What To Do With Your Unwanted Clothes

How often do you have a clear out of the wardrobe? Typically people will have a spring clean every few years or just before moving home, finding a number of clothes they forgot were still in their possession. Staggeringly, the average UK household has over £4,000 worth of clothes. Even more surprisingly, 30% of these haven't been touched in the last 12 months.

Therefore, it surely isn't just a case of recycling the clothes you throw out, but also thinking logically about what's no longer needed. The average clothes spend yearly is £1,800, but as you replenish your wardrobe you're probably not shifting the old stock.

What's even worse is clothing's often left untouched because it either doesn't fit or needs repairing – so it'll sit unused for years on end. Why not take it upon yourself to actively start helping the environment by:

  • Recycling your old clothes
  • Repairing clothes in need of some love
  • Donating your unwanted clothes to charity
  • Reselling your old clothes to make a little extra cash.

All of the above will help reduce your own textile waste and with it, ensure the environment is better protected now and in the future. There are plenty of places where your old clothes will be accepted and this section of the guide has been created to help you locate these.

Stop sending 30% of your clothes to landfill and start putting your old belongings to better use. Reusing or recycling should be the clear message you discover throughout this section.

The Importance of Recycling Clothes

Clothes should become a key component of your recycling efforts and there are many ways to ensure your old textiles go to a good home. Whenever clearing out the clothes you no longer have use for, where does that pile end up?

If they're worn and tired it's probably best to recycle them. However, if there's still life in them yet, you can resell, donate or even give them to a friend. Just because they're no longer of use to you, doesn't mean someone else wouldn't want them to become part of their wardrobe.

By disposing of your old clothes correctly you'll ensure your wardrobe's more functional, whilst helping out the environment too.

Of course, ideally you'd want to donate your old textiles and clothing to a charitable cause, or even get a little bit of money for them yourself. To decide if this is going to be possible though, you'll need to assess each item of clothing on its own merit. Don't just simply bag up a bunch of old clothes and dump them at the doors of a charity shop. They'd certainly appreciate you deciding if they're suitable for further use first.

Assessing your clothes should be reasonably straightforward and there are no complications in this regard. Can someone else wear this in the condition it's in? That's the question you should be asking yourself. Minor repairs can be carried out such as sewing, but if a top has stretched or faded for instance, the chances are it won't be reused.

Once this assessment has been made you'll hopefully have a pile of clothes to send to recycling, and a pile to either sell or donate. You can also give them to a friend if they'd make better use of them than you too.

However, first of all it's important to discuss how you'd go about recycling your old textiles. Remember, it's not just clothes you can recycle, but carpet, mattresses and even curtains. If they're damaged or not suitable to be used elsewhere, recycling is your best option. Recycled textiles are used for things such as chairs, car seats, cleaning cloths and industrial blankets.

Now you'll need to recycle the textiles:

  • Find out if your local council has a house-to-house collection day and notify them you have items to recycle
  • If not, you could even take the old clothes and textiles to a recycling facility. You can find your nearest recycling point here
  • There are also charities that'll take in clothes for recycling. You may receive a bag through the door, so check what's accepted on the packaging
  • You may also find recycling points at your local supermarket, which would tie in nicely for when doing the weekly shop.

How to Resell Your Secondhand Clothes

Another option, as opposed to recycling, is to resell the clothes. There are many shops that'll buy your old clothes and plenty of places to find these. It's becoming more common too and typically buyers will pay you on weight. Simply fill up a black bag, place it on the scales and you'll be paid accordingly. With this method you'll clear space in your wardrobe and make some money at the same time.

To find locations where your old clothes will be bought for cash, simply check the Yellow Pages (if you're old school) or the Internet. A search term such as ‘Sell clothes [your location]' will bring up a long list of places in the nearby area willing to buy your old clothes. Once you have a list, contact each in turn to find out who'll give you the most for your unwanted textiles.

Not everything would be suitable for these quick cash shops though and in fact, you may have certain clothing that'd be greatly appreciated and make more money elsewhere.

Vintage clothing in particular is always a big hit, so if you have any clothes older than a few decades, it may be worth trying to locate a better buyer. Designer clothing will also be worth more than your run of the mill clothes, so if it's still in a good condition it could be worth turning online to websites such as Amazon and eBay.

Wedding dresses in particular are very valuable, as they'd only have been worn on one occasion. Used wedding dresses are highly sought after, so you could certainly make much more money by finding an individual buyer, rather than packing it in with the rest of your clothes.

