How to Compost Old Cotton T-Shirts




About: Hi, we're Dara and Nash. Industrial designers, tinkers, and mayhem builders. Follow our travels.

The average american throws away more than 64 garments a year into a landfill. With this quick, easy tutorial, I'll show you how to turn stained and ripped natural fabric clothing that can't be donated into beautiful compost for your plants and yard in a few minutes with a little time and a pair of scissors. This is a great way to treat both yourself and the environment great! Happy gardening.

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Step 1: Ingredients

This quick 6 step tutorial will teach you how to turn cotton and natural fabric clothing with rips and stains in it into beautiful compost for your garden to hold in moisture and make your plants grow. To start you will need:

1) Old or ripped clothing you want to turn into fabric scraps

2) Scissors

3) Potting Soil Mix

4) Garden Container

5) Pants You Want to Plant

6) Water

Step 2: Cut Up the T-Shirt Into Strips

Take your t-shirt or pants and remove any metal or non-natural fabric parts like buttons, zippers, or snaps that are not biodegradable. Cut the remaining garment into long strips about 2 inches wide.

Step 3: Stack the Strips and Cut Them Into Small Squares

Stack the strips you just cut into 4-8 thick and cut them into smaller 2-3 inch squares. This does not need to be an exact science. Just have fun cutting. The cotton will help retain moisture in the soil keep the plants from drying out.

Step 4: Mix the Squares With Potting Soil

Collect your small squares of natural fabric and mix them with your potting soil, 2 parts soil to 1 part fabric. I can generally get several women's t-shirts in a larger container this size pictured. But you can just save up the scraps like compost that doesn't smell and add it to your garden when your bucket gets full like we do.

Step 5: Add Plants

After mixing the fabric and soil, add your plants. I then normally add a layer of potting soil on top so I can press the plants firmly into the soil to make sure the plants have good contact with the surrounding mixture.

Step 6: Add Water

The last step is to add water to help your plants grow. That's it. Now you too can turn old fabric into beautiful flowers for your garden. Happy fall.

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    8 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Hello !

    Great idea ! But I was wondering about the chemicals that may be within the fabric of the clothes. I don't know much about it, but maybe the ink can be somehow toxic for the soil. Do you know more on the subject ?

    You could also put the fabric into a composter and it may be eaten faster by the soil fauna.

    Thank you again for the idea !

    2 replies
    Haus PageChupaFlo

    Reply 3 years ago

    Hi, I haven't had problems, but we use natural dyes and denim (indigo) which is good for the environment. Sunlight generally breaks down all types of dye within a few months naturally so you can put them in your compost pile if you are concerned.

    ChupaFloHaus Page

    Reply 3 years ago

    Thank you for your answer ! I'll look more into it if I have time ^^

    Good article. Another twist on this idea.. I have used strips of t-shirts for plant ties in the garden for years. When I do the garden cleanup, it all goes into the compost together and breaks down naturally.

    2 replies

    3 years ago

    I wonder how long before the fabric disintegrates.

    1 reply
    Haus PageTomV4

    Reply 3 years ago

    Hey TomV4, I believe it depends on the fabric. Some natural fabrics take longer than others. Cotton is normally within a few months to a year around here in the South. Silk and wool also work pretty well. I got the idea from a larger factory I worked for. They used their leftover scraps from the fabric they cut to grow a vegtable garden out back for employees. It helped a lot with the hard clay soil we have around where we live. Works on a smaller scale too for home growers.