Every household needs bedding and towels, and you're wise to keep extras on hand for guests, messes and laundry day. But linens will eventually wear out, and most homes can only store so many.
When you're trying to cut down on waste and live mindfully, it might not feel right to simply toss old bedding in the trash. So, is there a sustainable way to pass them on for a new purpose or give them to someone in need? Can you donate old sheets and towels, and if so, how and where?
If you're wondering what to do with old towels, whether you can recycle sheets, or where to donate bedding you no longer use, you've come to the right place. Keep reading for answers to these questions, along with tips for repurposing textiles.
Where to Donate and Recycle Bedding and Used Towels
Figuring out what to do with old sheets and where to donate towels isn't always straightforward. What you do with old bedding depends on the condition of the items and what recycling centers or charities are in your area. And unlike dropping off plastic bottles and cardboard, recycling textiles isn't always free.
Having said that, if you don't want your linens to end up in a landfill, there are a few routes you can take to recycle towels and donate bedding you no longer use. This includes donation centers, churches, homeless shelters, animal shelters, the American Textile Recycling Service and TerraCycle.
Nationwide Donation Centers
You can donate bedding and other textiles to the American Red Cross through its GreenDrop program. The charity takes gently used blankets, sheets, bed covers, baby items and clothes. Pack up your items in a sturdy bag or box, and bring them to your nearest drop-off location or schedule a pick-up.
Then there's the Salvation Army, which accepts various household goods, including bedspreads, blankets, curtains, pillows, towels and rugs. If you want to donate old sheets or other linens, find a drop-off location, schedule a free pick-up or head to your nearest Salvation Army Thrift Store.
You can also donate bedding items to Goodwill. The organization takes gently used linens, including blankets and curtains. Just bear in mind most of these charities can't accept mattresses and won't be able to redistribute severely stained or ripped items.
Churches and Homeless Shelters
Still stuck on what to do with old sheets? Churches and homeless shelters will often take the used items donation centers can't accept. In addition to clothes and jackets, this includes sheets, blankets, towels and washcloths. They might also need rags and kitchen towels to help keep their facilities clean.
If you're wondering where to donate old blankets and what to do with old towels, you might consider an animal shelter, like The Humane Society. The organization will take some bath linens, sheets and bed covers, as long as they aren't stuffed, such as a down comforter or quilt that animals might ingest pieces of.
Some dog shelters appreciate used dog bed donations and create care packages for adopted pets and their new families.
American Textile Recycling Service
If you can't donate bedding, you might be able to pass it along to the American Textile Recycling Service (ATRS). The organization takes everything from sheets, comforters, blankets and pillows to drapes, rugs, towels and shower curtains.
There are currently thousands of drop-off bins across the U.S. at malls, supermarkets, convenience stores and pharmacies. To find one in your area, call the ATRS hotline at 866-900-9308 and tell them your zip code.
If you're trying to recycle cotton sheets or other household linens, another option is TerraCycle. The program takes all kinds of textiles, including cotton, linen, wool and even polyester, which is broken down and made into other plastic products.
You can order a Zero Waste Box, fill it with your old belongings, then ship it back to TerraCycle using the included prepaid return label. If you'd like to keep a bedding recycle box in your home at all times, order a new one, send it back when it fills up, and repeat.
How to Find Recycling Centers Near You
The best way to find recycling centers and charities in your area is with a simple Google search. Try "Where to donate sheets near me" or "Where to donate bedding near me" and see what pops up. If your search comes up empty, go directly to your organization of choice's website to see what's close to home.
What to Do With Old Sheets
If you can't donate bedding, there are many other great uses for old sheets. The fabric can be converted into:
Furniture covers for painting
There are nearly endless ways to reuse old sheets. For tips on storing them, see our guide on How to Organize Your Linen Closet.
What to Do with Old Towels
On a similar note, there are lots of excellent uses for old towels. You can turn them into:
Doggie chew toys
Floor covers for painting
Just because you can't donate them doesn't mean you can't reuse old towels. You never know when you'll need one for a spill or leak, so it doesn't hurt to keep a few on hand.
Why It's Important to Replace Household Linens
The fact is, bedding and towels don't last forever. Over time, they lose their integrity, plushness and ability to absorb moisture. The fabrics may also develop permanent stains or odors.
Textiles made from linen and long-staple cotton will offer a few more years of use, and they'll last longer if you're not using them every single day. But generally speaking, you'll need to replace them once every two to five years.
For more insight on when to replace your old sheets and towels and what fabric to pick as a replacement, see our guides:
FAQs About Fabric Recycling
Not sure of the best way to get rid of your used linens or textiles? Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about textile recycling and donation.
What to Do With Old Clothes That Cannot Be Donated?
Charity shops and consignment stores aren’t interested in all clothing. Some have strict rules about quality, the type of garment, and signs of wear. If your old clothes aren’t eligible for donation, look for textile recycling companies that turn old clothing back into thread for future garments.
What Is the Difference Between Recycling and Reusing?
Recycling is a type of disposal that focuses on breaking down an item or garment into its basic materials. Those materials can be used to make something new. Reusing simply means finding a new purpose for an older item, like turning old sheets into cleaning rags or old towels into dog bedding.
Shopping for Ethically Produced Linens
If you're in the market for new bedding or bath linens and want to keep up your sustainable streak, there are a few certifications to look for when shopping around. This includes:
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) for organic fabrics
Oeko-Tex Standard 100 for chemical safety in fabric production
Parachute is proud to offer GOTS certified organic bedding and towels as well as Oeko-Tex certified bedding across our core products, including the entirety of the ultra-cozy linen, brushed cotton, sateen, and percale bedding lines.
With a commitment to sustainable and ethical practices, Parachute is proud to carry a range of eco-conscious linens for your bedroom, bathroom, and home. In addition to Oeko-Tex certified products, you'll find a recycled down pillow as well as an assortment of organic textiles including loungewear, robes, blankets, towels, sheets, pillowcases, and duvet cover sets. Shop the collections today!