Recycling Your Socks: Getting Rid of Old Pairs, Sustainably

Lizzy Rosenberg - Author

Oct. 12 2023, Updated 12:53 p.m. ET

Six socks on white background
Source: Getty Images

Many of us are guilty of keeping old socks long past their prime — some are laden with holes, others have been single for years, and a handful of them are completely stretched out, though for some reason you chose to keep them around. But really, is it necessary to keep these ancient socks around if they've effectively expired?

Although we don't condone excessive amounts of shopping, sometimes recycling old socks, and buying new ones is 100 percent acceptable, as long as you do so properly.

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Textile waste is a major problem that clogs our landfills, so throwing your socks in the trash really isn't a viable option. With that in mind, though, we've compiled a few different methods of recycling socks, so your old pairs are repurposed for a well-deserved second life. Prepare to cleanse your socks drawer, guilt-free.

Smartwool's Second Cut Project

Person goes through textile waste
Source: Smartwool

Denver, Colo.-based apparel brand Smartwool manages the Second Cut Project, a nationwide sock takeback campaign that will allow its customers to recycle any brand of sock through drop-off bins at participating retailers, or by requesting a recycling bag online. The collected socks will be used to fill dog beds and other products, which the brand will then sell, giving your old pairs a new life while making many pups happy.

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Model in white bra and underwear lays on bed with Subset logo
Source: Subset

You might recognize Subset (once known as Knickey, the company rebranded in 2023) for its sustainable, organic underwear, or even for its famous underwear recycling program that we have covered on multiple occasions. But did you know the brand also accepts socks and tights, along with underwear and bras?

Just request a free shipping label on the website. Fill a box with your socks and other items, put it in the mail, and Subset will gift you $15 off your next purchase.

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Nice Laundry

With every order from Nice Laundry, customers can request a shipping label to send in old pairs of underwear and socks, as part of the brand's partnership with 2ReWear. The company will send you a prepaid shipping label, and all you need to do is send your discarded items in the packaging in which your order came. Just email to get the process started.

2ReWear will then recycle your items into new textiles, or shred them into fibers for home insulation.

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Pick Purple

A mismatched pair of purple heart socks on feet
Source: Getty Images

Pick Purple is a service that will pick up old textiles of any kind — including used socks — from your home, completely for free. Just fill out the form online to schedule a time for someone to come by and pick up your stuff.

The project is put on by a nonprofit called Batya, which is dedicated to supporting Jewish teens in need, with several branches throughout New Jersey, Long Island, Florida, Illinois, and Maryland.

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National sock brand zkano allows customers and mere sock owners alike to send in socks of any brand — and any material — so the textiles can be upcycled into new pairs, with its zkano recycles program. Just send your old pairs to the below address, and they'll handle the recycling process from there.

Emi-G Knitting Attention: zkano Recycles Program 1715 Airport Road Ft Payne, AL 35968.

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Then, zkano will recycle your socks into "shoddy" fibers, which can be used to make carpet padding and more.

This article, originally published on April 14, 2021, has been updated.

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