How to Reuse Old Clothing: 10 Tips to Upcycle Old Clothes

Growing more and more conscious about what you buy and why you are buying is great, and if you have the chance to buy sustainably, it's even better. But this is not usually a recurrent concept associated with old clothing or clothing in general: we all have that one t-shirt that we bought but we don't like it or that one pair of jeans that have been resting on the rack for a considerable amount of time. The thing is, we honestly don't know what to do with it, right? Well, let me tell you that there are actually some very creative ways to repurpose and upcycle old clothing. So, in case you are wondering how to reuse old clothing, please read on for 10 tips to upcycle old clothes.

Textile waste has been in the public eye for quite some time already and we should be aware that this is growing environmental problem. Did you know tat only in the United States the average textile waste is approximately 81 pounds per capita? That's a lot. I don't think me or you even own that amount of clothing items, probably. But in order to prevent textile old clothing to end up in a landfill, there are some alternatives like donating or recycling it. What follows are 10 handy tips to reuse old clothing in creative and funny ways! Let's check!


Buy second hand - Pexels

If you are new to the world of sustainability, you may be interested in this article: Reduce, Reuse & Recycle: What does it Mean, How to put it in Motion

1. Last season's patterns to cushion covers

This is actually one of my favorite ideas on how to recycle old patterns and fabrics that may be already too outdated or ragged. Who hasn't been obsessed with polka dots or floral patterns last year and now you can't stand the sight of it. If you don't want to wear some patterns or colors anymore you may consider the possibility of upcycling old clothes to decorate your home!

In another great DIY for reusing old clothing, turning old shirts or jumpers into cushion covers is a fantastic idea! It won't take more that 5 minutes to turn that old fabric into a cute and decorative cover and the best part is that zero sewing skills are required. Please check this video for some ideas (there are a bunch of them videos online, BTW)

2. Turn your cotton shirts into makeup remover pads

As a regular make up user, I think this tip for reusing old clothes is super practical! Surely there are some old cotton shirts in your closet waiting to be either used or upcycled. Check this: you just need to cut same-sized rounds or squares out of old cotton fabric and sew them together on the outer edges. Make sure the stitching is strong enough to endure the washing machine, and that's all you need to worry about. You are actually producing zero waste by upcycling old cotton clothes, which keeps you away from those disposable make up remover towels that are not eco-friendly at all.

Reusable Cotton Pads

3. Turn an old t-shirt into a headband

If you like using accessories for your hair, you're gonna love this tip. Probably you won't buy any of these again if you can keep the cycle of reusing old clothing. Let's check!

The manners in which you can turn worn out fabric into headband are countless. You just need an old t-shirt, patience and a small amount of time to turn an old item into a cute and trendy hair accessories. Literally, zero waste.

Hair accessories - Pexels

4. Reusable Grocery Bags

In our way to the market, choosing a reusable grocery bag over a plastic one has already a huge impact. So, as you can imagine making your own reusable grocery bags our of old clothing is one of the easiest, most creative and most sustainable ways of doing so. Let's see...

You can perfectly upcycle your old clothes like t shirts and transform them into grocery or produce bags for food shopping or why not harvesting your own produce. ou won't believe how easy it is to make them at home, which is way much better and more affordable than buying ready made ones. Please check this video tutorial to see how easy this is!

5. Reusable tissues and kitchen wipes

Paper tissues or wipes have become so popular that it's easy to overlook the dramatic environmental impact the use of paper has. This produces tons of unnecessary waste and brings about deforestation.

Well, fortunately there are ways to replace at least paper tissues and kitchen wipes so we are not using that ridiculous amount of paper every time we catch a cold or we want to clean the counter. Let's see how can we reuse old clothing to make our own tissues and wipes!

It goes without saying that it's very difficult to get rid of paper... Come on, disposable tissues are so practical but unfortunately they cause a lot of pollution, and we need to change that. How? One person at a time, little by little. A change to reusable wipes and tissues is cool but it's even better if you can DIY!

By now, you probably guessed that t-shirts are the stars of upcycling old clothes and repurposing them! An old cotton t-shirt will always do. Just make sure you finish them with a cute stitching and forget about paper tissues or wipes. You'll become top in the chart of sustainability with this one!

