May 02, 2024 8 min read

From old clothing items and blankets to worn out sheets, discarded textiles have a massive negative impact on the environment. These items add a huge amount of excess waste to landfills, harm the local soil and water, contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, and more. It’s estimated that there are over 92 million tons of textile waste produced each year, but fortunately, there are some things you can do about it. First, finding real and sustainable solutions to repurpose old sheets and other bedding is a great start. This guide has lots of creative ideas and suggestions for what to do with old sheets, so you can ensure that your old bed sheets are serving a purpose without harming our environment.

Donate to Charity or Community Organizations

So, what to do with old bed sheets you don’t use any longer? One of the best uses for old fitted sheets, flat sheets, and other bed linens (as long as they are still in decent condition) is to donate them to charities and local community organizations. Although you might think your current sheets are out of style, they’ll likely be appreciated by local charities and other nonprofit organizations. You can help someone in need while also reducing the amount of textile waste you produce.

Donation Suggestions

Here’s where to donate bedding you no longer need so that you can help others:

  • Homeless shelters: Many homeless shelters appreciate donations of your old bedding, kitchen towels, and bath linens. When you donate, you can give new life to the bed sheets you no longer use while also keeping them out of a landfill. Homeless and women’s shelters also appreciate heavier bedding like quilts, comforters, and blankets, especially during the colder months.
  • Animal shelters: Your local animal shelter likely runs on a very small budget, so giving your old cleaning rags, picnic blankets, and other textiles can be put to good use. The animals can also use used sheets for their beds as comfy pet bedding and old dog toys to keep them entertained, while the animal shelter staff is always happy to receive old towels and fabric scraps to help with cleanup.
  • Thrift Stores: A lot of thrift stores happily accept textile donations that you can drop off at many nationwide donation centers. The Salvation Army accepts textiles at its donation centers and its thrift stores. The American Red Cross also accepts gently used sheets, blankets, and other household items at drop-off locations or you can schedule a pick-up.

Benefits of donating

When you think about what to do with old bed sheets and other household linens, consider donating them to the charity of your choice. Not only will you be supporting those humans and animals who are in need, but you’re also reducing excess textile waste in the process. As a bonus, your donations are also tax deductible.

Tips for properly preparing and packaging old sheets for donation

Before you donate sheets and other old bedding, there are a few things you should do first. Wash the linens using a fragrance-free detergent and dry them thoroughly. Then, fold them neatly and put them in a bag or box before you bring them to a local charity, thrift store, or donation center for drop-off.

Sand Linen sheets Linen bedding

DIY Cloth Napkins

Navy Blue Linen bed Sheets Light Grey Linen bed Sheets

When you think about how to recycle old sheets, one way is to use them to make your very own custom DIY cloth napkins. Cotton sheets are the best, but you can also make them from sheets made of other materials, too. Avoid sheets made of silk or satin since these materials tend to hold stains and won’t clean as easily.

Step-by-step guide

  • Take a twin flat sheet and fold it in half lengthwise.
  • Cut the sheet into five 17-inch long strips – you may have some excess fabric at the end (which you can use to make reusable paper towels or baby wipes).
  • Cut each strip in half along the fold.
  • Fold each strip in half again and cut along the new fold to make four smaller squares.
  • Iron each square along the edges twice, then use a needle and thread or sewing machine to sew the edges for a nice, neat finish.
  • You should have approximately 20 brand-new DIY cloth napkins when you’re done.

Benefits of using cloth napkins over disposable options

Using cloth napkins instead of disposable ones isn’t just beneficial for the environment – it’s also beneficial for your wallet. You’ll save tons of money on disposable paper products like paper napkins and paper towels. Plus, re-using these napkins means you’re not throwing excess trash away, which is always a good option if you want to live a greener and more sustainable lifestyle.

Add decorative touches and personalization

Give your DIY cloth napkins a personal touch by adding some fun embellishments. You can use a zig-zag stitch to sew the edges, dye the napkins your favorite color, or even embroider them with your initials or a fun motif to give them a fun, decorative component for holidays and more.

Upcycled Tote Bags

Old fabric, like an old bed sheet, is also great for making DIY tote bags. Here’s what to do with old fitted sheets to make your own custom upcycled tote bag.

Transforming old sheets into reusable tote bags

To make an upcycled tote bag, take an old fitted sheet and fold it in half, then cut it into a rough tote bag shape, approximately 20 inches long by 20 inches high, and with four-inch-wide straps. Use the folded edge as the bottom of the bag. Sew the sides together and leave the top portion open. You can reinforce each open edge with double stitches so your bag will hold plenty of items. Line up the top portion, making sure the handles match, then sew the two edges together. Turn your creation inside out, and you have a DIY tote bag made from an old sheet!

