Oh no! You’ve finally worn out the favourite pair of jeans you wear all year round. So what do you do next? Don't panic. Close your bin lid. Your clothes have so much more to give.
Here’s What to Do With Your Worn Out Clothes
How to Bring New Life to Worn out Clothes
What makes your clothes worn out? Is it a hole that could be patched, darned or repaired or has it been totally ripped apart by your dog for fun?
Maybe you have a pair of shoes that would fit into the post-apocalyptic new Balenciaga collection kind of vibe? Yeah...we were stunned at the prices too.
Issues like missing buttons shouldn’t be a reason to dump your clothes. It can take a few minutes to sew a button back on or you can pay someone to do it for you quite cheaply.
Pesky holes can form in your clothes from everyday use. Perhaps it's where a belt rubs the lower part of a T-Shirt. There lots of products and tricks to repair your clothes online. This website shows you how to repair a T-Shirt using an iron and a couple of easily sourced materials.
Larger holes can be repaired by someone with the skills (it could be you!). It is surprising how a neat bit of needlework can be almost unnoticeable.
You can go down the other route of visible mending. Use a contrasting thread to fix the hole and sew on a patch. Or use some thread to accentuate the hole and make it a statement (but maybe sew round the edges to prevent further fraying).
How to Make Clothes Last Longer
Some clothes are just built to last. Others need looking after. Taking good care of your garments means they will last you much longer.
Here's how to extend the life of your favourite clothes:
- Wash your clothes less often. We don’t need to wash clothes as much as we think. This especially applies to denim and hard wearing materials.
- Wash on a colder setting (take heed of care label) and be mindful of the spin setting. Also consider using delicates bags and loading your machine carefully.
- Rotate what you wear. Try to make use of your whole wardrobe if you can.
- After purchase alterations. If your clothes always wear out in the same place you can think about using patches and materials to reinforce your clothes. This is the same for shoes – you can reinforce the inside of the toe box and get your cobbler to fit your shoe with a more resistant heel.
- Alter clothes so they fit you. You can avoid excessive wear by getting a tailor to let out some seams. Your clothes will fit better and last longer.
- Air dry instead of tumble drying.
- Store your clothes away from damp and moths (and pets who like to destroy things for fun)!
- Invest in a debobbler - these are great for preserving jumpers and knits and helps them to look brand new.
- Also invest in higher quality clothes where possible - these are made to last longer in the first place.
- Hang your clothes on hangers when drying them and storing them.
- If hanging outside, hang them inside out to help prevent fading.
- Hand wash your favourite clothes with cool water.
- Wash similar colours and fabrics together. You could use a colour catcher of some kind as a precaution to prevent staining.
- Get changed into your comfies when around the house to preserve your favourite 'outside' clothes.
Can you Upcycle Worn out Clothes and Materials?
Depending on how damaged or distressed your clothes or shoes are, you might be able to get creative and upcycle them.
For example, a pair of boots that have fallen apart could be reused as a planter in the garden.
Your clothes might still have plenty of life as clothes. Transform a stained white T-Shirt with some tie dye!
Or you could go all Great British Sewing Bee and transform a pair of old curtains into a summer dress. A great excuse to break out your creative skills.
Mine rarely make it out the door. Best becomes casual, then becomes workwear or cut up as patches for other garments, then becomes rags for cleaning house, finally become rags to clean tools. Not much left after that!— Jekka23 (@Jekka231) May 26, 2022
Cotton can be a great absorbent material for cleaning around the house. So you can save on buying microfibre clothes (and ditch the plastic) by using old dresses, shirts and trousers instead.
Can Worn Out Clothes be Recycled?
YES! As a last resort, you can send your clothes off to be recycled.
BUT…clothes are really hard to recycle. Just 12% of the material used for clothing gets recycled. And this is mainly because modern clothes are made using a blend of materials. For example, a T-Shirt that is made with a cotton elastane blend is hard to recycle because these two materials are hard to separate.
It also takes a lot of work, skill and manual labour to sort clothes so that they can be properly recycled.
That said, if you have something that is 100% cotton, then recycling is a better alternative to just chucking it away.
So where can you recycle clothes? For clothes that you can’t donate to charity shops, you can instead take to textile banks. You can find these in supermarkets, shopping centres and at various shops across the country. There are also lots of private recycling companies. But, be warned, it’s worth doing some research before sending off your clothes. It’s important to make sure that your clothes will actually be recycled, rather than ‘disposed of’.
Threadbare, destroyed clothes can recycled and reused as rags. Most charity shops take rags. They can sell this as a raw material to be chopped up and used for other industrial and commercial purposes, like fillers, insulating material or soundproofing.
Here's what the Salvation Army said about what rags and damaged clothes they take:
"We welcome all donations [...] Items that are damaged (e.g. stained, ripped, broken zips) will be recycled as much as possible. These items can be used across various industries and in products such as car and home insulation, cleaning cloths and mattress filling. So we do take rags, which are sold to companies who will recycle them for these and other uses. If possible, it's helpful to mark somewhere on the tied-top bag that they are rags."
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