Reusable paper wipes and tissues - Pexels

You may be interested in: Upcycling: A Way To Give Our Stuff A Second Chance

6. Old clothes to reusable food wraps

Virtually any kind of old clothing will be suitable for food wrapping and covering up leftovers. Plastic recipients and plastic wrapping paper are not part of the sustainable agenda, so let's see how we can reuse old clothes to solve the problem of food wrapping but sustainably.

Follow the next steps to make your own food wraps.

You need:

  • A piece of fabric of the desired size and shape and
  • Some produce of bees. (You can get beeswax pastilles or grated beeswax at your local grocery store or pharmacy)

What you have to do next is to melt the beeswax in a saucepan along with some jojoba oil and pine resin. This is gonna give your old clothing the texture to work as the perfect food wrap! Then, apply the melted mixture evenly on your fabric with a paint brush. You'll probably need a little bit more of patience for this one, but it's totally worth it. After the painting, hang your wrap to dry in a cool and dark place. Once dried, use it as you would use plastic wrapping paper to keep your sandwiches or leftovers fresh!

Reusable cloths for food wrapping - Pinterest

7. Create curtains

In case you you’re into bohemian style, and you enjoy playing with fabrics - although sewing is not your thing- these patchwork curtains will definitely work for you. The first thing to do is to measure the size of your current curtains. Then, you should cut many squares of fabric from old clothes, try to keep an approximate same size for the squares.

This is a nice chance to upcycle old clothing by including all those old tees, or patterns that you don't like wearing anymore. Bed sheets, towels, any fabric will do. Play with colors and design ! Lastly, stitch the squares together along their edges into one piece of fabric. Keep stitching until you get the same size you measured at first.

Multiple-pattern curtains - Pexels

8. Make a pet bed cover

I bet you saw this one coming, ah? Of course it's always a very practical and smart idea to reuse old clothes and fabrics to make something cute for our furry buddies, right? I do this on a pretty regular basis. So far I've used old bed sheets, pillowcases, cushion covers and old T-shirts to embellish my cats' bed. This is a similar idea and equally easy to execute:

You can use a big T-shirt to create a slipcover for your pet's bed. In case your pet is large you can create two smaller pillowcases with the pillowcase method. For this you need to stitch them almost all the way together around the body opening but leaving a small hole. Make it super comfy and cozy by reusing old clothes to fill the pillow through the hole. Once you finish this step, stitch the hole that was left and there it is, the cutest and most sustainable bed cover ever!

Make your pet feel comfy! - Pexels

9. Make new clothes out of your old clothes

This tips is also among my favorites because I love reshaping clothes to make tem fit my style. Well, if you are part of the club this is for you. You can pull a completely new garment out of the fabric of your old clothes. Use your imagination to cut and sew yourself something new, if this is your fist time you can think of simple stuff like reshaping a t-shirt into a tube top or skirt or creating accessories like a belt. Fortunately, there are many patterns available on the internet for people who are new to sewing. Check this video for some fashion inspiration!

10. Donate, share and swap

Last but not least, let's not forget that sharing, exchanging and donating are always good ways of reusing and upcycling old items of clothing.They say sharing is caring, and we couldn't agree more on it. In this sense, remember to check vintage and second hand clothing stores, you can find really nice items for a few dollars. That's awesome. From time to time you may invite friends and family and even your neighbors for a little clothing swap, which is a great chance for everyone bring what they are not currently wearing.

Dressing sustainably is by all means cool, not only for your style but also for the planet. So remember to check on you local second hand stores and fairs. You'd be surprised!

Vintage Jackets - Pixabay

To wrap this up, please take these tips as some inspo, but remember they are just a few of endless ideas to reuse old clothes and repurpose them. It's simple, it's easy and it's cute! You don't need to be a super pro seamstress or a fashion designer to upcycle old clothing, all you need is to get some old worn out t-shirts out of the closet and get down to it.

And please, spread the word about how cool is to live sustainably. Small but firm steps will lead us -fortunately- to a better world and it would be also great if you share this article with your people. See you next time... keep it sustainable!

If you are further interested in tips to become more sustainable around home, please check How to Design a Sustainable Home? 50 Easy Sustainable Home Tips!

Gisela Possetto

Copywirter, Cats + Tattoos + Music Lover

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