Advantages of using upcycled tote bags for shopping and everyday use

If you make multiple upcycled DIY tote bags, you’ll eliminate excess waste from plastic or paper bags at the grocery store. These totes are also excellent for hitting the farmer’s market or whenever you head out for some light shopping. You can also wash your bag to keep it clean while helping to reduce trash in the process.

Tips to customize tote bags

Customize your tote by sewing a small patch of extra fabric to the outside to create a pocket. You can also use thicker fabric to make a long shoulder strap for easy carrying. Personalize your tote with embellishments by sewing or ironing on a fun patch, adding enamel pins, or using paints to create a custom look.

Linen bed sheets

Quilted Throw Blankets

If you don't know what to do with old fitted sheets, making a quilted throw blanket is another awesome way to repurpose old sheets.

The quilting process using old sheets as fabric

First, determine the size of your quilt. You can use an old flat sheet in a cute color as the backing material. Next, cut several different old sheets into small squares of equal sizes, or into the shapes you prefer to make a unique quilted pattern. Sew each piece together using a sewing machine, then attach the completed quilt (top section) to your backing and clean up the edges for a beautiful, custom upcycled quilt.

Benefits of creating cozy throw blankets from repurposed materials

A cozy quilt or throw blanket made from repurposed materials makes a wonderful gift, and it’s also a smart way to save money on extra linens. You’re not only keeping your old sheets from going into the landfill, but you’re also giving them new life!

Quilt patterns, sizes, and finishing touches

If you want to get extra creative, look for unique quilt patterns to create a fabulous, custom look for your quilt. Check a bedding size chart to determine whether you want to make a twin, full, queen, or king-size quilt. Smaller sizes make great throws, while larger ones are perfect as additional bedding. Embroider your initials on the quilt for a beautiful finishing touch. You can also use this method to make DIY duvet covers – simply leave one end open so you can add your favorite duvet.

Pet Bedding and Toys

If you have sheets that are no longer usable, they make great pet bedding and pet toys!

Repurposing old sheets into comfortable bedding for pets

It’s easy to help old sheets recycle by simply placing them over your dog’s bed to protect it. You can also pile lots of old linens and sheets to give your pets a comfy, cozy sleeping surface. An old fitted sheet can go right over the top of a cat or dog bed for a nice, soft place for your pets to snooze.

DIY instructions for crafting pet toys from fabric scraps

Go through your linen closet and look for old bedding you can use to make awesome pet toys. Cut several pieces of fabric into long strips, then trim the top and bottom with scissors. Roll each strip into a tube, then tie them together at the top. Braid each piece tightly together, then tie the bottom together, and voila! You have a fun tug-of-war toy your dog will love.

Importance of using non-toxic materials and pet-safe designs

When making pet bedding or toys, always make sure you’re using safe, non-toxic materials like an eco-friendly choice such as organic cotton. Make sure there are no loose threads so that your pet doesn’t accidentally choke on their new toy. Never leave pets unattended with toys, and put them away when they’re done playing to keep them safe.

Eco-Friendly Cleaning Rags

What do to with old sheets that can’t be donated or used to make quilts, napkins, or tote bags? Recycle bedding to make cleaning rags for a great idea that’s easy to do and eco-friendly, too.

Tips for cutting old sheets into reusable cleaning rags

You can cut an old bed sheet into reusable cleaning cloths, and you can do this for any size you like. Simply cut an old sheet into several squares in your chosen size, then sew the edges neatly so they’re not frayed. A thicker rag can be made by doubling your fabric before sewing the edges together.

Benefits of using cloth rags for cleaning instead of disposable options

Reusable cloth rags will eliminate excess waste instead of using disposable paper towels around the house to dust or wipe up messes. You’ll also save money, and these custom rags add a fun element to your daily cleaning chores, too. Use darker sheets that won’t show stains as easily as lighter sheets, so they last longer.

Eco-friendly cleaning solutions to pair with repurposed rags

Once you’ve made your repurposed rags, keep the sustainability going by using nontoxic, eco-friendly cleaning products. Look for cleaners made from natural ingredients or make your own at home to take it even further. Baking soda and white vinegar make an excellent all-purpose cleaner.

Stonewashed linen sheet set

Final Thoughts on what to do with old sheets

Whether you donate them to charity, make custom cloth napkins, tote bags, rags, or quilts, there are many things you can do with old sheets to keep them out of a landfill. Look for more ideas to discover how you can repurpose sheets or use them to make fun crafts. With a bit of innovation and creativity, you can reduce textile waste. And, when you’re ready for new sheets, visit Or & Zon to discover our eco-friendly collection today.