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8 things to do with old clothes to extend their life

As we’ve often talked out here at Care What You Wear, throwaway culture is a big issue in the fashion industry and in society at large.

Even giving away old clothes to charity shops can be problematic, as we covered in our recent article What happens to clothes when you donate them?

The fact is, there are too many clothes in the world already, and even if you donate them, they can end up in landfill or the incinerator.

Finding ways to extend the life of your old clothes has the twofold positive effect of preventing more clothes ending up in landfill and reducing the need for new items to be purchased.

It all starts with a shift in mindset. Before you go to throw something out, think: what else could I do with this?

Here are some suggestions…

  • Pass it on

Before throwing something out, ask around to see anyone you know would like it. That way, you know it will be going to a good home. This can work really well for children’s clothes, as kids are constantly growing out of them.

  • Organise a clothes swap

If you and a few friends have some clothes you’re not into anymore, why not arrange a get-together where you all bring them along and swap them for ones you like? You know that your old clothes will be loved again, and you get some brand-new ones for free.

  • Keep and use for cleaning or DIY

If you’ve got some old clothes that are torn, worn and can’t be re-worn, you could always use them for cleaning rags. This is eco-friendlier that buying new cleaning cloths and gives your old clothes a second lease of life. It’s also handy to keep hold of a few old clothes for messy DIY jobs like painting and decorating.

  • Turn them into something else

If you’re handy with a needle and thread, or you know someone who is, there are all sorts of things you can do with your old clothes. If an item no longer fits but you like the fabric, you could turn it another garment, or a household item like a cushion cover or bunting. A nice idea for children’s old clothes is to make them into a patchwork blanket to keep for years to come.

  • Sell online

There are a whole host of websites and apps that let you sell your old clothes online now, such as eBay, Depop and Vinted. When you sell them via these channels, there’s a higher chance that your clothes will be worn again, and you get a bit of money out of it, too.

  • Donate to a homeless or refugee shelter

Charities for refugees and the homeless are often looking for clothes for people in need. Check first to see which items the charities need and donate anything you have that will be helpful. Don’t just dump all your old clothes on them without checking first, as the charity workers will then have the job of sorting through and disposing of unneeded items.

  • Keep it for 6 months and see how you feel

Many of us love the feeling of getting new clothes and can quickly get bored of what’s in our wardrobes. To test whether you really want to get rid of something, why not try stowing it away in a box or cupboard for 6 months and coming back to it? This can mimic a feeling of “newness” and give your garment a whole new lease of life.

  • Rent it out

There are now several peer-to-peer fashion rental apps that let you rent out your clothes or borrow items off other people (such as Nuw and By Rotation). The idea of these apps is to combat overconsumption and encourage us all to work together to wear clothes that already exist, instead of buying new ones. There has recently been some research to suggest that renting from large fashion rental companies still carries a hefty carbon footprint, however, peer-to-peer fashion rental can be a more sustainable option. There is still transport involved, but when weighed up against buying something new and having it shipped, it’s more eco-friendly.

Be a conscious shopper

Another thing that helps to combat fashion overconsumption and waste is to be more conscious of what we buy—only investing in quality pieces that we know we will keep for a long time and wear again and again. If you are considering buying something new, don’t forget to check out our directory of sustainable brands to make sure what you’re buying is responsibly and ethically made.


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