Donating Clothing in Poor Condition

Parent Q&A

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  • Where to donate clothing in poor condition?

    (6 replies)

    I have a pile of clothes that I'd like to donate to homeless, or something similar. The problem I'm having is that everything that I find online is for donating clothes to an organization's THRIFT STORE to be sold in order to assist the homeless, but the clothes I have to donate would not be considered "saleable" (too much wash wear, a tiny stain, things like that) although they are perfectly *wearable* (I would still dress my kid in the kid's clothes, if they fit her). I hate the idea of just throwing these things away, and I can't help but think some one(s) could benefit from some free clothes (I have some adult clothes and kids clothes), but I cannot, for the life of me, find a place that will take donations of used clothing to simply give to the needy. Does any one out there have any suggestions?

    Thanks so much!

    Hi, for non-saleable clothing, I save them up and take them to the El Cerrito recycling center. Use the green US Again bins.

    This place is amazing - I take all sorts of recyclables when I go. Feels better than landfilling it all. See below for hours and what they take. They do have weekend hours. 

    A friend who's a nurse told me that hospitals are often short on clothes to dress people in when the clothes they came in with are unusable.

    I use Freecycle for things like this.  You post a description of what you want to give away, and someone who wants it will email you and then come pick it up. I've had really great experiences with freecycle -- pretty much everything I've ever offered has been taken.  

    In Berkeley on Channing st, just below Roosevelt on the north side of the street is a free box called the Donna Spring Wishing Well. (Donna Spring was a berkeley council woman some years ago) There is a trunk and a little roof. Many people know about it. I have been using it for years, putting things that are still good but charity stores might throw out. I only bring one bag at a time, though, to not overload, as sometimes people pile way too much stuff. The folks who live nearby keep it tidy. It is a nice little community thing and I have even found some things I needed!

    The SF General Hospital volunteer center is always in need of donated clothes for indigent patients who have nothing to wear home. If that is too far for you to go, you might see if Highland Hospital or another east bay hospital needs donations. 

    I request that readers rethink using the Channing Way free box. The house where we were living decades ago built and installed the box as a sturdy receptacle for local (as in immediate neighborhood) donations. Since the to-do of some years ago about whether to remove it, the free box has become better known, and consequently well-meaning people come from all over Berkeley and frequently leave way too many items in it. The stuff overflows or is left all around the box, sometimes getting wet and muddy, and my old Channing Way neighbors really have better things to do than tidying the area every couple of days. Thanks for your understanding.

    (Freecycle and such are good. I sometimes leave a box of things that are still in nice condition on our parkway for a day or two--any longer, and it becomes a trash can.)

Parent Reviews

The Alameda Food Bank (in the city of Alameda) takes small donations of food.

I think there are organizations that help homeless and low-income women with professional clothing. Not sure about the details though. If you don't find one, Out of the Closet is a good place to donate. Also some chapters of the International Rescue Committee accept clothing donations. I don't know if the Oakland office does or not.

Opened packages of diapers and car seats you can probably give away on Freecycle. 

There is an AMAZING recycling center in El Cerrito. They take textiles, among many other things (plastic bags and bubble wrap! electronics!). Check them out:


If the food is not past its stated sell-by/use-by date, maybe just drop it in a food donation barrel.

I believe both Jewish Family Services and Catholic Charities work with resettling refugee families.  Other option for professional clothing: BOSS in Berkeleuy.

Textiles: Towels (only) can go to animal shelters.  All-Cotton t-shirts to Waterside Workshop in Berkeley (they use them as rags in their bike refurbishing program).  Ripped textiles - North Face has a collection barrel for textiles and shoes in any condition.

Unless the textbooks are pretty recent, I doubt you'll find a charity that will take them.  You could bring them to El Cerrito Recycling Center exchange area.

