How can I reuse or recycle old jeans?

A pocket on a pair of denim jeansI’ve got a pair of jeans that I’ve had for years.

They were one of those ‘best friend’ pairs of jeans that I lived in for a couple of years until they started to give away at critical areas (read: the bum and that vague, important area).

Then they got relegated to decorating pants since I wasn’t bothered about those helping me decorate see my derriere and so are now both holey and covered in paint splashes – a few years ago that would have made them the height of fashion I’m sure, but not now.

As wearable jeans, they’re not really wearable any more but the denim in the non-holed places is still good and inside out, there are only a few paint stains.

So what can do I do with them now? How can I reuse the good bits of denim?

Best Suggestions

  • Reduce: Buy the best quality jeans you can afford – they won’t wear out as quickly as cheap ones. Learn how to patch holes and tears so prolong their lives even further, or if the tears are in the legs, cut them down into shorts. 100% cotton jeans can also be dyed quite easily if you fancy a change.
  • Reuse: The denim can be repurposed for lots of crafty uses – the legs can be turned into aprons, the bum into bags (with readymade pockets!). See the links suggested below for more suggestions.
  • Recycle: Add them to the rag bin at your local household waste site – if they’re still wearable, they’ll be redistribute abroad and if they’re not, the cotton will be reclaimed for industrial use. A company in the UK also turns old jeans into sandals.
  • See the comments below for more suggestions and ideas

(Photo by nicholasc)

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44 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle old jeans?”

  1. Zoe says:

    If you know how to sew, you can make a quick jacket for a small dog/large cat. Cut the leg to the length of the pet, from the neck up to its tailbone. Add elastic to the narrow end of the jean (that would be the hole for the head). Now cut 2 holes on the bottom, (you can use another sweater for measurements) for the front legs, and cut the bottom part in a U shape. By having a drawer full of these, my pooch can put on a fresh sweater every day during the winter!

  2. dancing girl says:

    I know this won’t solve your problem with the truly derelict jeans but to revive faded jeans……

    I have just done this and was quite pleased with the result. The fabric dye companies in the last few years have put out truly colour fast dyes. Only in black and navy blue in my part of the world. You also need a kilo of salt. The great part is that you can use your washing machine to do the job.

    My jeans were looking rather rural and I wanted a darker pair for a more formal look. The result was quite good except the leather patch on the back hip was coloured as well. The stitching and label came out fine in the original colours.

    Wash them really well in hot water, several times so they are extra clean.
    This should result in the dye taking in an even fashion with no darker/lighter areas.

    I used the mid level amount of water and this resulted in a navy blue. If you wanted a darker effect I would use the lowest water setting. Just use a longer agitation cycle for even dyeing.

    I was quite pleased with the result and not concerned about the leather patch on the back as I usually wear a shirt over the top of the jeans. So for about NZ$15.00 almost brand new jeans!!

    Always wash your dyed jeans seperately just in case the dye isn’t as colourfast as the company claims it to be.

    • “I was quite pleased with the result and not concerned about the leather patch on the back as I usually wear a shirt over the top of the jeans. So for about NZ$15.00 almost brand new jeans!! ”

      So cheap, cool ideas mate. I think we can get as much to recycle more.

  3. According to this website;,
    there are lots of things you can do with denim jeans.

  4. Thad says:

    My favorite quilt that my grandmother made for me was made out of old jeans. So, if you have a whole pile of them laying around, try to make a quilt top out of them.


  5. Literbugworks says:

    SAw a fantastic sofa cover made from old jens

  6. Literbugworks says:

    SAw a fantastic sofa cover made from old jeans

  7. trish says:

    sew up the legs below the butt, use the what you cut off to make a strap, make a purse, you might need a liner in it.

    cut off the waist and legs, make a pillow. make long round pillows out of the legs..

    use them as creepy halloween props.

  8. Vikki says:

    I have collected old jeans, striped out the side seams and created blocks for quilt tops. I even on one of my quilt tops, use patches with the pockets left in place. I lined the quilt top with polar fleece. This is the warmest possible blanket even in sub-zero temps!

