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How to give clothes to charity and reclaim your wardrobe

Trying to clear out your wardrobe? From preparing clothes for donation to choosing a charity, we’ve got your questions answered.

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Are you desperate to give clothes to charity and reclaim that valuable wardrobe space? If so, you’ve already chosen one of the most environmentally friendly ways to get rid of your old clothes.

Donating clothes to charity ensures good quality items are reused, rather than recycled (which uses energy) or sent to a landfill. Not to mention it can make you feel a bit warm and fuzzy for helping others.

So if you’ve been wondering what types of clothes charities will accept, which are the best organizations to donate clothes to and whether any charities collect clothes donations, we’ve got the answers for you right here.

Why give clothes to charity?

The rise of fast, disposable fashion over the last couple of decades now means the production, use and disposal of clothes has a significant impact on our environment. In fact, the clothing industry represents the fifth-biggest environmental footprint of any UK business sector.

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According to the charity WRAP, around 30 per cent of clothing in our wardrobes hasn’t been worn for at least a year and the value of this unused clothing is estimated to be a staggering £30 billion. Imagine the good it could do if this clothing was donated to charity.

Once you throw in the fact that an estimated £140 million worth (around 350,000 tonnes) of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year, it’s clear to see that if you give clothes to charity instead, you’ll be making a big difference to both the environment and good causes.

How to donate clothes to charity

 Jackets on a bed

In essence, donating clothes to charity is pretty simple:

  1. Select which clothes you want to give to charity.

  2. Ensure clothes are clean and in good condition (if they’re not, we’ve got some suggestions for what to do further on).

  3. Select which charity you want to donate to (there’s more on this later too).

  4. Bag up the clothes and drop them at your nearest store or donation bank (or arrange a collection if your chosen charity offers this).

To help make this process as easy and quick as possible, take a look at our answers to all your clothes donation questions...

Can you donate any type of clothing to charity?

Colourful folded clothing on a bed

All clothing – whether it’s unfashionable, holey or torn – can be used to raise vital funds for charity.

Of course, to sell the item on to customers, charities need clothes to be in good condition, and good quality items will raise the most money.

However, a lot of all charity shops that sell clothing have arrangements with textile recyclers, who buy any unsold or unsellable items from them. So even worn out or damaged clothing can still raise vital funds for the charity’s work (just make sure to check with your local charity shop first).

If you’re not sure any of your items are suitable to resell, or you don’t think your chosen charity will accept rag donations, we’ve got five great ideas for reusing your clothes at home, as well as some simple tips for recycling your clothes.

How do you prepare and bag up clothes to donate?

A pair of folded jeans and a belt on a bed

Once you’ve sorted out all the clothes you plan to donate, it’s time to get them ready with these simple steps:

  1. Make sure everything you plan to donate is clean. No volunteer at a charity shop wants to sort through your dirty clothes, nor should they have to.

  2. Ensure any belts or removable parts such as hoods are attached.

  3. If you can, replace missing buttons or broken zips (remember, the charity will make the most money from items in resellable condition).

  4. Go through all the pockets to make sure you don’t accidentally give away your keys and cash.

  5. Finally, bag up the items. If you’re donating a mix of resellable clothes and clothes for recycling, try to separate these out into different bags. You can even label the bag of recycling ‘for rag’, to make it super clear.

What is the best organisation to donate clothes to?

The charity you choose to donate your clothes to may well come down to personal preference. After all, if your life has been affected by cancer, you may feel an affinity for Cancer Research UK. Or if you’re passionate about children’s causes, it could be Save the Children. But of course, the ease of donating is also an important factor to bear in mind. Here are a few suggestions to help with your decision:

Taking clothes to a charity shop

Whatever your preferred choice of charity, there’s no denying there’s an element of convenience involved when it comes to donating clothes. No one wants to drive for hours just to drop off a couple of bags of unwanted tops and trousers. The easiest way to find your nearest charity shops which accept clothes donations is to use the Charity Retail Association’s search tool. And make sure to check their opening hours, as charity shops can’t sell items which have been damaged. It’s an unfortunate fact that most bags will be tampered with – or even stolen – if left outside overnight.

Do charities collect clothes?

Don’t have time to get to the charity shop yourself? Several charities now offer services where they collect clothes from you or you can request a donation pack. These include:

Other options for donating clothes

If none of these options works for you, you could try donating clothes at a local clothes bin. These are run by different charities that either send the donated goods onto shops or break down the fabric for recycling. You can often find these bins at large supermarkets and at Household Waste Recycling Centres.

Finally, you could take clothes to local retail shops that are collecting them for charity or recycling. Some high street stores run initiatives like this and sometimes even give discounts in exchange for donations.

What else can you do with unwanted clothes?

If you’re not sure about giving clothes to charity, but you still want to be eco-friendly, here are a few other suggestions:

  • Give them to friends and family.

  • Arrange a clothes exchange (or attend one in your area). After all, just because you don’t want something doesn’t mean someone else won’t – and you might find some new fashion favourites of your own into the bargain.

  • Upcycle your clothes to bring new life to your wardrobe.

  • If all else fails, recycle your clothes (but remember this will have a bigger carbon footprint than the other options).

What about clearing out the rest of your house?

If it’s not just your wardrobe in need of a spring clean, why not take a look at our tips for decluttering your house? And if you’ve got big ticket items to get rid of, look no further than our guide on getting rid of unwanted furniture.

Originally published