Diapers - What size?  I work with needy families who would be delighted to get diapers; feel free to message me.  Also - Bananas 

Thank you for doing things responsibly! Here's what I've learned in our recent purge: 1) If the food's expiration date is at least 3 months away, you can drop it off at an Alameda County Food Bank collection point - Berkeley Bowl and other locations have permanent barrels out where you can leave donations. (Side tip: That's what I do with our earthquake kit supplies when I rotate them out.) See list of locations here: If the expiration date is coming up, I've had good luck giving things away on BPN/Craigslist/Freecycle/Buy Nothing Facebook group. 2) The IRC helps re-settle refugees and can usually use professional clothes - their space is limited, though, so they don't take other clothing. More info here: I'll bet someone else on this list knows a church or other organization helping local refugee families that could use clothing. 3) Outdated textbooks are pretty much just recycling - hopefully someone will have a better idea, but that's my experience sorting book donations for the library. You can also leave books at the re-use area at the El Cerrito recycling facility. 4) Opened diapers/used car seats are probably a good choice for Freecycle/etc., unless someplace like Bananas wants them. 5) You can take worn-out textiles to any H&M store for recycling: Good luck with the move!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Where to recycle damaged clothes

March 2014

I'm accumulating a pile of clean, mostly cotton, but ripped/holey clothing--not fit for resale in a thrift store. What to do with these clothes? I'd like to avoid salvage brokers that collect and ship such clothes to Africa for resale, because I've heard this is destroying/has destroyed the in-county textile industries. Goodwill says on their website: 'Some member Goodwills recycle old clothing scraps into industrial wipes (cleaning cloths) for industrial buyers. Other items that are too damaged for retail sales are sold to salvage brokers.' So, maybe, maybe not. Does anyone know of a place to recycle unwearable clothing where they will be funneled towards some use other than resale in Africa?

It may take a little extra effort, but there are artists who work with textiles and old clothing, like the woman who owns Multiple Threads, a little store on Solano (closing in April--but she'll still be making clothes). Perhaps a call to her for suggestions on where to unload the clothes you have which can be repurposed? I'm a big fan, and I love to see old clothes reused in artistic ways. Good luck, and good for you for seeking a good place to donate your still-useful items! Karen, North Berkeley neighbor

Donating or recycling damaged or stained clothing

Feb 2013

I have a lot of old clothes which is not appropriate to sell at a Salvation Army or Goodwill thrift shop (stains, tears, other damage.) Some of these items are high quality cotton or natural fibers and I hate to see them go to landfill, and some might make good scraps for crafters. Is there another avenue where these clothes can be donated for re-use, recyling, or salvage? Spring cleaning

Behind Ace Hardware on University Avenue (in their parking lot) there is a bin for ''textile recyling''-you can put in clothes and linens that are too old/damaged to be reused. (no sig)

Our K-8th school has a sewing class that uses re-purposed fabrics. It's in Berkeley on University Ave. To donate call 665-8800 and ask to speak with Kyla. We may be able to pick it up. Thanks! J

The stopwaste website lists several places (mostly in alameda county) to take scrap textiles.

I believe that Waterside Workshops bicycle shop (at Aquatic Park in Berkley) recently requested donations of old 100% cotton tee-shirts to use as rags; you should probably check with them first, though, to see if they still need some. R.K.

Is there any use for old socks?

March 2012

This may seem silly, but I am trying to declutter my house and have a gigantic bag of old socks. I hate to just toss it in the trash. Is there any use for old socks? Usually I give old clothes to Goodwill, but many of these aren't usable (not in pairs, have holes, etc.). I figure that they aren't compostable due to the elastic content. Anyone have ideas for a responsible way to get rid of them? What about other clothes that are no longer usable even by charity? Trying to declutter responsibly

they make great rags. wipe up a mess and throw them away guilt free. You have used them manymanymany times as socks and now you have 'repurposed' them for a second life as a throw away rag. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Or, since I was in Vietnam this summer: easy peasy Vietnameasy. You can quote me on that although I stole it from a Latvian woman. If they are 100 percent cotton you can compost them. sean

Perfect timing! Craigslist those socks for the St. Stupid's Day Parade, coming up on April 1st. They are just what are called for at the sock exchange part of the parade (on the steps of the SF Stock Exchange)! brenna

What to do with old socks? Great question. The Berkeley Free Clinic accepts donations of socks for the homeless and low income persons. Especially during rainy inclement weather, there is always a huge need. You might want to check other shelters and clinics to see if they also have a need. Donated many pairs over the years!