    A couple of tricks to make this go easier:

    strip out all the usable fabric — cut this into consistent block sizes allowing for a 1/2 to 3/4 inch seam allowance.

    sew block sets together — alternating denim colors — be sure to only use fabric that is sturdy!!

    sew all the blocks into strips

    sew the strips to each other paying attention to alternate the seams so that you are not sewing through 6 layers of fabric!!

    using a commercial / industrial sewing machine is extremely helpful here and having a friend assist you that knows how to sew is an added bonus due to the bulk

    when your quilt top is complete, lay the “top” facing down on a large area with room to walk around the top.

    prepare your polar fleece by “truing it up” so that it fits with in your quilt top with a 2 1/2 inch boarder of the quilt top all around the fleece.

    fold fleece in half top to bottom, then fold again — set aside.


    Spray with quilt basting spray — working quickly lay the fleece at the bottom of the quilt top with in the measured boarder. Quickly work out any “bubbles” or folds.

    with your helper on one side of the quilt, and you and the other, slowly unroll the fleece, working out the folds / “bubbles” until the fleece in in the center of the quilt back.

    work out any adjustments needed NOW before the glue sets up!!

    double fold the edges creating a hem that encases the fleece. Clip with binder clips to hold or something similar.

    take to your heavest sewing machine and sew the hem in place.

    I like to sew “x”s in the corners for stability.

    quilt the “top” in rows.

    Wash your new “quilt” in a heavy commercial washing machine to remove the glue and ENJOY your new creation.

    I have made and used several of these quilts over the years. They are a family favorite!! They are extremely durable and used for all manner of activity. We keep one in the car for emergencies and outings.

    Enjoy!! :-D

  9. louisa's mum says:

    watching the television news today. they featured a factory in Kendal in the Lake District that make sandals out of old pairs of jeans. if you want to know more,

  10. djlsr says:

    i bought a pair of expensive dark navy blue denim jeans,and the colour has ran and faded afta 4mnths??…..does anyone know if i could dye them black?. i have been told dying denim wont work and they will look crap? can anyone confirm plz?

    • louisa says:

      My mum used to dye my black jeans quite a lot when I lived at home. Because the denim was 100% cotton, it worked fine. I believe she used a washing machine dye but I’m not sure because I was 14 at the time and not really interested in the details :)

      I’d be a lot more confident dying something like that black than back to blue since I suspect it’s easier to get a deep, dark black consistent and not patchy.

      And for future reference, washing jeans inside out is supposed to help hold the colour for longer.

      Good luck if you decide to try it… :)


  11. djlsr says:

    thx 4 the reply….i want 2 dye the navy ones black??? will the colour b ok? thx

    • louisa says:

      I’ve just asked my mum and she said she used Dylon Washing Machine Dye. She said she thinks blue-to-black will probably work but be aware that it’s messy and uses a lot of salt (which I think is a fix or something).

      Check the instructions on a pack of dye – they might be able to give you information about whether it’ll only work on 100% cotton denim or whether it’ll work on denim with a bit of stretchy stuff (etc) in it too. Also, if the thread used for stitching isn’t cotton, that might not accept the dye – so be prepared that it might stand out. Or conversely, if it is cotton, then the stitching will just be dyed the same colour as the denim, losing detail. It’s hard to predict unless you know the make-up for the jeans.

      Obviously we can’t guarantee anything though so please don’t sue us if anything goes wrong – but if you’re not going to wear then as faded navy, you’ve not got much to lose by giving it a go :)


  12. djlsr says:

    thx alot found your comments a gr8 help..

  13. lizzie says:

    you can make a pair of jeans for a little boy using the legs mostly the sided can use a rib in the waist ,if you know sew it s pretty easy.

  14. Hannnn says:

    If you cut of the legs and then sew up the bottom you can make a nice denim bag with pockets already in it. You could even use parts of the legs to make the strap.

  15. Sara says:

    I’ve been making pet toys, a yoga bag, and other things out of old jeans. Now I’m working on a quilt. See my blog at — Sara

  16. nancy says:

    old worn cast-off jeans have many lives, and are one of the most flexible and easist materials to re-make into new hip fashions. check out my blog: for free diy projects or my new book – “denim revolution” for a pile of super hip ideas and sewing fun for beginners to experienced sewers.

