How to Recycle Clothing: 8 Creative Ways to Upcycle Fabric


We have all read about the concept of the 3R: reuse, reduce and recycle. And with time, we’ve understood the magnitude of this phrase. By reusing, reducing, and recycling, we can essentially minimize the amount of waste generated that contributes to air, water pollution, and soil pollution and global warming and other environmental issues.


But did you know that an industry that comes off as posh and ethical is one of the most unsustainable in its practices? The fashion industry has been infamous for generating truckloads of waste. The textile industry is one of the major contributors to Greenhouse gases related to its production. 

With the increasing need to upgrade our wardrobe with the latest styles, we always have a bulk of unused clothes. Moreover, brands produce masses of clothes, most of which are never sold. These clothes are actually burned with a heap of biomass. It can take years for them to get decomposed, thus polluting our planet. 

In India, the act of giving away used items has existed as an age-old tradition. Thus, the use of hand-me-down clothes until they are damaged enough to be reused as a duster is not a new concept for a regular Indian household. 

We all have our own parts to play when it comes to making this world a better place; one of the ways is recycling clothing. Here are some of the ways you can contribute to the process of recycling clothing.

Donate to organizations or the needy

There are a number of orphanages and NGOs that have an increasing requirement for clothes and other items. They would be happy to have received second-hand items that might be lying unused in your wardrobe.

Give them away at community clothing drives or at a local temple

People who cannot afford new clothes are constantly on the lookout for these drives. In a way, you are a giver and are playing your part in community work.

Talk to social media handles or owners that run thrift shops 

The thrift shop industry is booming, with numerous young individuals using their social media handles to sell clothes that are in reasonably good condition but not in use. You can actively reach out to any of them and give away your clothes for sale and get money in return.

Run your own thrift shop

If you are someone who is active on social media and can use the platform to sell your used clothing, give it a shot. Not only are you helping with the process of recycling clothing, but also earning some money on every purchase.

See if they can be composted

Clothing made of cotton and natural fibres can be composted once you shred them nicely and remove plastic buttons, zippers, and any other attached accessory. 

Use them as cleaning rags and mops

It is common practice in Indian households to use worn-out clothes as rags and mops. You can use them to clean glass doors or wipe your floor instead of disposing of them as trash.

Look for textile recycling centres near you

With more and more people accepting the concept of recycling textile, there are a number of centres in every locality that accept worn-out clothes that are damaged and help you to get them recycled. All you have to do is make an effort to locate these centres and drop off all the disposable textile waste.

For decades, Delhi’s Sarojini market has seen numerous vendors selling second-hand products at a discounted rate with tons of customers from across the country. Khaloom, based in Bangalore, India, is a textile design and production company that sells handwoven fabrics from recycled yarns. Khaloom is upcycling waste into a high-quality product. The use of zero-emission techniques has reformed the concept of wearing second-hand clothes. In Panipat, Haryana, discarded woollen garments are heaped in piles and recycled to produce yarn for sweaters, school blazers, and blankets.

Another effective way to reduce the waste generated from textiles is to upcycle them. Where recycling means creating something new out of waste, upcycling is a process that involves generating a reformed product from waste in its present state. Here are 8 creative ways you can upcycle the fabric at home.

Make a blanket out of cut cloth

Do you love some of your t-shirts and scarves too much to watch your mother turn them into a rag or dispose of them? Try cutting out pieces from all these garments, knit them all together to turn them into a blanket or cover for your furniture.

Cord holders

With most of us having electronic gadgets that come with cords and wires, would it not be nice to have them all tied up and tangle-free while they are not in use? Make yourself a cord keeper using fabric scraps and placing a button to hold it tight.

Make yourself a coin purse

Coins have lost their value, with most of us relying on digital modes of payment. Thus you’ll find most of them lying around your house in some corner or the other. Get into the habit of storing the coins in one place by making yourself a purse out of worn-out clothes or denim.

Create Beautiful bedside rugs to add to your home decor

Use old T-Shirts that you cannot wear anymore or jeans that do not fit you to make a beautiful rug for your living space, bedside or kitchen.


If you are a tea or coffee addict, a decent coaster on your work desk will make a good addition. Avoid ring stains from tea or coffee mugs on your desk and paperwork. Cut out a shape of your choice from your desired fabric and pile 2-3 pieces together to make yourself a coaster.


Headbands and scrunchies to hold your hair in place

Make yourself a new rubber band from discarded fabric to keep your hair in place and make it unique with the use of different kinds of fabric and colours.


A fancy bookmark certainly does add to your experience of reading a book. Save yourself the effort of remembering the last read page or having to fold the pages of your new book with self-designed fabric bookmarks. 

Beverage holder or coffee sleeve covers

Enjoy a cup of hot coffee or a cold beverage with extra hand grip and enjoy the same thrill as getting an elite coffee cup.

Creativity has no limits. There are countless other ways you can use your craftsmanship to create something new and upcycle fabric in style. We are progressing towards creating a community that is aware of the environmental changes and thus should be motivated enough to move out of the conventional and adapt to the concepts of sustainable living. Let’s make the world a better place, and the process starts with you.