When clothing isn't good enough to give to a store, I tend to keep them for rags, but have more than I need. I've called animal shelters and homeless shelters, but they either have enough or only accept towels. I was surprised that one animal rescue specifically uses paper towels instead of rags. Aside from using them once, then tossing them, what can I do?
Another thing to consider: Quilting! If you cut usable (still in good shape), seamless areas in 8" X 8" or 12" x 12" inch squares (or larger, 18" x 22" rectangles) you could save some of this fabric for quilting projects. Even if you aren't into the craft, if enough scraps are saved, you could hire some one to piece and stitch an heirloom quilt for individual family members out of old clothes for a reasonable fee.
As well, you could check with local animal shelters and ask if they accept homemade "pet sleeping pads" for their kennels and ask what size (measurements) they need. Unfortunately, why some of the shelters don't accept these cloth donations, or even old towels and sheets, is that they can't afford washing machines, dryers and detergent to clean the donations.
It's taken me years to realize that clothing donations are less appreciated than they use to be, but then again, clothes have become so disposable in our society. I hate it, but try to recycle what I can. As "pamphyila" and "OliveOyl" suggested, there are some places in larger communities that accept any type of cloth donation for rags but this is getting harder and harder to find in smaller and rural communities and the expense is too great to send them to larger areas.
My best "thrifty" suggestion is to donate all "gently used, non trendy items", save all the buttons, detailed collars and cuffs, zippers and such on other items, and cut out standard sizes of fabric for future craft and quilting applications, first. Then simply trash what you can't reuse, give away, or donate. It isn't the best solution, but as "OliveOyl" said, "you can't keep everything!"
Thanks for trying to recycle, but don't beat yourself up if you can't!
If there is a school that teaches auto mechanics or body work, they just may want some of those rags. Offer them up on freecycle, (freecycle.org) There are a lot of teachers and crafty people out there that would like to get there hands on free cloth of any kind for rugs or crafts. put in a bag on the curb and put a free "take all" sign on it.
You might consider giving your Senior Center a call to see if they would be interested in them. Ours would snatch them up.
If you have a baby around, my Auntie taught me, when I was little, to use cloth diapers for less plastic against the baby's skin. When she was pregnant, she started cutting old clothing and towels and sheets into squares that are 8 inches wide and 8 inches long. She would put the squares inside the cloth diaper when dressing the baby. Cloth diapers stay cleaner with less staining and discoloring because the solids stay in the "diaper liner" rather than getting on the diaper. She did this for all of her children and I had step children that I did this with their babies. It isn't any harder than any other cloth diapers as you insert the liner when you fold the diaper and then just put it on together as needed.
Okay, you can also use them as dusters by spraying a little spray baby oil on them and dusting as you would with any other duster. The slight spray of baby oil on the cloth helps to pick up dust and dirt that are caught in small places and puts a nice sheen on wooden window sills and furniture. I use the scented baby oil because I love the smell, but they also make unscented. Try shopping at a local big pharmacy or big box store and buy their cheaper brand and put it into a spray bottle saved from window cleaner or something with a light spray trigger.
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I use rags for cleaning (old, faded, and/or stained towels and sheets) to save money and not have to buy paper towels, etc. and to not have to throw so much away.
This may sound strange, but when your rags are too "raggedy" for even rags, you can compost them. If they are cotton, either terry cloth or T-shirt material, they can be put into the compost pile and they will decompose. Another thing might be to give them to a company that uses rags and turns them into recycled fibers.
I save them and when I have two or three, I stack them and sew them together around the edge on the sewing machine. The more used ones go on the inside. They make great spongy rags.
Carole - Monterey Park, CA