  17. blah says:

    Dress a scarecrow. It will help keep birds away.

  18. alyssa says:

    i make some really neat-o artwork with my old jeans i cut them up into shapes and fry them you can even make nifty cards if your into scrap-booking these fun shapes can save $ and the environment

  19. Lillie Mann says:

    My family and I make denim aprons out of used denim jeans. There are other items that we make out of the jeans.

  20. Lillie Mann says:

  21. Shorty says:

    When my jeans get too short for me, I cut the stitches off the hem. It adds an inch or two and makes a funky dye pattern at the bottom. When I get a hole in the knee, I cut both legs from the knee down, roll up the hem, and if it doesn’t stay, stitch along the side. I used to have this beautiful pair of jeans, they were my favorites, I would never ever get rid of them, so I did these two, but alas, I could do nothing for the waistline. Soooo, I cut horizontally right above the crotch, turned them inside out, stitched that closed, put them right side out, and made a strap out of more jeans for the purse. Mind you, this is coming from someone who has sewn their own hand to their work. [shudders]

  22. Olia says:

    Spread them in the attic for insulation.

  23. Kathy says:

    I read in a magazine several years ago where a mother took all the old jeans her boys wore and cut them into large squares, some with back pockets. Then she sewed them together to make a shower curtain for their bathroom. The ones with pockets were labeled with their names by either embroidery or fabric paints in which to store their favorite shampoo, gel, deoderants, etc., saving counter and shelf space.

  24. Check out the work of Liverpool designer Sara Li-Chou Han

  25. Hiya!

    Have you heard of professor Mohammad Taherzadeh?
    He is a brilliant scientist at University of Boras, Sweden, who has come up with a way to recycle jeans and turn in into ethanol fuel, using an eco friendly biological process.
    Check him out :)

  26. roger says:

    you can make a remote control basket for the side of your couch with them. remove the legs, sew up the holes in the waisty bit. thread a wire coat hanger through the belt straps to keep it open. re attatch the legs to the top op the waist band. place the bottom of the legs under the cusions and over the armrest and your basket should hang. pop all your games controllers and remotes in there. i am rubbish at sewing so therte is probably a better method out there.

  27. Marlene Ansley says:

    I made a pillow out of some of my old jeans!

  28. Blue to Black dye can work great, its rarely as dark as OEM clothing though (but looks great). Its a good way to revitalize old denim.

  29. Love reading all the creative and thoughtful ideas that keep popping up! It is so exciting.

    Check out for lots and lots of links, thoughts, photos and tutorials of ways to creatively make your old jeans “new”.

    Also my DIY book, Denim Revolution is on sale, (link on this blog) for a limited time for $9.95.

  30. Tiptheplanet says:

    Just take out all the stitches and you have a huge piece of textile. You can turn it into smaller pieces of clothing. Remember that jeans gets more comfortable with time. So you’ll turn it into comfortable clothing.

  31. Vivayne says:

    I just did this to my daughters pants, cut off the legs & turn into a skirt. Perfect for pants with holey knees or that are high waters. Easy for even a novice sewer!

  32. Kim says:

    Making a denim apron out of old jeans is one of the easiest projects.

  33. Google clothes bank, i have literally today found about them. I weighed in 3 big bags and got £15. They pay 60p per kilo and ensure the clothing and shoes go to a good home for reuse!

  34. Michal Diane Cottrill says:

    I made aprons out of old jeans and sold them at a local craft, etc. store. They are easy to make. The pockets, front and even the back ones, come in handy if you use them for gardening and for barbecuing.

  35. One way to recycle the old jeans is to consider donating them to a local non-profit. If you would like to make some money from them, then possibly look to sell them on Ebay or to a country (like Japan) that pays a premium for name brand jeans.

  36. Eddy Lim says:

    Getting cheap denim jeans for recycling is a good idea. We have a lot of this in Singapore. But a lot of people dont actually do the craft and those jeans ended up in Cambodia, Philippines, Thailand, INdonesia, and Malaysia.


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