So, What Do You Do With Decluttered Underwear?

published Dec 2, 2021
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Woman hands placing wardrobe drawer organizers with full of folded underwears. Sock drawer with folded socks. Perfect and neatly setting of clothes. Linen drawer organization solution. Perfectionist.
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You’re cleaning out your dresser. It’s relatively easy to donate lightly used clothes you just don’t want anymore (or at least pass them on to a friend who’d give them a second life). But what about items that are a little more personal, like your underwear? On the one hand, it’s difficult to donate them and your friends probably won’t be thrilled to wear them. On the other hand, throwing them away just adds more to landfills — and it takes clothes a long time to decompose. 

Unfortunately, you can’t just toss your underwear in the recycling bin and hope for the best. (Did someone say wishcycling?) But it is possible to add some sustainability to your underwear decluttering process — with a bit of creativity. 

First, check your undie labels. If they’re made of a natural fiber like cotton or silk, you can compost them at home or through a community composting program. Just make sure to cut off the tag and the elastic portion before cutting down the actual underwear part so it’ll break down in the soil. 

If you’re aiming to get rid of several pairs of underwear or you don’t compost, that may not be your top option. No worries. You can also check if your community has a recycling program that includes old undergarments. For example, my community outside Milwaukee is hosting a clothes recycling day through an organization called Better Earth Textile Recycling, and I was surprised (and a little elated!) to find out they’d take old underwear. 

Some companies also make it easy to get rid of underwear. For example, Knickey — a woman-owned sustainable underwear brand — takes old underwear, lingerie, and even socks and repurposes them into insulation, carpet padding, and furniture batting. (They’ll even send you a free pair of cotton panties as a thank you!)

One way to put that old underwear to use, if you’re not grossed out by it: Upcycle it as filling in an empty pouf, couch pillow, or even a kids’ beanbag. (For ample filling, you may need to combine your undergarments with old sheets or towels — really, anything that’s relatively clean but not ideal to donate.)

Another way to prevent unnecessary waste is to be a conscious consumer. Focus on buying high-quality, sustainable products — in this case, choose classic undergarments you’ll wear over and over, and keep them maintained and long-lasting by washing them in a mesh garment bag and using a gentle soap instead of a harsh detergent, which can wear down fabric over time. And when you can, focus on rehoming clothes to minimize buildup in landfills. Planet Earth thanks you!