How to Recycle Cotton, Polyester & Spandex

Written by cassandra gailis
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How to Recycle Cotton, Polyester & Spandex
Recycling textiles is a good way to reuse unwanted clothing. (Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Cotton, polyester or spandex are ideal for textile recycling. Textile recycling is becoming increasingly more common, as these valuable resources can be refurbished into rags, dust cloths, stuffing and more. Clothing or textiles that are still in usable condition are appreciated at charitable thrift stores or resale shops. Recycling your clothing and textiles is a sustainable way to keep these materials out of the dumpsters and landfills as they can be reused instead.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Sort your unwanted cotton, polyester and spandex items by their potential for reuse. Donate any items in wearable condition to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. Spandex bras are appreciated by some organisations that donate clothes to women in domestic violence shelters.

  2. 2

    Call your local Salvation Army or Vietnam Veterans association to inquire about clothing pick up. These organisations will come to your house with a truck to accept large amounts of wearable clothing for resale at their shops. Goodwill offers easy clothing drop off centres, located in every state.

  3. 3

    Contact your local waste disposal service or recycling centre to ask about textile recycling options. Clothing or textiles that are stained or torn, can be offered for general textile recycling. As this service is becoming increasingly common, some communities may offer kerbside pick up services or textile bins. Inquire about different types of materials, as some recyclers prefer only cotton or wool.

  4. 4

    Bring your materials and fibres to the recycler if kerbside pick up is not offered in your area.

  5. 5

    Use worn out materials at home by tearing them into squares to use as dust rags or wash cloths. Some fabric may be sewn into bags, doll items or craft projects.

Tips and warnings

  • Cotton is generally more welcome than spandex or polyester for recycling. Try to reuse polyester as much as possible and seek out charities specifically looking for spandex items such as bras.

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