Live Green and Earn Points


Reuse old T-shirts

By Shomik Ghosh |
After cleaning out your closet or drawers, the garbage bin doesn't have to be your old T-shirt's next home — there are multiple ways to breathe new life into a musty old T.
Once they've fulfilled their duty, reusing your undershirts allows you to replace pollution-generating, landfill-clogging disposable paper towels with lint-free, money-saving cleaning rags.

How to reuse your undershirts

Donating unwanted attire to a local thrift store or charity is a common, eco-aware way to give last season's castoffs a second life. This is not quite the case with unwanted underwear — for aesthetic, and more importantly, hygienic reasons. Instead of throwing an old, holey cotton undershirt in the trash, transform it into a household cleaning tool.
  1. After cleaning out a closet or clothing drawers, separate items appropriate for donation or trading/selling at a vintage or designer consignment store from the soiled items and undergarments that can be used as rags around the house. Wash the rag-worthy items and place in various locations — kitchen, bathroom, garage, etc. — for later use.
  2. Either leave an undershirt intact or cut or tear it into various sized pieces to tackle a wide range of domestic chores. (For more utilitarian, non-squeamish types, old underpants also make effective cleaning rags). An unaltered undershirt, for example, is ideal for drying your car after a wash, soaking up spills, or cleaning up after a paint job. Smaller pieces can be used for detail-oriented chores such as dusting household surfaces or polishing wood furniture.
  3. After an undershirt rag starts to look a little worse for the wear — caked in grime or falling apart — those who compost can further shred or tear the rag (if needed) and add it to a composting pile or bin. This depends, of course, on how the rag was used. If it was employed to soak up oil and non-organic materials in the garage, for example, it should be tossed in the trash.
If you've got more undershirts than you know what to do with, send gently used or unworn underpants and undergarments to Project Underwear. Your donations are distributed to children in Third World countries. You can also drop off old Patagonia long underwear from the company's Capilene line at any location for recycling in Japan. Old undies are broken down into new fibers, which are then used to create "fresh" undergarments. Dubbed Common Threads, Patagonia reports impressive declines in energy use and carbon dioxide pollution in comparison to creating garments from non-recycled materials.[1]

Reusing your undershirts helps you go green because…

  • They are an ecologically-sound alternative to disposable paper towels. After one use, paper towels are discarded and enter the waste stream. The production of non-recycled paper towels poses serious environmental risks, including pollution and clear-cutting of virgin timber.
  • When cotton undershirts aren't reused as rags, their next home is often a landfill. Each year, the average American throws away an estimated 68 pounds of clothing and textiles.[2]


  1. Utne Reader - Ready to Rewear
  2. Council for Textile Recycling - Fact Sheet
Share with Your Friends & Family
  • tommy b. 4 years ago
  • DALE Z. 4 years ago
    I always have some old t-shirts in my tool shed and work bench. They really come in handy cleaning greasy tools and cleaning up after a paint job.
  • kate t. 4 years ago
    Old t-shirts make good washable reusable tissues and cotton swabs for nose-blowing, make-up removal etc (although if you use them to remove nail polish the polish won't wash out). Throw them in with a wash you're already doing so you're not using extra water or energy to clean them.
  • Patricia C. 4 years ago
    old t-shirts make great tote bags - open the neck area cut off the sleeve at seams and tie with
    trimmed material at the bottom to close it up - turn inside out and enjoy a free tote bag!!
  • Donna W. 4 years ago
    this summer we turned my grandkid"s favorite screen printed out grown T's into decorative toss pillows. They had fun helping stuff and sew them!
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