If you’re wondering what to do with some of your old clothes, I’ve got 15 ideas for how to recycle old t-shirts.

A feature image for a blog post about how to recycle old t-shirts.

These ideas are mainly ways to upcycle, which is a bit different than recycling. With upcycling, you’re actually making something new and different out of the older object.

Either way, you’re keeping some of your old clothes out of the landfill for a bit longer, and that’s always a win for the planet.

With my list of ideas below, I’ll give you the basic ideas first, then I’ll elaborate on some of the tips below that.

You can also search for videos to demonstrate some of the processes. There are always tons of those online, showing exactly how to go about the steps of turning your t-shirt into a new product.

What to Do with Old T-Shirts

As promised, here’s the quick list of 15 inspiring ideas to get you started with upcycling that pile of old t-shirts:

  1. Cut them into strips to make: headbands, hair ties, rags, baskets, blankets, rugs, dog toys, bracelets, necklaces, shoe laces, plant hangers, hair curlers, plant ties, scarves, belts, and keychains.
  2. Sew the t-shirt together at the bottom and make a tote, using the neck for the opening and the arms for a handle.
  3. Stretch the t-shirt, with the bottom sewn together, over a wire frame for a pet tent, using the neck as the opening.
  4. Sew it into a child’s dress, baby romper, or bib.
  5. Cut the sleeves off and make a new tank top.
  6. Refashion it into an apron to protect your clothing.
  7. Use the fabric to follow a pattern for a stuffed animal.
  8. Make throw pillows for the sofa or bed.
  9. If the t-shirt is white or a light color, tie dye it for a new look or a fun family craft on a rainy day.
  10. Make a fringe skirt.
  11. Use a variety of differnet colored t-shirts to create a patchwork quilt.
  12. Use them to make bedding for your pet.
  13. Donate your old t-shirts to an animal rescue for bedding and rags.
  14. Make rags from them to use at home.
  15. Donate gently used t-shirts to a thrift shop for someone else to use or a company that will recycle them.

There are a variety of options for using up those old t-shirts and keeping them out of the landfill for a while longer.

Below, I’ve elaborated on the tips with more information and ideas. And you can research them further online to find videos and demonstrations of the techniques.

Projects with Old T-Shirt Strips

As suggested in the list above, there are many things you can make out of old t-shirts if you cut them into strips.

First, you’ll need to decide on which project to do, then you’ll decide how big the strips should be.

For example, if you’re making bracelets or necklaces, you’re going to use smaller strips than if your project is a basket or dog toy.

After you decide which item you’d like to make, search for a video that demonstrates the exact steps. However, if you like experimenting or are crafty, you can skip that and use your own ideas and inspirations.

However you decide to proceed, there are plenty of things to do with strips cut from your discarded t-shirts to give them a longer life and new purpose. Check out the ideas in the list at the beginning of this post.

Pet Products from Old T-Shirts

Old t-shirts make excellent material for fashioning new products for your pet. Your furry companion will enjoy new things to pamper and entertain them.

As mentioned above, you can cut an old t-shirt into strips and braid them to make a pet toy. It’s an easy project to do with kids.

You can also use the t-shirts as they are for extra bedding or rags to clean up after your furry friend. They’ll come in handy at bath time, too.

And a more creative idea is to sew the bottom together and stretch the shirt over a wireframe for a pet tent. Animals love them for fun inside or extra shade when it’s sunny outside.

Using Old T-Shirts in the Garden

There are several ways that you can use old t-shirts in your garden. One useful thing is to use strips as gentle ties for plants that need extra support.

You can also add organic cotton to your compost bin because it’s biodegradable. Make sure to remove any non-cotton features such as buttons or decals. It also works best if you cut it into small pieces before you add it.

Another use in the garden is to sew the old t-shirts together if you need to create a shade blanket for the more delicate plants.

Other outdoor uses might include rags for washing the car or the dog, or other clean-up needed around your property.

Using Old T-Shirts Around the House

Inside the home, there are also plenty of ways to upcycle or reuse your old t-shirts and keep them out of the landfill longer.

They make good rags for cleaning and projects around the house or workshop.

You can also use them for sewing projects by yourself or with the children. It’s an excellent way to spend a rainy afternoon and give the kids a break from their electronics.

Creative crafts can include making things like:

  • totes
  • aprons
  • bracelets
  • necklaces
  • stuffed toys
  • pet toys
  • quilts
  • tie-dying
  • baskets

There are lots of ways to get creative and have fun reusing your old clothes.

New Clothes from Old T-Shirts

If your old t-shirt is still in good shape, you can upcycle it into new clothing and give it new life.

Some ideas include:

  • aprons (search for a pattern)
  • tank tops (cut off the sleeves)
  • belts (woven from strips)
  • fringe skirts (look online for a demo video)
  • jewelry – necklaces and bracelets (braided from strips)

A gently used t-shirt is easy to upcycle to add new items to your wardrobe, and it saves on your clothing budget, too.

Now that you know how to recycle old t-shirts, and upcycle them, you can use these 15 ideas and tips to help the environment by keeping them out of the landfill longer.

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