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How to recycle old clothes and make them last longer

Your clothes are wearing out, but that doesn’t have to be the end. It just might be a new beginning.

Sometimes you can alter and reuse clothes. Sometimes you can recycle old clothes into something new. Here are some ideas on how to recycle old clothes at home.

Before you start…

You don’t need us to tell you this, but make sure your clothes are clean before you go at them with the scissors! If their age has left them scratchy, see if you can soften them up with a quick wash with fabric conditioner.

Why use a fabric conditioner?

Using fabric conditioner alongside your laundry detergent can help keep your clothes like new, reducing the need to throw them out. Simply add it to your fabric conditioner drawer when you do your wash, our fabric conditioner will be released during the washing cycle. It coats the fibres of your clothes and helps to keep them soft, smelling great, and able to retain their shape and colour. It also helps to keep them from bobbling and makes them easy to iron, and with less static.

Ultimately, it helps to keep clothes in good condition, so you can enjoy your favourite items for longer!

Remember, always read the care label of your clothes before using a fabric conditioner.

How to reuse fashion: Fraying

Fraying’s a pain, but at least it happens at the edges first! Follow these tips to stop frayed ends from keeping you from wearing your favourite clothes:

  • If a sleeve or leg is looking frayed, you can often shorten it and hem it to buy your clothes a little more time.
  • If half a leg is dangling off your trousers, cut them down and turn them into stylish shorts.
  • Or, if you’re feeling more ambitious, you can turn trousers into a skirt. Shorten them to your chosen length, open the inner seams, and use the leftover leg fabric to add more width between the legs if it’s needed.
  • Fraying sleeves? Take them off completely and turn a long-sleeved top into a T-shirt or vest.
  • Use your most-worn clothes to patch up ones that can still be saved. If you’ve got a pair of jeans that can’t be fixed, use the denim to fix a pair that still has some life.

Sometimes, even after fixing frayed edges, you’ll find you’re still a little tired of how they look – even if they’re perfectly wearable. Try injecting a new lease of life with dye, sewing, or embellishments. You can tie-dye your old T-shirts to leave them looking bright, fresh and unique. Check out our guide to learn more.

How to recycle clothes into something new

If you’re looking to reuse clothes, fashion isn’t your only option. When your old clothes are too damaged to make into new clothes, you can still put them to stylish, practical use around the house. Here are some ideas for how to recycle fabric:

  • Make your own lampshade! It’s a great way to add a personal touch to a room. If you’re particularly fond of the pattern on your worn-out blouse, put it on display. Cleanipedia has an article on how to make a lampshade from scratch to help you through the process.
  • Cushion covers can be made out of pretty much any fabric you have to hand. Sometimes one item won’t have enough fabric to cover an entire cushion, but you can stitch fabric from different clothes together to create a striking patchwork effect. Again, there’s a Cleanipedia article on making your own cushions to help with this.
  • If you’re feeling ambitious and you’ve got a lot of colourful fabric to recycle, start work on a patchwork quilt. You’ll end up with a unique, cosy piece. If there are allergies in your household, a hypoallergenic fabric conditioner like Comfort Pure will help to prevent sneezing when everyone’s cuddled under your creation.
  • If your clothes are tattered beyond help, cut or tear them into cleaning rags. It’s the simplest method for how to recycle old clothes there is, and rags are always useful.

Knowing how to repurpose old clothes around the house is great but sometimes you don’t have the time. If that’s the case, you can find a charity that recycles textiles and donate your clothes to them. If you’re feeling creative, though, these ideas to reuse old clothes are a fun and practical way to use up the fabric you’ve got lying around. You might end up with something you love even more than the original piece.