What to Do With Old Bras: 12 Ways You Can Make a Difference
To many women, bras are just another part of daily life. The support, comfort and confidence they provide isn’t always top-of-mind and like most other basic necessities it’s easy to take bras for granted. Deciding what to do with old bras might seem a bit trivial to women who have never dealt with clothing insecurity, but the truth is that they can make a huge difference.
For the 216,000 homeless women in the U.S. and the millions of others around the world, bras are more of a luxury than a basic necessity. This October, we encourage you to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month in a meaningful way by donating unused or old bras to support women in need.
Read on to learn more about how you can make a difference with your used bras.
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What to Do With Old Bras
The thought of giving away or finding another use for your used underwear might feel a bit odd at first. After all, bras and underwear are such intimate articles of clothing. That said, it’s important to remember that repurposing used bras can make a huge difference in the lives of those in need.
You have several options when deciding what to do with old bras. First and foremost, you can donate to an organization that will either distribute or recycle your bras for you. You could also upcycle your bras yourself, using the fabric to make something else. If your bra isn’t too used but you aren’t a fan of the style or fit, you might even consider swapping your bras with friends or members of online communities.
We’ll dive deeper into all of these options and provide you with the resources you need to start making an impact today.
Why Donate Bras? 10 Statistics to Inspire Bra Recycling
To shed some light on the gravity of global clothing insecurity as well as textile waste, we’ve collected some data surrounding these topics.
Environmental Impact of Clothing Waste
Unused clothing can contribute to textile waste, which the following statistics make clear:
- While 95% of textiles can be recycled, only 15% get recycled or donated. (Center for Eco Technology)
- The amount of clothing Americans toss annually nearly doubled between 2000 and 2018 from 9.5 million to 17 million tons. (EPA)
- Textiles accounted for over 5.8% of all municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2018, totaling more than glass. (EPA)
- A 2016 survey carried out by Rigby & Peller found that approximately 33% of women who bought bras that ended up not fitting them properly threw them away almost immediately after purchase. (Brarista)
- Most recycled polyester currently used by large fashion brands is made from bottles rather than old clothing. (BBC)
The Need for Bra Donations
To better understand the need for essential articles of clothing, we’ve collected some statistics surrounding women in need in the U.S.
- There are 216,000 homeless girls and women in the U.S. and millions more around the world. (I Support the Girls)
- Women were 35% more likely to live in poverty than men in 2019. (National Women’s Law Center)
- Nearly one in nine women lived in poverty in 2019, with one in 20 women living in extreme poverty (below 50% of the poverty line). (National Women’s Law Center)
- Affordable child care has lagged far behind women’s workforce participation, so many of the 11.5 million single mothers in America either can’t afford to work or spend nearly all they earn caring for their children. (The Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund)
- 80% of women do not wear a correctly fitting bra. (The Bra Recyclers)
Where to Donate Used Bras
It’s common knowledge that you can donate new bras, but can you donate bras that have been used? Absolutely!
There are several organizations that take gently used bras and use them for good, whether that be by recycling them or donating them to people in need. Let’s take a look at six places you can donate your used bras today.
1. I Support the Girls
I Support the Girls collects and efficiently distributes essential items such as menstrual hygiene products, new and slightly used bras and underwear for people experiencing homelessness all over the world.
The organization partners with homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, LGBTQ+ agencies, foster care agencies and others. It is motivated by the conviction that every woman should have the means to maintain her personal health and dignity.
“Through an international network of Affiliates, I Support the Girls collects and distributes essential items, including bras, underwear, and menstrual hygiene products, allowing women experiencing homelessness, impoverishment, or distress to stand tall with dignity.”
Contact Information & Mailing Addresses
Phone number: (240) 816-0570
If shipping products via USPS, address to:
I Support the Girls
Attn: Dana Marlowe
P.O. Box 2736
Wheaton, Maryland 20915
If shipping products via UPS or FedEx, address to:
I Support the Girls
Attn: Dana Marlowe
11431 Amherst Avenue #2736
Wheaton, Maryland 20915
I Support the Girls currently has drop-off locations in 31 states and four countries outside the U.S. To check if there is a dropoff location near you, explore their location page.
