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How to Recycle Those Old Towels

By Teresa Higginbotham

I look at our old towels and start to see the telltale strings at the side. I know it's time to throw them out. I certainly can't use them for guests but I can see a perfectly good towel still in the center. To throw this towel out now would be a waste of money and resources. Here are a few ways to keep using that towel, but in a different form.


First of all look at the savable areas of your towel. Can you reuse almost all of it or does it have thin spots throughout. If you can hold up the towel and see through it, it may be time to toss it. But, if you can see usable squares then try converting the towel to one of these items.

1. Washcloths: The average washcloth is 10x10 inches. So cut your towel into squares of 10 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches and sew a double hem around them. If you have a serger then you just need to serge around the edge cutting off the inch.

2. Rags: This is the easiest part. You can convert the towel into cleaning rags by cutting it into 12 x 12 inch squares. You can hem the squares as for the washcloths or just leave it.

3. Washing Mitts: Measure around your hand or your child's hand. Add a 1/2 inch seam around the outside of your drawing and then cut two pieces of towel in that pattern. Sew around the edge 1/2-inch seam and hem the bottom.


4. Apron: You can make a half apron by draping the towel around your front and cutting accordingly. Attach pieced strips to make the ties or use material scraps. You can also piece together more than one towel and make a full apron. You just need another smaller square for the top half and pieces for neck strap.

5. Make dishtowels: Cut the towel in a rectangle 25x16 inches and hem.

6. Make into a hair cap for after the shower. You know when you get out of the shower and wrap that towel around your head and you look down and it falls off. Why not make a fitted cap and wear it everywhere. Put the kids on the bus, go to the store, attend church...maybe not.

7. Make a dog bed liner. Piece together pieces of towels and either sew them into a dog pillow or make a washable blanket for the dog bed.

8. Cut into smaller towels to use in the car for kid messes.

9.Cut them into 6 1/2 x 6 1/2 inch pieces and put some filler between them to make potholders.


10. If enough of the towel is reusable cut it into a large bag to store wet swimming suits. If it is not large enough them piece several towels together. Put a seam at the top and draw through a rope or tie. There are plenty of ways to reuse old towels. Pretty soon you'll just be waiting for one to fray!

If you would like to read more of Teresa's articles as well as other great articles on frugal living and family life visit her website, Tightwad Tess, at or subscribe to her newsletter to find articles, recipes, frugal tips and freebies by sending a blank email to (05/13/2005)

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