When to Donate Old Clothing to the Red Cross

It may not come as a surprise to hear that the textiles industry is one of the largest in the entire world, spanning table cloths and other linens, bed sheets, pillow cases, and of course, clothing as well. After all, everyone needs something to wear, and this may range from everyday shirts and pants or coats all the way to formal wear such as suits and gowns to military or work uniforms. Today, the United States is one of the world’s largest producers of clothing, and also one of the biggest markets for clothes of all kinds. Today, the average American buys twice as many clothes as they did just 20 years ago, and today’s American woman owns one outfit for every day of the month (compared to just nine in 1930). The textiles industry is one of several that has recyclable and reusable materials, and a person may make clothes donations at any time of year, such as to Red Cross. Red Cross clothes donations are always welcome, and these Red Cross clothes donations usually go straight to the needy or to military families. Used clothing donations may even make a donor eligible for a tax rebate form based on the value of the donated items.

With Americans having so much, there has been a trend towards downsizing.  Everything from tiny homes to Marie Kondo’s organization and cleaning techniques have appeared as a reaction to the staggering volume of stuff we all have. An important aspect of this is not waste, but charity. We are learning to remove the items that no longer bring us joy and pass them on to people who could really need them. If you are currently cleaning out your closets, you may be curious about how to donate clothes to the Red Cross. 

Rates of Charity and Waste

Many Americans have a charitable spirit and contribute to a local Red Cross clothes donation site, but the numbers suggest that clothes donations could be much higher. Right now, among all industries that involve recyclable materials, textiles ranks low. Steel, paper, and plastic are vigorously recycled and reclaimed, but textiles lag behind on this reclamation effort. In fact, as of the 2010s, only about 15% of all used and unwanted garments are recycled or donated (such as a Red Cross clothes donation), and 85% of old clothes end up being thrown away instead. The average American generates some 70 pounds of textile waste every single year, and this includes old clothing, shoes, bed sheets, and table linens. All of these old materials are going straight to landfills, where they don’t do any good for anyone at all. Some old clothes are recycled and shredded to make industrial rags or furniture stuffing, but some argue that these old clothes are better off as donation for the needy.

The news isn’t all bad, however. Even if the textiles reclamation rate is relatively low, this still translates into millions of old garments going to the needy every year. Many old garments are also being shipped internationally to needy communities in Latin America, rural Africa, and some southern Asian communities as well. Around 70% of Americans take part in charity to some capacity or other, and boosting clothing donations typically means stoking this existing spirit of charity to new heights. A person may feel good when they donate old clothes, and altruism is certainly an American value. During the winter holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah, this charitable spirit is especially high. A typical American family can easily take part in this charitable effort any time of year, and they don’t have to wait until Christmas or Hanukkah to donate old clothing and linens (or even kitchen goods). Donations centers such as Red Cross are open every day of the year, often for 24 hours a day.

Deciding to Donate

Many American households probably have more clothing and linens than they need, and rather throw away the excess, they are urged to make Red Cross clothes donations instead. This can be a simple and effective process that has the benefit of clearing out new space in the wardrobe. All clothing can be gathered from across the home and gathered into a large pile on the floor, from hats and shoes to shirts, gowns, and coats. A scattered inventory is difficult to track, but this large pile creates a convenient inventory. Now, everyone may sort through all this and choose what to keep, and what to donate. Clothes to be donated may be worn out, out of fashion, or redundant. Such clothes and shoes can be packaged into boxes or bags, and then taken to a nearby Red Cross donations center and handed over to the volunteers there. A donor may look up the site’s address if need be.

The question of how to donate clothes to the Red Cross is, therefore, an easy one.  First you need to identify the items that are no longer of use to you. Second, you must make sure the clothing is still usable. Clothes with large stains and tears will not help the needy. Finally, you need to put it all together in bags and drop them off at your local donation center. It is such a straightforward process that the question isn’t how to donate clothes to the Red Cross, it’s when will you be donating.

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