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what to do with old sheets - image of sheet being used as picnic blanket

15 Things to Do With Your Old Sheets (Besides Throw Them Away)

So you’re ready to retire your worn-out sheets (might we suggest replacing them with these new organic cotton ones), which means you’ll probably be getting rid of the old ones. Sure, you could toss them in the trash, but where’s the fun in that? Instead of ditching them, learn what to do with old sheets so that you can give them a second life. You’ll certainly be doing the environment a solid: The Council for Textile Recycling reports that Americans throw away 21 billion pounds of textiles every year—that’s roughly 5% of all the waste generated in the country.

This time, bypass the garbage can and get crafty. Learn what to do with old sheets with these 15 creative ideas.

1. Make a toga for your next costume party

We know—togas are worn mostly by fraternity and sorority members at college parties. But they make a totally acceptable Halloween costume for those of us who are no longer undergrads. According to historians, the elaborately draped togas worn by well-to-do Roman men were so heavy and hard to move around in that they weren’t very popular. A toga made from an old sheet will be a lot more comfortable. Watch the Smithsonian’s tutorial on how to turn a sheet into a toga.

2. Spread out a picnic

There’s no reason to shell out for a pricey picnic blanket that’s just going to get dirty anyway. When you know what to do with old sheets, you won’t have to spend a dime on a picnic blanket. Take an old sheet to the park on a sunny day and use it instead. Besides, that gives you a lot more room in the basket for as much wine, bread, and cheese as you can carry!

3. Build a fort

You don’t have to be a child to enjoy spending time in a secret hideaway (man caves, we’re looking at you). All you need to build a fort is some old sheets, string, and clothespins—and Christmas lights if you want to get really fancy. Head over to the blog Say Yes to learn how to build a fort in your living room.

4. DIY a dog toy

There’s not much dogs love more than chew toys—and knowing what to do with old sheets means you can create something your pup will love. Cut the sheet into strips, tie a knot at the end to keep them together, braid the strips, tie a knot at the other end, and get to playing. View the full tutorial on instructables.com.

5. Sew pajamas

Earlier this year, hotel chain Westin launched its new initiative, Project Rise: Threadforward, announcing that it would be taking old or damaged hotel sheets and turning them into children’s pajamas, then donating the PJs to charity. While Westin has to first turn the sheets into fibers that are then made into pajamas, you can create your own sleepwear using old sheets in a much less complicated manner. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, see how to turn your old sheets into pajamas on the blog Farmhouse on Boone.

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6. Clean your house

One of the most practical ways to repurpose old sheets is to turn them into rags. Just cut the sheets into squares and use them to wipe up messes instead of wasting an entire roll of paper towels.

7. Design a reusable shopping bag

California and Washington, D.C. are among the places that have either banned plastic bags at checkout counters or implemented a tax on them. Plastic, which isn’t biodegradable, often ends up in landfills or the ocean. It can take hundreds of years for plastic to decompose, and during that process, it releases toxins—which is pretty terrible for the environment and wildlife. That makes reusable shopping bags a must. Use this tutorial on CraftStylish to learn how to take old sheets and turn them into totes. See Kate Sew also has a tutorial on how to make an old pillowcase into a shopping bag.

8. Shield your garden

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean your garden has to suffer. Keep plants protected during the fall and winter months by placing an old sheet over them before the sun goes down each night. That will help keep soil warm during cold spells.

9. Hang curtains

You don’t even need to know how to sew for this one. Twin-size sheets are the perfect size for curtains, and while white sheets are classic, patterned ones will work just as well. Check out this tutorial on how to make no-sew curtains from sheets on The Frugal Homemaker.

10. Create hair accessories

Headbands were one of the most popular hair accessories of the ’90s and ’00s (Blair Waldorf rocked them like a pro on Gossip Girl), and now they’re mounting a comeback. Take inspiration from Etsy seller jerseymaid, who uses vintage sheets to create pretty headbands.

11. Cover your hangers

Give plain white plastic hangers a stylish upgrade by taking old patterned sheets, cutting up the fabric, and wrapping it around the hangers. Get the full tutorial on how to make fabric hanger covers from the blog Corrieberry Pie. (It’s nicer to your clothes too!)

12. Cut up cocktail napkins

In the U.S., people use three napkins at each meal on average. That’s just one reason why close to 30% of all trash in landfills is paper. (You can’t recycle napkins because the food waste and grease on them can’t be removed and could even contaminate the rest of your recyclables.) Switch to cloth napkins to reduce your paper trash. Cloth napkins are a particularly great choice when you’re hosting a party and know that guests will go through a whole lot of napkins while they juggle hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Find out how to make vintage sheet cocktail napkins on the blog Design Sponge.

13. Wrap gifts

Americans spend a whopping $3.2 billion (yes, billion) on wrapping paper every year. Save your cash and turn your old sheets into wrapping paper that your guests can then reuse themselves. (The gift that keeps on giving!) Here’s how to make reusable fabric gift wrap, courtesy of the blog Sustainable Baby Steps.

14. Switch up your headboard

Keep your old sheets in your bedroom, just not on your mattress. Give your headboard a new look by covering it with a print, floral, or stripes: You decide! Happiness Is Homemade shows you how to DIY a headboard with old sheets.

15. Escape a building

This escape method is a tale as old as time: Tie sheets together to make a rope, then scale down the building to get away. In 1994, eight inmates used a rope made of sheets to climb out of their second-floor cell. More recently, in 2012, two Chicago prisoners escaped jail by tying bedsheets together and sliding down down 17 stories. And in 2015, two inmates in Louisville climbed down four stories using a sheet rope. (They were all eventually caught.) While we wouldn’t recommend attempting a prison break (we’ll leave that to TV characters), this method might come in handy if you ever have to leave a burning building—or you want to sneak out of your parents’ house in the middle of the night.

Christina Heiser is the content manager at Saatva. She has held previous positions at Everyday Health, Women's Health, and L'Oréal. When she's not working, you can find Christina checking out the latest boutique fitness classes in New York City, cheering on her college basketball team (go Red Storm!), and trying new beauty and wellness trends.