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10 New Uses for Old Ratty Towels

I love towels. I know, it’s strange, but a warm and fluffy towel after getting out of the bath is pretty close to perfection in my mind. I absolutely adore the big bath sheets that I pick up whenever they’re on sale. They’re huge and fluffy and…sorry, I got lost for a second in the memory. Like it or not though, sometimes my favorite towels don’t last forever. Sometimes, they just can’t hang on and they end up ratty with holes and surely bound for the trash can. Call me silly, but I like to reuse as many items as I possibly can so when my towels are ready to be laid to rest, I look for a new way to use an old towel so that I can use it to save as much money as possible.

Have a linen closet full of ratty old towels? Upcycle them to save money with these 10 "New" Uses for Ratty Old Towels!

Even though those towels might not be good for drying off with, they do still have a lot of life in them. There are a ton of different ways that you could upcycle old towels and a lot of them save you money. They can also help keep the kiddos busy, make an outdoor date better and so much more. You just need to get a bit creative with how you look at them and put them to work for you one last time. A lot of the time, we use old towels to create the things that we stopped buying and make homemade. The uses are really endless around your home and life!

Ideas to Upcycle Old Towels

These 10 new uses for old towels are by far the only ones you can do. They are just a few of my favorites. Sure they’re creative, but they’re also useful. I absolutely love upcycling things that not only help make my life easier, but also help me cut my expenses as well. It just makes it seem so much sweeter when I get one more use out of an item.

Homemade Baby Wipes –  Let’s face it, disposable baby wipes are expensive. Instead of spending your hard earned money on them, upcycle old towels to make homemade baby wipes. Cut your ratty towels into squares, put them in an empty baby wipe box and add make your own homemade baby wipe solution. You’ll save a considerable amount of money and your baby will never know the difference.

Homemade cleaning cloths – There is no point in using your good rags or towels to clean up nasty, grimy residue like what you’ll often find on your toilets, counters or floors and paper towels are expensive. Instead of throwing ratty towels away, cut them into squares and use them with a homemade all-purpose cleaner to help keep your home clean and sparkly for cheap. They also work really well for making reusable fabric softener sheets, homemade swiffer cloths and other homemade cleaning supplies.

Upcycle towels into a homemade kids craft apron – Craft time is messy, and kids craft aprons can be expensive, but a simple homemade smock can keep your kids clothes in pristine shape. Instead of throwing out ratty towels, cut a hole big enough for your child’s head to fit through and let your little one wear it while they work on crafts, painting or other messy activities. Once they’re done, toss in the wash so that your makeshift craft aprons are ready for next time!

Create a masterpiece – Ready for some free family fun? Grab some colorful kids paints and head out doors to splash it around. Use your old ratty towels, sheets or any other fabrics and let them create a splash paint masterpiece! Throw paint balls, use empty water bottles full of water paint, flick paint brushes full of paint or let them use homemade finger paints to create their very own creative work of art. Once your play is done, let them dry fully then save one or two for them to look back on when they’re older.

Make a unconventional upcycled towel quilt – If you’ve wanted to take up quilting, but haven’t yet, using old ratty towels is a fantastic way to upcycle old towels. Cut your towels into 12 inch by 12 inch squares then sew each square together. Add quilt batting and a fabric backing if you want and you’ve got yourself a spiffy new quilt that was incredibly easy to make and super budget friendly!

Keep your hands clean in the car –  You never know when you may have to change a tire, check your oil or just generally be poking around under the hood of your car. To help keep your hands clean when that happens, keep a few old towels in your car to clean your hands on. It’s not an upcycled towel use, but it does extend the time that your ratty towels are useful. If you want to take your hand cleaning kit one step further, add a container of homemade goop off and a gallon of water with the towels so that you can really keep your hands clean.

Make a homemade not-feather duster –  Old towels make excellent homemade dusters believe it or not. Cut them into squares and use them with a bit of homemade furniture polish to dust desks, dressers, accent tables and more. Want to dust a space you can’t reach? Wrap your old towel around a mop or broom and use a binder clip to keep it in place.

Make an upcycled rag rug –  Old ratty towels can be transformed into comfy bath rugs with a few simple tweaks. Grab a latch rug canvas and cut your towels into strips that are 6 inches long by ¾ inch wide. Thread your strips through the rubber gridded mat one at a time and tie them into a double knot. Continue doing this until your entire mat is covered. These actually make really nice gifts and they give your towels on more use before they’re done.

Make a homemade picnic blanket – Most people bring a blanket when they go on a picnic, but doing so can easily ruin your blanket. Instead, upcycle your old towels to help keep your nice blankets, well? Nice. Grab a few towels, cut away any areas that might have holes and sew them together to make a big picnic blanket. If you want a nice sized square blanket, sew three towels wide and three towels long. The more towels you use, the bigger your blanket will be.

Use upcycled towels to make homemade baby bibs: Having a baby is really expensive and baby bibs are one item that is super expensive. Most of the time they’re priced around $5.00 for something that has a sole purpose of getting messy. Instead of spending all of that money, use your old towels to make homemade baby bibs. To make yours, simply cut your towels into four equal sections then cut a hole into each section big enough for your child’s head. Slip over their head and enjoy lunch time!


Saving money in life, saving money in your home really boils down to a handful of things. One of them is looking at new ways to use old items. If these ideas don’t strike your fancy, use your imagination and find a way to use them. Even if you only get one last use out of them, that is one less time that you had to spend money. Do you have any other ideas for ways to upcycle old towels? I’d love to hear them. It’s almost time for me to buy new ones.



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Stacy Barr
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Stacy Barr

Stacy Barr is the face and brain behind the frugal living and lifestyle blog Six Dollar Family . By the age of 30, she had overcome an alcohol addiction, a drug addiction, divorce, survived domestic violence and had built a life for herself and her daughter after spending 10 months in a homeless shelter. Her book, also called Six Dollar Family, has sold more than 7,000 copies since its release.

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  1. You can also use them for when you take your pets to the vet. You can lay them down in the pet carrier. Your pet isn’t on the cold and slippery plastic of the carrier if you use the old towels.

  2. Kathleen Asuquo says:

    Our humane society accepts old towels to use when bathing the dogs at the shelter.

  3. e. effenbeck says:

    I make hot pads out of my old towels. Works great!

  4. Sally hosiner says:

    I have cats that come into basement at night
    They will lay on anything flat. I put old towels over everything and they have a bed that is easy to clean. Use in pet carriers too. They are in our patio chairs and removed when we sit in them. No cat hair on our behinds

  5. My local spay/neuter clinic loves towels for their patients.

  6. H&M will recycle clothing & textiles.
    For every bag of clothing/textiles, you will receive a $ 5.00 voucher of a purchase of $ 30.00 or more.

  7. I recently got new towels, so I took a couple of hand towels and two of my old towels and turned them into hooded towels for my kids. (Almost broke my sewing machine trying to sew them on that way) The kids love them! It took me about 5 minutes per towel. I have been thinking of throwing the rest out, but now I think I am going to try making a rug like you suggest, what a great idea! Thank you for sharing these.

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