a couple of pointers. We really cannot make use of items full of pet hair, urine or items completely out of fashion. Most families that come to us do not want to look needy or dated, any more than you do. We landfill anything that is more than 10 years old that does not have excellent costume capabilities. We are a charitable organization that then pays to truck and dispose of all this waste. Please, put it in your own trash rather than wasting the time and energy to bring trash to us which then limits our abilities to help those we are trying to assist.

    • Is there such a company that takes worn out old textiles and clothes?

      I have yet to find a good source other than Good Will or Salvation Army who are then tasked with discarding it.

      Let me know if you know of a company like that.



    • Lucy
    • January 30th, 2010

    Our local recycling center takes all of the fabric scraps that result from quilting. Our guild donates these scraps (and they do add up over time) and they are sent back to NC for recycling into carpeting, we are told. Interesting.

      • Karen
      • June 24th, 2010

      Hi there,
      We are looking for a company that recycles fabrics that are beyond reuse. Do you know the name of the company in NC? Thanks, Karen

        • Terri
        • August 9th, 2010

        I too, am looking for a company that recycles fabrics that are beyond use. I recently did a fund raising yard sale and lots of clothes were donated, unfortunately I have a large box full of stained, ripped clothing as well as boxers and underwear that do not re-sale. Does anyone have any suggestions what I might be able to do with this box? I hate the idea of just throwing it all away, but am limited on time. Thank you!

          • MC
          • August 11th, 2010

          From all your unusable scraps, why not make rag rugs? There are great books available at the library on making different kinds of rag rugs. It’s so easy to set-up. You could have a few going at once and when one rag color is better suited to one rug, you work on that one, and so forth. The rugs can be sold when finished. Even cutting up underwear – that kind of fabric, could be woven into a rag rug. No fancy equipment needed to do it either, that’s the beauty and simplicity of rag rugs.

  4. I wish there was more activity around recycling fabric. Most people are not going to take the time to reuse it themselves. However, most places that take used items, want them in good condition. What about those clothes that are just so worn out nobody would want to wear them? Every recycling center should include a bin for textiles (or PlanetAid needs to expand!).

    • kristie
    • September 27th, 2011

    there are companies that will take fabric for recycling just contact a recyclor in your area to find out if they can take for you or put you in contact with another

    • Allie
    • October 7th, 2013

    •ALL clothes – even clothes that are stained, ripped, torn, burned or stretched out
    •Shoes – single or paired
    •Towels, Gloves & Hats, Sheets, Blankets, Quilts, Bedspreads, Drapes, Purses & Belts

    They encourage pta moms to gather old clothing to donate from the school for fund raising for our public education paying a fair price for the textiles. And individuals can also sell to them. I am trying to find a location closer to me since they are in california

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