2. Free the Girls
Free the Girls equips women who have been rescued from sex trafficking to achieve financial freedom by offering them the opportunity to sell slightly used bras to their communities. The organization collaborates with services all around the world that are working to end sex trafficking and collects bra donations to fulfill its mission.
Whether you plan to drop off or ship bras, Free the Girls asks that you fill out this form ahead of time.
Contact Information & Mailing Address
Phone number: (720) 383-4384
email@example.com (general inquiries)
firstname.lastname@example.org (bra drop-off inquiries)
Free the Girls
1552 Pioneer Trail
Chesterton, IN 46304
Free the Girls currently has drop-off locations in every state except Montana and North Dakota, and three countries outside the U.S. To check if there is a dropoff location near you, explore their location page.
3. The Bra Recyclers (Bra Recycling)
If the environmental statistics above reveal anything, it’s that too many textiles end up in landfills. The Bra Recyclers is a clothing recycling company dedicated to extending the lifespan of clothing items (such as bras) and cutting down on textile waste.
The Bra Recyclers send usable bras to its partners to distribute to women in need and recycle bras they receive that are no longer usable. This is a great option if you’re unsure whether a bra is usable, as the organization will find a use for it regardless.
Before you send or drop off bras, The Bra Recyclers ask that you fill out this form ahead of time.
“We provide a simple and scalable process for retailers and consumers to extend the life cycle of pre-loved and new bras, potentially reducing the water, carbon, and waste footprint. In partnership with Bra Recycling Ambassadors around the world, the social impact of these actions has resulted in the donation of over 4 million bras to over 100 nonprofits, supporting women and girls escaping domestic violence, human trafficking, or who just need a bra to go to school or play sports.”
Contact Information & Mailing Addresses
Phone number: (480) 988-2283
The Bra Recyclers
4904 S. Power Rd, Ste 103-441
Mesa, AZ 85212
The Bra Recyclers currently partners with companies around the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. To check if there is a drop-off location near you, use the location finder.
4. Donate to Women’s Shelter
If you want to support women in your local community, you can locate a women’s homeless or domestic violence shelter near you and check to see whether they accept bra donations. Chances are, they will be more than happy to take gently used bras.
Find local homeless shelters: https://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/
Find local domestic violence shelters: https://www.domesticshelters.org/help#?page=1
5. Donate to Local Schools
Where there’s a bra, there’s a young girl who could use it. A quick internet search should show all of the schools in your area – try calling their front offices and asking if they take bra donations for their students. Many public schools also regularly hold clothing drives, especially during the holidays.
Find local schools: https://nces.ed.gov/globallocator/
6. Be a Dear and Donate a Brassiere (San Jose Women’s Club)
Be a Dear and Donate a Brassiere is a group based in San Jose, California that collects bras and underwear and distributes them to homeless and at-risk women, primarily in the Bay Area.
There are numerous women (especially women experiencing homelessness) who do not have a correctly fitting bra which, aside from discomfort, can pose health issues. This group actively works to provide women with bras that fit well.
Contact Information & Mailing Addresses
Phone number: (650) 862-1375
Be a Dear and Donate a Brassiere
C/O Eileen Hunter
568 N. 9th Street
San Jose, CA 95112
Be a Dear and Donate a Brassiere currently exclusively has drop-off locations in California, in San Jose, Los Altos, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Oakland, Palo Alto and San Francisco. To check if there is a dropoff location near you, explore their donation page.
Additional Ways to Use Used Bras
If your bra isn’t in good enough condition to donate or you’re simply looking for other creative ways to repurpose your used bras without tossing them, we’ve compiled a few more ideas that might come in handy.
1. Upcycle Used Bras and Underwear
If you have a creative side, you’ll jump at the prospect of turning your old bras into a new project. Here are a few ideas to consider as you brainstorm upcycling possibilities:
- Stitch old bra cups onto another top. If you have a swimsuit, dress or other top that doesn’t have much support, you can stitch on your old bra cups for extra comfort and support.
- Make a purse out of your old bra. Using some scissors and hot glue, you can even transform your bra into a small purse for outings. Find a detailed walkthrough of how to do this on YouTube.
