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Green Kitchen: Repurpose old t-shirts, and save trees!

green kitchen cloths

Probably understandable for someone who used to work in fashion, I’m a bit of a clotheshorse. My boyfriend, even more so. Which is all fine and well, except that our tiny, er, bijoux London flat doesn’t have a lot of storage. Two small closets in the bedroom is it, and you try fitting luggage, a vacuum cleaner, laundry basket, multiple outdoor coats, boots and regular everyday clothes in there without going crazy.

Luckily, I am not one who likes to hang on to “stuff”, and about twice a year, I ruthlessly go through all my clothes, shoes and accessories, and purge as necessary. Anything that is worn out, doesn’t fit or flatter, or that I haven’t worn in six months goes. Items still in good condition go the charity shop around the corner, and everything else gets recycled or tossed. (I try to avoid throwing textiles in the trash, but come on, taking your old bras to the recycling centre is just plain weird.) 

Last weekend I felt in need of some cathartic cleansing, and decided to perform one of my twice-yearly clearouts. I went to work on my own stuff first, but Andrew did not escape my efforts, either. The man has as many clothes as I do, and frankly I was becoming weary of the growing pile of folded denim on his “chair of doom”, as I lovingly refer to his clothing-storage system. (We are opposites in this respect; he likes his clothes where he can see them, while I like them hidden away behind pristine closet doors.) Cut to me laying out his fourteen pairs of jeans on the bed, calling him into the bedroom and requesting an edit. Seriously, it is not until you are staring at approximately £1000 worth of denim that you realize just how out of hand this kind of thing can get. In the end, I think there were two pairs that “might” be ok to ged rid of, but he’d have to try them on to see. Sigh. 

Thankfully, we are both far more ruthless when it comes to tshirts. They are cheaper, wear out quickly, and are far less likely to become the object of emotional attachment. At the end of the day, I was left with more tshirts in the “toss” pile than anything else. Rather than recycle them all, I saw an opportunity to put some of them (the pretty ones) to good use.

I work hard to make my kitchen as “green” a place as possible. The most obvious example of this is keeping it a (mainly) meat-free zone, but I also avoid buying products with unnecessary packaging, and reuse glass and plastic containers for food storage. My weakness, however is paper towels, which I’m well aware doesn’t do much for my eco credentials (whether I buy the recycled kind or not). They’re just so convenient, aren’t they? Right there when you need them, for any little spill. However, feeling quite aware of this shortcoming lately, I’ve tried using substitutes where possible- reusable sponges for cleaning the counters, tea towels for my hands, etc. When I saw this pile of old tshirts at my disposal, I immediately thought of making some absorbent and attractive kitchen cloths, perfect for emergency spills and quick cleaning jobs. 

So, I got out my trusty pinking shears and set to work cutting large rectangles out of the front and backs of the shirts. A quick roll-up of each new “towel”, an artful arrangement in the bowl of our vintage kitchen scale, and there you have it. Repurposed and reusable kitchen cloths, ready for anything that might be required of them. Now, if I can just remember to use them. 

tshirt cloths


  1. Ali says:

    I was already glad to have discovered your blog, and then I found this entry. It feels like my biography. I have the exact same problem with storage space. One wardrobe. all my clothes, all his clothes, linen, luggage, guitars, motorbike helmet and jackets, shoes… there is just no room. I love the recycling of the t-shirts, well done!!
    I love your blog :)

  2. Ele says:

    Hi Ali, thanks so much! I’ve just been over to your blog and I love it too- looking forward to perusing it a bit later today;)

    Yes, doesn’t limited storage suck? I suppose it keeps us from buying so much that we become those “drowning in their things” types, though. I love our flat but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to more closets in our future!

  3. [...] houses my scale, matches and other odds and ends, and the vintage kitchen scale is perfect for my t-shirt towels, which I use for spills and [...]