Do you open your underwear drawer every morning and rifle through until you find a pair that isn’t holey, doesn’t have loose elastics, or doesn’t make you feel like you’re wearing a crouch tourniquet? Yeah… me too. Which means our underwear is ready for a serious glow up… but, what to do with old underwear that’s already filling up your drawer? Is the only option to just chuck it in the trash?
No way, no how! There are other ways. Being eco-friendly also means using something until the end of it’s life—so if you've still got a few pairs hanging around that you don’t hate, wear ‘em until they’re ready to get gone. (If you’re not sure, read about how often should you buy new underwear).
Whether you’re thinking about trying out a pair of high waisted underwear or debating between organic cotton vs cotton underwear, before you get rid of the old stuff, read here for What To Do With Old Underwear: 13 Eco-Friendly Solutions. Because even that old underwear deserves to be re-loved… or at least reused and recycled.
WHAT TO DO WITH OLD UNDERWEAR: WHY DOES IT MATTER?
If the first thing you think of when you wonder what to do with old socks and underwear is to throw them out, you’re not alone. But did you know that 85% of textiles, like clothing, end up in a landfill—but 95% of it could be recycled? And that old clothing and underwear can last up to 200 years in a landfill?
When it comes to the fashion industry, we've been playing the fast game for far too long now. And it hurts the planet:
- Making one cotton shirt uses as much water as one person will drink over two and a half years.
- Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water, globally.
- Making one pair of jeans is equivalent to driving a car 80 miles. That’s just ONE pair. Ouch!
However! You CAN help to reduce the waste and break the cycle! Do your part for the environment by donating, recycling or reusing. When you get rid of your old underwear and are ready to feel good and do good, invest in some boy shorts underwear or perhaps a hemp bra.
HOW TO MAKE THEM LAST
So before we get to the whole “what to do with your old underwear” section of today’s entertainment, we gotta cover how you make them last.
First, buy less—and buy better! When you’re buying new underwear, make sure to buy them from eco-friendly brands that use long-lasting, sustainable materials. Going for a durable fabric like hemp will ensure that they stand up to a lot of washing and stay soft and comfy, while also being eco-friendly from the get-go.
Another thing to keep in mind when buying underwear? Styles! If you love ‘em at the beginning, you’ll love ‘em for a long time. Maybe for you, you need a pair of thong underwear or some hipster panties. Or, if you’re a guy, maybe a pair of men's boxer briefs is more your style.
Take care of your underwear by treating it gently—here’s how to hand wash underwear—to increase the longevity. And if your underwear gets a little hole or two, grab your needle and thread and do some mending.
And if you’ve done all of this and your undies have simply lasted as long as they could, here are 13 Eco-Friendly Solutions for how to get rid of old underwear.
1. DONATE YOUR OLD UNDERWEAR
If you have a few pairs that you haven't worn at all or just once (or twice) and really didn't like the feel of them, make no qualms about donating them. Simply wash them well then send them on their way to be used by someone that will love them.
Unfortunately, the truth is that most thrift stores cannot accept old underwear, unless it’s in near-new condish. But never fear! It is possible, and I’ve listed several companies below that let you donate underwear.
I SUPPORT THE GIRLS
I Support the Girls is a non-profit that takes your used underwear, bras, and extra menstrual products and donates them to women in need. I Support the Girls thinks that no woman should have to choose between feeding herself (or her family) and her health and hygiene. And I certainly agree!
*PROTIP: for other companies that recycle bras only, check out The Bra Recyclers and Free the Girls!
You may have seen a USAgain bin in your wanderings—they’re placed in states all over the U.S. You can recycle clothes and shoes in any of these bins, called “TreeMachines”, including that old underwear you just can’t bear to wear. The items are then distributed to thrift stores, recycled into other textiles, or repurposed into insulation.
THE NORTH FACE "CLOTHES THE LOOP"
If you’re wondering how to get rid of old underwear, consider outdoor brand The North Face. The North Face is on a mission to reduce textile waste in landfills and recycle it instead! Their Clothes The Loop program accepts all used clothing (including old underwear) and shoes. Go to a North Face store or outlet, find the bin inside, and get 10% off if you need to buy something else. It feels good to do good and get a discount.
Planet Aid does a whole lot of good both “For the People and For the Planet” as their motto says. And they need your help—that’s right, they are actually requesting your old underwear and clothes. Planet Aid will donate your clothes, recycle, and invest in communities all over the world. You can send up to 70 pounds of used clothing and shoes (CLEAN!) via a purchased mailing label, or find a donation bin near you.
The online consignment store, Thred Up, provides a way to maybe make some extra cash while donating your old underwear and other gently used items. Order a prelabeled “Clean Out” bag or a label to attach yourself, fill it with your unwanted clothing, and send it back! You can also choose to donate it directly to one of Thred Up’s charity partners.
2. COMPOST YOUR OLD UNDIES
If you want to know how to dispose of old underwear naturally, think about composting! Weird, but totally doable. If you have pairs of underwear that are made of natural fibers (gold star for you!) such as organic cotton, linen, or even hemp, those pairs can be cut into thin strips and composted in your garden or in your compost heap.
Just make sure that the underwear is 100% natural fibers and not mixed with other polyesters as those will not biodegrade in the ground. Cut out the elastic, too! And to compost more in the future, keep buying underwear made with sustainable fabrics.
3. RECYCLE YOUR OLD UNDERWEAR
If your undies are too worn to donate but you still need to know how to get rid of old underwear, consider recycling them. Now, you likely can’t throw them in your regular recycling tub with your cans and cardboard, but with a little bit more effort, you can make sure your old underwear avoids the direct line to the landfill and polluting the environment. Here’s how you can recycle your old underwear.
