What you need to know before donating clothes to charity

There are a couple of things to remember before donating your clothes to a charity shop.

Written by spunout


Donating your clothes to charity is a great way to get rid of clothes you don’t wear or no longer fit. It’s also a great way to support a cause that you care about by giving them good quality items that they can sell.

Donating to a charity shop can be straightforward if you have one nearby. Here are the things you need to know before giving your unwanted items to charity.

What can I donate to a charity shop?

You will need to check with your specific charity on what they accept, but items you might be able to donate include

  • Good quality clothing and shoes
  • Bags and accessories
  • Jewellery
  • Books
  • Bric-a-brac like ornaments and decorative items
  • CDs, vinyls, DVDs, videos
  • Musical instruments
  • Homeware: china, kitchenware, pictures
  • Small rugs, linen, curtains, towels
  • Wedding dresses
  • Second hand furniture

Some shops will not accept furniture, electronic goods, toys, books or items that need repair. You will need to check with the charity shop before you drop these items off.

How do I get my clothes to the charity shop?

Some charities will offer a pick up service, but most will have drop-off points or clothing banks  where you can leave the items you want to donate.

What should I do with my clothes before donating them?

Before donating clothing make sure all items are clean, dry and sealed in a bag or container specified by the charity you’re donating to. 

If you have recently worn something you are now donating, wash it before you put it in the donation bag. Remember that this isn’t a place to dump items you no longer want. Clothes need to be in good condition, and making sure everything is clean also helps out the volunteers who sort through the clothes after they’re donated.

Can I donate any clothes to the charity shop?

Make sure everything you are donating is fit for resale, that it is not worn to bits, badly stained or ripped. If clothes are not in good condition, no one will want to buy them, so the charity shop will not be able to sell them. As a result, these kinds of items will probably end up in the bin.

If you have done a clearout and you have items that are not suitable for resale, consider having it repaired, using the fabric, buttons or zips for your own sewing or upcycling project or making it into something else useful like rags for cleaning. You could also recycle the garment with one of the clothes banks or recycling centres in Ireland that accept clothing.

I don’t live close to a charity shop – what can I do?

In most towns and villages there is a charity shop and clothing bank. However, with a clothing bank it can be unclear where the clothes are going. Some clothes banks export clothing for resale overseas. A large percentage of this clothing is not fit for resale and unfortunately ends up in landfill in countries that don’t have the infrastructure to cope with such volumes of waste, creating pollution and illness in the surrounding communities.

For this reason it is always better to donate your unwanted items to a charity that runs second-hand shops in Ireland, this way you will maximise the potential for local reuse.

If you live in a very rural area or don’t have access to a local charity shop, there are a few ways you can still donate clothes. One way is to sell the clothing yourself on websites like eBay, DePop or Etsy and donate what you earn to the charity of your choice. Most charities have a method of donating money online. 

You could also organise a large donation by involving your school, your sports club or youth club. Some charities will pick up large donations but make sure to call the shop or organisation you have in mind to check. You might be able to find a teacher or coach that is willing to help you deliver the donation to your nearest drop off point.

Why should I donate my clothes?

Donating your clothes is a great way to give to a cause that is meaningful to you. There are many charities in Ireland that run second-hand shops like Enable Ireland, Irish Cancer Society, St Vincent de Paul, Oxfam, Barnardos and Age Action. 

Helping the environment

Not only does donating your clothes allow you to give to a good cause, it also keeps textiles out of the bin and gives your unwanted items the chance to have a second life with a second wearer, extending their lifespan and reducing their carbon footprint. 

It is always best to avoid throwing clothing away. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, only 13% of the material in our clothing ends up being recycled, and only 1% is recycled into new clothing. This means most of what you throw out ends up being incinerated or buried in landfill which has a negative impact on the environment. Globally, one garbage truck full of textiles is incinerated or landfilled every second. 

Manufacturing clothing is often a very wasteful process. Buying less, choosing second hand and making sure clothes are used to their maximum potential before going to landfill or being incinerated, can help us minimise the detrimental effect our clothing and textiles are having on our planet. 

Charity shops play a key role in shifting the fashion industry towards a more circular model. They encourage people to buy second hand, and give space to a seasonless, slow fashion model, bypassing the fast changing trends of the linear fast fashion model. They offer the thrill of finding unique items and minimise the waste we produce, all while contributing to a better world. 

Cover image by Cathy Hogan

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