In 2018, the EPA reported that 2.5 million tons of textiles were recycled. However, 11.3 million tons of textiles were added to landfills (source).
If you are uncertain about what to do with your old socks, don’t throw them out. Recycle or donate them instead.
Here’s how you can do that:
1. City and State Textile Recycling Programs
Given the amount of waste that textiles produce, many cities and states offer textile recycling programs. For example, when searching in New York, we were able to find several drop-off centers to recycle old socks.
When searching online for textile recycling centers, try entering a few of these into your preferred search engine to find the relevant information:
- Textile recycling [city or state]
- Clothing disposal [city or state]
- Sock donation [city or state]
2. Donation Centers
Aside from city or state programs, donation centers might be a place where you can bring your old or gently used socks. However, not all donation centers will accept old socks.
When looking at the donation policy by Goodwill, we found that they vary from one city to another. For example, the Goodwill in Alberta, Canada, does accept gently used or brand new socks:
Whereas the Goodwill in the New York and New Jersey area does not accept socks, even if they are gently used:
On the other hand, the Salvation Army in the Carolinas accepts clothing of any type:
3. Homeless Shelters
Socks are the most needed yet least donated article of clothing for homeless shelters. Call up a local homeless shelter and see if they are currently accepting socks and verify if there are any restrictions regarding the socks’ condition (i.e., holes, worn, gently used, or new only).
Depending on the brand of your socks, you may be able to return them and get a fresh new pair. Brands such as Feetures, Bombas, and Darn Tough offer lifetime guarantees for their socks.
If they are showing intense signs of wear, you can send them back and get a new pair or, in some instances, a 100% refund.
Some brands, such as Nice Laundry, provide you with a prepaid recycling shipping label to send back your old and worn-out socks.
5. Compost (100% Natural Fibers Only)
If your socks are made from 100% merino wool, cotton, alpaca, or another natural fiber, then you can compost them as they’ll degrade rather quickly. However, since many socks contain artificial fibers such as nylon, spandex, etc., be sure only to do this if you are confident of their composition.
6. Sites & Stores Accepting Old Socks
Stores such as H&M allow you to donate textiles to any one of their 500+ stores across the country. H&M accepts all brands and any condition.
During our research, we also came across a small Alabama boutique, Zkano, that accepts old socks of any condition and any brand as well.
7. Commercial Recycling
Commercial recycling programs such as TerraCycle make various zero waste boxes. These donation bins are for specific items depending on their raw material, including fabrics and clothing, rigid plastic, art supplies, and more.
Zero Waste Boxes are primarily for commercial use. However, if you work at a large organization, consider sharing this with the appropriate person as it allows your colleagues an opportunity to also dispose of some of their used textiles responsibly.
8. Start A Sock Drive
If you feel ambitious and want to help your community, consider getting involved with Knock Knock Give a Sock. This reputable non-profit organization gives you everything you need to begin collecting used socks from your school or office. They’ll even help you donate all the collected socks to a local homeless shelter – it’s a great way to give back to your community.