If you plan to find a specialist buyer for your clothes it would also be worth ensuring they're in the best possible condition. Repair any stitching that has loosened and sew tears to give buyers more reason to invest. They'll certainly appreciate your efforts. If possible, it would also be wise to launder and iron before selling, keeping it in the best condition.

In the circumstance you can't find a suitable place to sell your old clothes, you could always try friends or family, especially if they're still in good nick. Those you know in particular could welcome shirts and dresses and this saves them going out and spending the retail price.

Remember, if you're still struggling to shift your old clothes when selling, you could always donate or recycle.

Donating Clothes to Charity

Aside from selling or recycling your old clothes, another possibility is to simply donate them to charity. There are thousands of charities operating in the UK, all for a range of great causes. Many of these will take unwanted clothes to resell in shops around the country, such as Oxfam and the Red Cross.

For donating your unwanted clothes to charity, there are a few ways to go about this:

Option 1: Take your clothes to a charity shop

You've probably passed a number of these shops in your local town or city and may even have gone in to have a look around. There's some great stuff on offer and you don't have to part with much money to take home a new item of clothing. If you've got a bag of clothes to get rid of, simply take this into the shop of your choice.

Many charities do prefer this option as it:

  • Lowers the cost to the charity, as opposed to house collections
  • Ensures clothes get to the charity and aren't picked up by bogus callers.

This option isn't for everyone though, particularly the disabled, elderly, those without transportation or working all day. There is a second option for those who can't take their unwanted clothes straight to a charity shop.

Option 2: House-to-house collections

House to house collections are often the most convenient for many, as you can simply bag up your unwanted clothes and leave them outside whilst you're at work. There are three main types of collection though, so it's worth knowing the difference between each. These are charity shop collections, royalty collections and commercial collections.

  • Charity shop collections:

This is your first option when it comes to house-to-house collections. Some charities will provide branded bags to pack your unwanted clothes in, sometimes posted through the letterbox. You'll fill up the bag and leave it outside on the expected collection day. Then, as easy as that, the clothes are picked up and taken into the shop to be sold.

  • Royalty collections:

This is very similar to a charity shop collection, but instead businesses will pick up your unwanted clothes and sell on to make a profit. They'll then donate a certain amount (royalty) to charity. Typically, charities receive around one third of the proceeds.

Of course, this is better for the business rather than the charity, but could certainly be considered in areas where charity collections aren't available. However, charity do still benefit from this option – but not to the same level as they could. It's still much better than simply putting the clothes with the rest of your waste and not worrying where it goes.

Option 3: Commercial collections

Commercial collections are your third option, although from a charitable point of view offer no benefit. This option is often selected only through convenience and of course the advantage of not throwing your clothes straight in the bin.

If you want a business to collect your clothes, there are loads available and you'll be able to find one online. Simply get in touch and let them know you have some unwanted textiles to offload. This is completely legal and businesses don't require a license to operate. What's more, the business will reuse or recycle all clothes. From a personal perspective though, if you wanted to go down this route it'd be wise to sell your clothes than simply hand them to a business.

The Threat of Theft in House-To-House Collections

It probably wouldn't surprise you to find out criminals are taking advantage of the charitable donations of many. As such, one of the biggest problems plaguing the donation of clothes for house-to-house collection is the prospect of theft.

For the most part, theft isn't an issue. However, there are cases where this does crop up and present a problem. What tends to occur, is you'll pack a bag full of clothes and leave this unattended outside your home, even near the roadside. This can be left for several hours before the charity collectors show up.

Thieves target the day of collection, driving round the area several hours before the charity and picking up these unattended bags. No one stops them or asks for ID and instead, these are taken and sold on at car boot sales or cash for clothes shops. Many charities have suffered from clothes theft over the years and it's difficult to prevent.

Essentially, the only way you can put a stop to this is to avoid house-to-house collections completely and instead drop the clothes off at the charity shop in person. This may eliminate the risk, but for many is simply not feasible.

You should also be aware of bogus callers pretending to represent a charity looking for unwanted clothes. If someone cold calls your home, they should have a registered license with the charity they're representing – So make sure to see ID. You should never let them in your home whatever the case.

Some bogus callers may only be trying to get hold of your clothes to sell on, but others will have bigger fish to fry and instead be eyeing up your home for a potential burglary. No matter the cold caller, always be vigilant.