- Use your bra padding for shoe inserts. Simply remove the padding from an old bra and put it into a pair of uncomfortable or poorly fitting shoes.
- Make art out of your bra. If you love crafting, consider using your old bra to make a meaningful art project.
2. Compost Used Bras
If your bras are made of natural fibers such as cotton, silk and wool, they can be composted. You’ll just want to remove any elastic and anything else that won’t biodegrade (including tags and any plastic) with scissors.
Next, cut the rest of the bra into small pieces so that it can compost more easily before putting the pieces into a compost bin or distributing them in soil.
3. Textile Recycling
If your used bras aren’t totally compostable, consider investing in a service that will take your bras and recycle them for you, turning them into new products.
Check out the following organizations:
- Bra Recycling Agency. This agency offers subscription-style bra recycling services, transforming used bras into carpets.
- TerraCycle. If you have some money to invest into textile recycling, TerraCycle offers a “Zero Waste Box” that can be filled with any fabric to be recycled.
- I:CO. Short for I:Collect, I:CO recycles clothing and shoes in over 60 countries to reduce textile waste.
4. Swap on Reddit
Reddit is filled with communities of people of common goals and interests, including women who are figuring out what to do with their used bras! Consider swapping bras with someone on r/braswap or giving away your used bras for free on r/RandomActsofBras.
Best Practices for Donating Used Bras
To be sure that the bras you donate are going where you want them to go and that they will be accepted by an organization, it’s important to do your due diligence before sending them out or dropping them off.
Research the Organization
Do you have a solid understanding of the organization’s mission? Are you confident your bras will end up serving the cause you’re most passionate about? If you’re at all hesitant, you might want to do more research and even directly reach out to the organization by phone or email to get all your questions answered.
Wash Your Bras Ahead of Time
While many organizations accept used bras, not all of them will wash those bras for you. To respect the donation site and to ensure that your bras will be accepted rather than tossed, it’s important to wash your bras before donating them.
While they likely don’t need to be perfectly stain free, try to wash them as thoroughly as you can so that they can best serve those in need and be distributed as quickly as possible.
Do a Final Gut Check
Before you pack up your bras to send off to a donation site, you’ll want to go through a mental checklist to ensure you haven’t missed any important steps.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What is the condition of the bra? Is it torn and falling apart or still structurally sound?
- What type of bras do I plan to donate? Are they made of fabric that’s best for donating, recycling or composting?
- Am I providing the organization with everything it needs to use the bra? Did I fill out all required forms?
Bra Donation FAQs
You may still have some questions about bra donations – we’re here to answer them.
Does Goodwill Take Bras?
Whether Goodwill takes bras and other underwear depends on the need of your local Goodwill. It’s a good idea to call your local Goodwill to ask whether they take bras before bringing them in – otherwise, they may be tossed. According to Fashionista, 11% of Goodwill’s donations in 2014 were deemed unfit for sale and were added to landfills.
Does Goodwill Wash Clothes?
When Goodwill takes bras, it tends to be picky and requires washed bras. While you can contact your local Goodwill to check their policy on washed clothes, the best way to avoid the potential of your bras getting tossed is to wash them ahead of time.
Are There Any Personal Benefits to Donating Bras?
Aside from the joy of helping people in need and protecting the planet from additional waste, you may be eligible for IRS tax deductions when you donate your bras.
Are There Bra Donation Services Outside the U.S.?
Yes! While many U.S. charities operate both inside and outside the U.S., there are also several nonprofits based outside the U.S. For example, Against Breast Cancer and Smalls for All are UK based charities that raise money and provide bras for women in need. Consider checking online to see if there is a charity operating near you.
Can You Donate Underwear?
While not all nonprofits and donation centers take underwear, some do! Planet Aid boxes, for example, accept underwear that is washed ahead of time. When in doubt, just call the organization of interest and ask to see what articles of clothing they accept.
Like bras, you can also compost your underwear as long as it’s made of natural materials. Just remove the elastic strap with scissors and add the rest of the material to a compost bin.
Whether you choose to donate, recycle, compost or swap your used bras, you will be doing the earth and people in need a favor by expanding their lifespan for years to come.