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What do I do with my old underwear and socks with holes? Or even old shoes that are too worn out to donate? I truly just need to know.

Thank you for asking this question! I’ve been asking myself the same thing for some time. Though it may feel daunting to know what to do with our worn-out undergarments, the good news is, there are resources.

First, let’s talk about how to care for our socks, shoes, and underwear, which can help prolong their life cycle. Consider how you tend to these essentials you wear every day; when given a little extra love, they can last a long time.

For underwear, handwashing and hang-drying can make a big difference. The elastic on most underwear becomes worn out and stretched over time, not just from everyday wear but also from laundering in a machine. The same goes for socks.

“Consider how you tend to these essentials you wear every day; when given a little extra love, they can last a long time.”

Of course, handwashing takes a bit more time but just remember that it’s more gentle on delicate fabrics and on the planet. If you are going to clean your undergarments in a washer, consider adding them to a garment bag to keep them separate from heavier fabrics in the cycle. Plus, this is a great way to keep sock pairs together!

We can additionally care for our undergarments by mending them—because no matter how well you care for socks, holes will inevitably happen. These can easily be fixed in a process called “darning.” And this how-to guide shares how to darn your socks (i.e., create a small weave patch) in just three minutes.

Next, let’s talk about caring for our shoes, as they too can take quite a beating. Our shoes carry and protect us through daily adventures and activities, so the least we can do is give them special care. If your shoes have holes or need new soles, you can take them to a professional shoe cobbler for repairs. You can also buy shoe cleaners and kits to freshen your shoes up at home. Try storing them in shoeboxes and with shoe trees to keep them from collecting dust and so they maintain their shape.

But, of course, there will be a time when it truly is time to retire your shoes, socks, or underwear, even after special care. So here are a few suggestions to keep them out of the landfill:

Recycle Or Upcycle The Fabric From Your Socks & Underwear

  • Use the fabric to create homemade pet toys by wrapping a tennis ball or making a rope toy. Just practice caution to ensure your pet doesn’t eat or swallow the fabric.
  • Underwear scrunchies? I’m intrigued! But yes, you can use the elastic and fabric from both socks and underwear for a new hairpiece.
  • Create pillow stuffing by cutting up your socks and underwear into small pieces. You can add to an old pillow for some new fluff or create a new one.
  • Make reusable cleaning wipes by cutting old underwear or socks into strips. Clean with an essential oil and vinegar-based cleaning solution (here are some DIY recipes).

Send Your Underwear, Socks, Or Shoes To A Recycling Program 

  • Subset, a conscious underwear brand, has a recycling program that accepts “ready-to-retire” undies, as well as old bras, socks, and tights. This closed-loop system turns the textiles into new materials for carpet, padding, and furniture fabrics.
  • Hanky Panky has a recycling program, “Lingeriecycle,” where the brand creates new materials out of old underwear.
  • Zkano is a female-founded sock brand in Alabama dedicated to reducing waste. The team takes “past-their-prime” socks and recycle them. Simply send your old socks to the factory address, where they will either become new socks or be repurposed for something else!
  • Planet Aid is another great resource for donating old underwear and socks. Simply search if there’s a donation box near you or print a Give Back Box shipping label.
  • Nike accepts pre-loved athletic shoes for upcycling through the Nike Grind program. Simply take them to a local Nike store near you for donation.

I hope these resources help you finally get rid of those overused socks, panties and shoes. It’s easy to toss out our old, unwanted things. But why not give them new life while protecting the earth all at once? I’ll be right alongside you!

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