What can you do with old clothes?

A smiling young woman holding up a pink jumper

Top tips to reduce clothing and textile waste

Clearing out your wardrobe? There are lots of ways to give your unwanted clothes, shoes and accessories a second life. Even if they aren’t in perfect condition. Check out our #WasteNothing top tips to help reduce clothing waste.

Stitch new life into old threads

A pair of hands can be seen cutting the ends off a pair of jeans

We’ve all got clothes we’d love to wear if it wasn’t for that one pesky broken zip, missing button or hole in the armpit. They’re the favourites we’ve worn so much they need repairing. Or the clothes we bought in the sale that turned out to be faulty.

While it’s easy to shove them to the back of the wardrobe and the bottom of the to-do list, let today be the day we get it sorted!

There are lots of helpful video guides online showing how to fix zippers, patch holes, darn socks and fix bra underwires, but for more difficult repairs you may need some specialist help. The Good Wardrobe has a Bristol-based directory of tailors, cobblers, and places that do alterations.

If it’s more than a broken zip of missing button, could the clothing be upcycled to bring it back into use? Sashiko is the Japanese art of visible mending, or functional embroidery. The idea is to stitch patterns over rips and worn patches in your clothes, to enhancing rather than hiding to the fix.

Finally, if there’s no way to make it wearable again, could you save the material for a craft project, used to wrap presents or cut up and turned into cleaning rags?

Swap shopping for swopping

Two young women holding up tops at a clothes swap

Clothes swapping, or ‘swopping’ is a great way to get rid of unwanted clothing and find items that are new-to-you. You can do this with friends and family or look out for organised events taking place in your area.

There are now many online swop shops where you can donate your clothes to collection points or swap them for second hand clothes.

Turn clothes into cash

A photo of a white t-shirt being taken on a mobile phone

Some of your unwanted clothing may be suitable for reselling. It’s a great way to give items a new home and make back some of the money you spent buying them. To reduce clothing waste you could try selling:

  • Online – websites and apps such as Depop, Asos Marketplace and Vinted specialise in helping you sell second hand clothing. General selling sites such as Gumtree, eBay, Preloved, Facebook Marketplace, or Shpock have clothing or fashion sections you could use.
  • At markets – jumble sales, flea markets and car boot sales can be good places to sell second-hand clothing.

There are places in Bristol that will buy your clothing, such as the ClothingXChange.

Donate wearable clothes to charity

A young woman sitting on the floor putting clothes into boxes for charity

Charity shops are usually the first place people think to take old clothes. Because of this, some charity shops can get inundated with donations and it’s a good idea to phone up or pop in to check they are accepting donations before turning up with bags.

Clothing banks are even easier to use than charity shops. You can find clothing banks in Bristol using Wraps clothing bank search. If the bank is full you’ll need to try again another day. Leaving bags next to clothing banks is fly-tipping and you could be fined.

Some high street retailers including M&S, Primark, H&M, TK Maxx, Zara, and Clarks have in-store collection points for old clothing, shoes and accessories.

Some charities offer a doorstep bag collection service, so you don’t even need to leave the house. You can request a free post bag or label from Oxfam, Re-Fashion or Thrift+ to post donated items free of charge.

Put usable textiles out for collection with your recycling

A bag of old clothes inside a recycling box

In Bristol, reusable clothing, textiles and spectacles can be put out for collection through household kerbside recycling. You can put the following items in your black recycling box:

  • Clothes and textiles – put clean, dry, wearable or reusable textiles in clearly labelled, untied carrier bags. Damaged, soiled, or wet textiles cannot be accepted.
  • Spectacles and cases
  • Shoes – must be wearable, paired, tied together, dry, and in a labelled carrier bag.

Bristol’s Reuse and Recycling Centres all have clothing banks and can accept dry, clean textiles, paired shoes, spectacles, and clean, useable clothes. Rags are not accepted. Make a booking here.

What can you do with rags and other unusable textiles?

Some charity shops, clothing banks, and in-store collection points accept non-reusable, damaged textiles or rags. These donations do still need to be clean, so should be washed and dried before donation. Put them in a bag clearly labelled “rags”. Check with individual locations first.

Share your #WasteNothing ideas with us

A present wrapped up in blue fabric

Have you tried any of these ideas? Or do you have any other tips for giving unwanted clothes a second life? Tell us about it on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using #WasteNothing

If you enjoyed this blog, go ahead and share it!