Recycling worn out clothing

Feb 2012

Is it possible to recycle fabric, from clothing that is too worn out to donate? If so, where? I've looked around and can only find information for donating old sheets and towels to animal shelters. Thanks! anon

The only thing I can help you with is cotton - it really is compostable. If you have a home compost you can cut it into small pieces and throw it in (I've done holey sheets and worn out jeans). It does take awhile but definitely turns into wonderful dirt. You could also put it in your green bin. Just make sure it's 100% cotton or some other natural material. Composter

Universal Waste Management in Oakland takes all kinds of items for recycling. They do e-waste, clothing, textiles, books, shoes. Their drop off hours our 8am - 4pm, 7 days a week, but they usually have weekend drop off locations, such as a DMV or BART parking lot, so check out their calendar (Events), they may be near you on a weekend if you are unable to get to their facility in Oakland. Here is a link to the list of items they accept. Some of the items you do need to pay to drop off, but many items are free. Recycler

I just discovered that there's a bin behind Berkeley Ace Hardware for donating old clothes and shoes, presumably including worn out ones. The relevant website is and it has a link to the organization that owns the bin. Evidently the clothes that are still wearable are sent overseas and those that aren't are stripped of their fasteners and recycled. If you google clothes recycling then you'll find comments from people who think that sending our clothes overseas is bad for the local economies but I guess there are always trade-offs. Francesca

Recycling clothes/towels in so-so shape?

Aug 2011

is there anywhere to recycle/give away things that are in good enough shape to not throw away, but are items that goodwill won't take. such as used underwear (obviously worn, but clean and unstained) or towels that are perfectly useable, but the seams have come undone? what about kids jeans with wholes in the knees or clothes that are washed out? i dress my kids in these, but i know others wouldn't. i already have too many rags, so that's not helpful. what do you do? throw away or not?

not sure about the clothes (if they are done, I just put them in my recycle bin), but towels would be welcomed by any pet shelter. avid recycler

You can take these things to Universal Waste Management in Oakland: Andi

The pound is a perfect place to surrender your old towels. They go toward helping dogs and cats feel safe and comfortable. As far as your other clothing is concerned, Salvation Army might be a good idea. I hear that they do more to help people in need, than Goodwill. I'm sure that whoever you volunteer it to will be so grateful. Thanks for helping others.

How about posting it on Freecycle? Also, I would love to have your towels for our upcoming home birth if you are in the east bay! anon

Oakland SPCA for towels...there is a donation post in this weeks marketplace newsletter Givn' threads to the doggies

Animal shelters can always use old towels for cleaning, lining cages, etc. Recycling rocks!

As for clothes with a tiny spot or tear which would make them unsellable at a charity resale shop with limited shop space, I give them to a friend who volunteers at April Showers, which serves homeless people. They mostly need blue jeans, but can often use other clothing items.

I used to give clean but stained kids' clothes to our pre- school in a bag labeled ''emergency go-home clothes & clothes suitable to wear while painting and crafting.'' They were just somewhat disposable spare clothes that anybody could take for any reason, like theirs were soiled/ wet/unsuitable for the day's activities.

I also like the freecycle idea. Personally, I think kids need ''playclothes'' (pre-stained hand-me-downs they can stain to their hearts content) but I'm in the minority. Raising happy slobs

2007 - 2009 Recommendations

Where 2 give away ripped/stained clothes

Sept 2008

I'm in the process of cleaning out my kids' closets, and have a pile of clothes that aren't in good enough shape to give away to Goodwill, etc. (clothes with rips in the knees, stains, etc.) Is there any place to drop them off -- perhaps someplace that shreds them or otherwise re-uses them? I know places like Goodwill and Salvation Army don't want clothes in poor condition, but it seems so wasteful to literally toss these in the garbage. Lisa

I think I've posted this before, but - I put all kinds of scrap fabric including torn clothing, single socks, trimmings from sewing, etc. in a bag, clearly label it ''Textile Scrap'', tie it up and give to Goodwill. I believe they add it to their rejects which get sold to make carpet underlayment, etc. R.K.