TerraCycle is an innovative recycling program that accepts everything, from electronics to toys to yes, that old underwear—and turns it into things like fuel, clothing for resale, and so much more. Take their handy little quiz to find out what box suits your needs, purchase it, fill ‘er up, and send forth into the mail.
For other hard-to-recycle items, check out their national recycling programs, where they’ve partnered with a bunch of different companies to take brand-specific waste. Now excuse me while I go geek out about all the crazy cool stuff TerraCycle does.
COUNCIL FOR TEXTILE RECYCLING
The Council for Textile Recycling’s goal is for there to be ZERO textile waste in landfills by 2037. To do that, they provide education and resources, including a handy tool to find locations near you where you can donate underwear and clothes you no longer want/need. Their motto is “Wear. Donate. Recycle.” and I am Here. For. It.
& OTHER STORIES TEXTILE RECYCLING
Sustainable clothing brand & Other Stories has their own recycling program for unwanted textiles, like your old underwear. Fill a bag and bring it to any of their locations, and get a 10% recycling treat coupon. They send those saggy undies off to be made into insulation, geo fleece, carpet underlay, and more.
UNIVERSAL STANDARD'S TRIPLE R PROJECT
Inclusive and sustainable brand Universal Standard has a recycling program called the Triple R Project—which stands for Reset, Recycle, Refresh. You can order a prelabeled bag and fill it with up to four used items of clothing—and each item gets you another $25 off your next purchase. Which is a great marketing ploy, but also helps the planet, so no complaints here.
CHECK THE BRAND WEBSITE
A lot of brands are starting their own recycling programs for brand-specific items, so it’s worth a try! One of these is ReGirlfriend, from the sustainable activewear brand the Girlfriend Collective. There are definitely more out there!
REUSE YOUR OLD UNDIES
I don't mean keep wearing your underwear here, just so we're on the same page. Old clothing has been used for many centuries for other projects and underwear is no different.
Of course, always make sure the old underwear is clean before starting any kind of project with them. Although old underwear might not be best repurposed into other items of clothing (although you certainly can do this if you wish) it can be used for a surprising number of things, such as pet chew toys, scrubbing sponges, and stuffing for pillows. Keep reading for some ideas on what you can do with old socks and underwear!
Use the scraps of your old underwear as patches for holes in clothes you want to keep wearing, or to liven up an old piece. Make sure your old underwear is thoroughly washed, and avoid patching the parts with stains. I also personally would avoid using the gusset in patches but… that’s your call! Then grab your needle and thread and make some old things cute and/or wearable again.
5. PLANT HOLDERS
Those skinny thongs, snappy g-strings or pieces of elastic in the bands can make great garden ties, to keep things upright that need to stay upright! Just take your clean, done-zo thongs, or cut out elastic, and tie it around a stake and the droopy plant. Voila!
I always saw my grandma make her own dusters with scrap fabric—yet I admit I’ve never thought of doing it with old underwear. But it’s easy! Simply take your (clean) underwear, cut it into thick strips, and attach to a wood or plastic paddle or wand. Then swipe that dust away! Stick in the washer when the strips get grimy.
7. POTPOURRI SATCHEL
How, exactly, can you use old underwear to make your new(er) underwear smell great? By making a potpourri satchel, of course. Who doesn’t look at a pair of old underwear and think, potpourri?? Well, if you don’t, you should! Sew the scraps of your old underwear into little satchels, then fill with dried lavender or potpourri of your choice, and place in your underwear drawer. Old underwear never smelled so good.
8. PILLOW STUFFING
Use the scraps from your old underwear—the clean, non-stained parts!—as pillow stuffing. Just cut into small pieces and… stuff away. You can also use the scraps on the outside of the pillow, if you have some super cute fabric you just don’t want to hide away.
9. WASH RAG
A wash rag from old underwear sounds kind of odd, I know. But hear me out. Those little bits of lace or pattern make great lil scrubbers! Simply spray with whatever cleaning product you prefer, grab a (clean) pair of old underwear, and go to town on those dirty surfaces.
10. MAKE DOG TOYS
I mean, if your dog is anything like mine, they’re kind of obsessed with your underwear already, am I right? I’m sure there’s some reason in that doggy brain that just attracts them to your underwear—I’m no expert in dog psychology, but I do see a potential recycling opp! Cut your old underwear into long strips, then braid and knot into a tight rope, and you have a handy toy for your furry BFF.
11. DOLL CLOTHES
Have kids who play with dolls? Or, um, play with them yourselves? (No judgement, I swear!). Use your old underwear as scrap fabric for doll clothes—dresses, shirts, skirts, even tiny little doll underwear and diapers. Adorable. Just make sure the old stuff is super clean, because otherwise, gross.
12. REUSABLE MENSTRUAL PADS
Now this one seems like a no-brainer, hey! If you’re handy with a needle or a sewing machine, use those skills and the extra fabric from your old underwear to make menstrual pads. Now that’s a great way to be green—washable menstrual pads made with your used (clean) old underwear. Find a great tutorial here!
Cut your old underwear into strips, then put inside a produce bag, either plastic or other strong, porous material. Let the scrubbing commence, because you’ve got yourself a scrubbing sponge! After it’s been used, throw in the washer with your other stuff, and start the cycle all over again.
IN CONCLUSION: WHAT TO DO WITH OLD UNDERWEAR
Don’t fret—there are things to do with your gently used, your keeps-falling-down-to-your-knees, your itchy lingerie you can’t bear to wear, old old underwear. Whether you donate it or compost it, make it into doll clothes or a duster, it doesn’t need to head into the landfill. The landfills have enough to handle, eh?
What do you do with your old underwear? Would you repurpose it into any of these items?