Every year, millions of tons of textile waste end up in landfills. In fact, the textile industry is the third most polluting industry in the world. While many companies are doing their part to offset the damage (recycling water, less toxic dyes), there are things makers can do to continue helping at home.

Garments that we make for ourselves are far more sustainable than store bought clothing. They fit better and are worn longer and more often than fast fashion counterparts. But even our best made pieces of clothing can reach the end of their usable life. When that happens the item can be cut into rags or repurposed for another use, but did you know you can compost fabric? For makers that means tiny scraps that are too small to use, cotton thread, leftover linen and pieces of wool yarn can be buried or composted.

It’s important to know what you can and cannot compost. You can only compost natural fibers like cotton, silk, hemp, linen and wool. Over the course of a week to a year, they will biodegrade. Some natural fabrics, like leather and wool, take longer but they will decompose.

You cannot compost fabrics like polyester and spandex. Fabrics from synthetic materials take an average of 200 years to break down.

Before you compost there are a few items to keep in mind:

1. To compost more efficiently, check the label to make sure you are composting all natural fibers.
2. Cut the fabric into small pieces. It will break down faster. Be sure to remove any buttons, zippers, or tags as they won’t break down.
3. If you have a compost pile vs burying scraps, be sure to add worms to help speed up the composting process.
4. Some dyes can be toxic so cut around any heavily printed areas, like a t-shirt logo or graphic, and don’t put those in the compost pile. Additionally, if the fabric is heavily printed you should find another way to repurpose or recycle it. Fabric recycling sites are becoming more readily available and if there isn’t one nearby you can opt to use your scraps as filling for pillows or other stuffed items you make.

We’d love to hear if you’ve composted any fabric. Be sure to let us know!

Composting Fabric

4 thoughts on “Composting Fabric

  • April 11, 2021 at 10:30 am

    Thanks for these tips! I’ve also found that some of the birds and small animals nesting in spring appreciate pieces of undyed or only-plant-dyed wool, rovings, yarn ends, fabric scraps, etc

  • April 11, 2021 at 1:35 pm

    I’d love to know more about why linen can’t be composted.

    • April 11, 2021 at 1:58 pm

      Hi Mary! I’m so glad you asked! There was a mistake (now corrected) in the article. You can compost linen as long as there isn’t anything on it that’s not compostable.


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