I wanted to correct the recent response that indicated that the Goodwill takes clothing scraps-- this is not the case. I have recently learned that the Goodwill only wants clothes in saleable condition and that they actually have to pay someone to dispose of rags. I confirmed this with the folks who run the Stop Waste website (though they have not updated their guide yet). So please, don't donate these things to Goodwill. ReesyCull

I just gave a lot of clothing that was unwearable because of stains or holes to the Oakland Zoo education center. They use it for animal enrichment activities. Don't forget also that each member of your family should have at least one set of warm-weather and one set of cold-weather clothes with your earthquake or other emergency supply box. You may want to keep some of the otherwise unwearable clothing for that purpose. asymetry

Where do I recycle old, stained kid's clothes?

April 2008

My son is outgrowing his clothes (duh). Anyway, as he gets older I'm finding that the clothes are increasingly stained, ripped, torn, and otherwise in pretty bad shape by the time he outgrows them. What can I say? He's active. Anyway, it doesn't make sense to donate the clothes to a shelter or other charitable organization. At the same time, I feel bad about dumping the clothes in a landfill. Does anyone know of a place where I can recycle the clothes? Thanks! Jen

I highly recommend selling them to Grove Street Kids in Berkeley. It is located on the corner of MLK and Virginia. She either pays cash (40% of retail value) or trades (60% of retail value) for kids clothing. It is a fantastic store: clean, organized, and well-priced. Plus, she often has a $1 rack! She also offers a frequent buyer discount program: spend $100, get 15% off. Kate

Goodwill accepts ''textile scrap'', which I believe is used to make carpet padding. I usually put it into a big paper shopping bag, tie up the handle and label it ''textile scrap'' in big bold letters. I'll never know if they actually recycle it or toss it in the landfill, but it's the best I can find. See R.K.

I think you can leave torn (but not badly stained) clothing and textile scraps in the green Gaia boxes you see around town. You can read more about their program at They also take clothing in good condition, too, of course.

You can also find a couple options if you search for ''Clothing Scraps/Remnants'' on Green Mama

Before taking your old children's clothing to the green Gaia bins around town, you might want to check out these articles: You can google Campus California TG and find more articles about them. The organization has been investigated for ''fiscal improprieties,'' is described as a ''nonreligious cult,'' and -- contrary to what CCTG claims -- gives almost none of the clothing revenue to anyone in developing countries. Choosing Charities Carefully

Look into The organization is community based. One basic rule: everything you post must be for free. I live in Alameda and have successfully donated/recycled used carpet padding, my kids' outgrown clothes etc. I highly recommend this work. I'm sure Berkeley has one. zeta8

I too have been searching for a way to recycle clothing that is no longer wearable (stained, ripped etc).

Alas, the advice that was posted here about Goodwill recycling non-wearable clothing and other scrap fabric is incorrect, although it also appears on Alameda county's web site and was perpetuated in a SF Chronicle article about recycling that appeared during the past year. I checked with Goodwill both last year and again after the BPN posting - they confirmed that non-wearable clothing goes into the garbage.

The people I spoke to last year were not able to offer any viable suggestions. Two other organizations I called (East Bay Depot for Creative Re-use, and a similar organization in SF) adamantly said they do not take clothing, even though the scrap fabric could be used in art projects etc. The SF organization said they don't need to take scrap fabric because they get enough fabric in bolt form.

The suggestions posted on BPN about the Gaia boxes may be a possibility. Gaia apparently sells bundles of the clothing they receive, so there is a possibility that the non-wearable stuff gets reclaimed and recycled as fiber. There is some controversy about Gaia's charitable legitimacy. see or look them up on Google. optimom

What to do with non-usable clothing?

Nov 2007

What do people do with old clothing that is torn, stained or just worn out? Is there anywhere to donate it where the clothes can be used for the material? I'd rather not throw it in the trash and I have plenty of old T-shirts to use for cleaning. Thanks. vf

Check this out. I have seen their big green boxes around.

I think I have also seen a box somewhere on MKL in Berkeley near the Tuesday Farmers Market.

2004 - 2006 Recommendations

Donating Old T-Shirts

Dec 2005

We have a million old decripit t-shirts. They are not good enough to give to charity and I don't need that many dust rags. Any suggestions on what to do with them? Thanks!

