New Uses for Old Race T-Shirts

Keep the Memories Alive and Benefit Others

Race T-shirts

Wendy Bumgardner

If you have been walking charity walks or 10K, half-marathon, or marathon races, your pile of T-shirts has probably been growing. You might wear them for your workouts and to other races or simply when relaxing.

But you have to clean out your closet eventually. What do you do with those old T-shirts? Some have sentimental value or carry the memory of a significant achievement that you would like to preserve. There are simple ways to recycle them when they are contributing to clutter and creative ways to keep the memory alive or to benefit others.

1. Donate Your T-shirts as Prizes for Sports Activities

Your race T-shirts and medals can be a prize for sports activities for special needs kids, or for activities at a community center or senior center. Check with schools and centers to see if they would be welcomed. Your old shirts can brighten the day of their new recipients.

2. Donate Your T-shirts to Charity

If you're willing to just let them go, your tees are welcome for donation to any charity that accepts used clothing. If you have worn the T-shirt, it should be laundered before donating. You should only donate shirts that are wearable, not those that are ripped or stained.

3. Give Your Trashed T-shirts a New Life as Rags

If the T-shirt is stained or torn, it isn't suitable to be donated. The problem then is that it is difficult to find a recycling center that accepts cloth for recycling. If you are crafty enough, you may be able to come up with a way to reuse the fabric yourself. T-shirts can be used as cleaning rags. You can cut them up into usable sizes for household cleaning. They make perfect rags for waxing your car. Use them for pet bedding and clean-up or donate them as rags to a pet shelter for that purpose.

4. Make Headbands From Your Old T-Shirts

The soft and stretchy fabric of T-shirts makes good headbands. If you are crafty, you can use a headband pattern and instructions to cut them up and stitch them. It can be fun to try to position the race logo where you can see it and enjoy the memory. You can make them for yourself and your family. If you have shirts from events that benefited cancer charities, you might donate them to the charity for survivors to use, especially while experiencing hair loss during treatment.

5. Take a Photo to Preserve the Memory Before Donating the Shirt

If you want to save the memory from the walk but you don't want to wear a T-shirt, take a photo of yourself wearing the shirt and then donate the shirt to charity. A scrapbook or digital book of your walking memories take up much less space than the shirt itself. This is also a way to let a stained or ripped shirt go. Frame the photo so you only see the undamaged portions.

6. Make a Memory Quilt or Pillow

Many walkers and runners report that they have turned the shirts into quilting blocks and created a lap quilt, full quilt, or pillow from their race shirts. You can stitch the race bib numbers onto the quilt squares as well, either on contrasting fabric or on the t-shirt block. You can snuggle up with your athletic memories to enjoy watching a game on television.

If you have several shirts from charity walks, make them into a lap quilt to donate to those served by that charity. You could even offer the quilt or pillow for sale at a charity auction.

7. Frame Your Shirt and Other Mementos

Cut out the logo from the shirt and frame it for the wall. For major events, you may want to use a shadow box and include the race bib and medal with the t-shirt as a backdrop. This is a great option for races that were especially challenging and you are proud of your achievement.

8. Make Bags

Turn your shirt into a bag to use for shopping or going to the gym. If you are crafty, you can find patterns and instructions on how to do this online. You don't have to wear the shirt to subtly let people know about your achievement.

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.