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Textile Donation: A 5-Step Guide

Textile donation can take a variety of forms. Our 5-step guide teaches you how to sort items of varied conditions to ensure nothing goes to waste.


Jaime Ebanks

September 4, 2020

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When looking for a way to declutter and downsize fast, textile donation is an excellent solution to clothing clutter. Depending on the state of each garment, a variety of options are available. In our 5-step guide, we’ll teach you how to sort your clothing and find a use for each piece based on its condition.

1. Declutter Your Clothes

Before you even get into textile donation, you have to figure out what you’re donating. We recommend taking a look at our guide for How to Declutter Your Clothes for help deciding on what to give away.

2. Separate Your Clothes by Condition

Once you’ve decided which clothes to get rid of, you should sort them into three separate categories based on their condition: Great, Fair, and Poor.

  • Great condition items should be close to looking brand new. They should retain their original shape and have no signs of damage (i.e., loose threads, tears, or stains).
  • Fair condition items are clothes that show some kind of wear, be it faded coloration or thinning fabric. These items shouldn’t have any signs of overt damage, though, so exclude items with stains or tears.
  • Poor condition items are clothes that are threadbare or have visible damage like holes or stains.

3. Great Condition Clothes: Gifting/Resale/Consignment

Great condition pieces are ones that no longer suit your style, but could still fit right into someone else’s wardrobe! However, before passing them off to someone you don’t know, reach out to friends and family and see if any of the items interest them. When you pass a piece off to someone directly, you know it’s going to good use.

Should nobody bite, then you can go about reselling your great condition pieces. If you want to do it yourself, you can go through online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Etsy, or Depop.

Alternatively, consider taking your clothes to a local consignment shop. They’ll appraise your piece, sell it, and give you a portion of the proceeds.

4. Fair Condition Clothes: Donation

For items that might not fetch the price they once did, donating them is your best bet. There are plenty of organizations - from national non-profits like Goodwill to local thrift stores -that accept clothing donations, and the options will depend on your particular area.

Nonprofits like Planet Aid and the Salvation Army have unattended, secure donation bins where you can drop off clothing at your convenience.

Additionally, consider contacting local theater departments in community groups or schools. Their costume departments might be looking for just the items you’re tossing out!

5. Poor Condition Clothes: Upcycle/Recycle

Even if a piece of clothing you love is past the point of no return, don’t worry! Many items can still be of use through upcycling or recycling!

Before you turn to an outside organization to recycle your poor condition clothing, see if you can use them in your own home. Cotton items like t-shirts are easily cut up and repurposed for use as cleaning cloths.

For materials less fit for cleaning, consider supplying them as material for you, your children, or your grandchildren’s next art project! (This option works for books as well!)

If items have no use in your home, numerous stores and organizations will recycle your unwanted clothing. The North Face accepts donations of old clothing (and shoes) from any brand at their stores as part of their partnership with Soles4Souls.

Finally, for those willing to spend some money towards making sure their clothing gets recycled, Terracycle sells Zero Waste boxes specifically meant for Fabrics and Clothing.

Textile donation is one of the best ways you can make sure your clothing doesn’t go to waste.

Whether you have items that still warrant further wears or clothing that would be better suited in an art or cleaning project, you have plenty of options. If possible, try and allocate clothing to each of the categories listed above. The longer a piece of clothing stays worn through resale or donation, the more work it does before being recycled!

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