Try your local animal shelter. We donate old towel, cotton clothing with stain, and other clothing that cannot be reuse, to the animal shelter in Fremont. They need material to make bedding for the animal or to dry them after a bath. Miranda

2003 & Earlier

Donating torn and stained clothing

Sept. 2003

I'm wondering if there's any place/business that RECYCLES old clothes. I'm getting ready to clear out lots of closets, and I have tons of ''chore'' clothes (torn and stained, mostly cotton-knit stuff like t-shirts, underwear and socks). These are not something I would give to Goodwill, but I don't want to put them in the gargage either. (And I already have a huge stockpile of rags!) jenne

Hi Jenne, You could always dump them off in the 'free' box at People's Park. (I believe it still exists) That's the 'reuse' in the recycle trilogy! :) Jennie

Feb 2003

Where does one donate used-but-useable clothing? Someone pointed out that we should NOT donate worn/torn clothes to Goodwill, etc, but what to do with these items? For example, Gymboree leggings w/ a hole in the knee (and no, I won't get around to patching it... I SHOULD, but I admit that I just don't have the time to mend). Anyone have suggestions about what to do w/ used-but-usable kids clothes? Seems like such a waste to make scraps out of them... Thanks, in advance. leslie

If you know anyone on the Tiny Tots Diaper Service, their drivers pick up donations of old clothes, or better ones, toys, etc. from the porch of the family. Put the items in a sturdy garbage bag, label visibly: ''You Are Special''. These items go to help families who are desperate. You can send pants with a hole in the knee. Since the Salvation Army on Solano Ave closed, I was glad to find out about this one. Truscojeff

ECAP (Emeryville Community Action Program)is a wonderful program that gives away cloths to homeless and poor families. They are completely non-profit and get very little funding. They are located on San Pablo near a freeway overpass in Emeryville. I don't know the address, but there is a ''Doug's BBQ'' next store that is more noticable. We take everything except junk there! Bene

October 2001

I've finally faced up to the fact that I'm just never going to get around to patching those faded old jeans, mending the hole in that ragged sweater, stitching that torn seam, etc. In other words, I'm trying to get past that depression-era mentality that tells me to never get rid of *anything* that I *might* be able to use someday. So, my question is: is there anyplace to donate stuff that's *not* in usable condition, or should I just (horrors!) throw it in the trash? I've actually also got non-clothing, non-essential items that don't necessarily need repair, but are just old and extremely faded (e.g. drapes)...same question: is there anyplace that would want these?

i recommend dropping off the not-so-good clothing (and blankets and towels) to People's Park. Drive down Haste right before you get to Telegraph. There is a big brown dumpster there. Actually, if you pull over, folks will come over to your car and take things from you without having to park, get out, etc. and, they really appreciate your donations.

Try calling the Ecology Center in Berkeley or Urban Ore (also in Berkeley). Both have been great resources for where to get rid of stuff I had questions about. Freyja Knapp

When I lived in San Jose they would accept textiles for recycling, but I don't know where they went from there. Bedding and towels, if washable, might be welcome at the ASPCA or an animal hospital for use in animal cages. Something like drapes might be welcome in a theatre for costume/set materials. Garments with holes worn through are most probematic. I finally cut up a bunch of old shirts into a) rags to use in cleaning/crafts b) colars and so forth that just had to be discarded. My advice is to forgive urself and let it go. Now if I just could follow that advice... Bill

A lot of textiles donated to places like goodwill, salvation army will end up as scrap, whihc they sell. They don't require useable condition.

You might want to have a small garage sale for starters. I know a lot of women who quilt who have no problem buying torn jeans as it's the fabric they want, not the clothes. All 100% cottons are great for this. I've seen these women go to garage sales just to buy up cottons for cutting up. They get some unusual quilts that way, make for more homey looking scrap ones. Or see if there isn't some quilting guild around you that wants the clothes. As far as the other items, try good will anyway. If they are just old, but still usable, someone may want them. Marianne

I wanted to chime in on the donation thing, as I work in recycling. Please do not donated torn or stained clothing to the charity thrifts (Goodwill, Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul.) They only want items in saleable condition. While it is true that they do recycle or scrap out unsaleable items, it is very expensive for them to handle clothes that are not saleable and it costs them money. Meghan