When brainstorming eco-friendly ways to repurpose old linens, a better way to think of bed sheets just might be “large all-purpose cloths.” Once the linens have gotten a little too worn out for cozy sleep, they can quickly be transformed into tons of other waste-free items.
From picnic blankets to plant warmers to produce bags, here’s 10 genius ways to reuse and repurpose bed sheets and keep waste out of our landfills.
1. Take them on a picnic.There’s definitely no need to shell out for a fancy picnic blanket when you have perfectly good bed sheets sitting in the closet. Bring them along as a sit-upon for your next outdoor meal, folding the sheet a few times for extra coverage if the ground is a little damp. (Or just bring two, and layer them.)
2. Let your kids make a fort.Too cold or wet to play outside? Hand a pile of sheets over to your kids and challenge them to construct The World’s Best Fort. (Making the World’s Best anything can take a lot of time.)
Of course, building the structure is only the beginning: Once the secret hideaway is up, everyone can hang out and tell spooky stories, have an indoor picnic, put on a shadow puppet show, or even camp out overnight. And when it’s time for the fort to come down, use the sheets as costumes for dress-up.
3. Save them for packing material.Stuff like bubble wrap or butcher’s paper is wasteful. (And when you need a lot of it, it can get expensive.) But, because you can use bed sheets over and over and over, they get the job done without harming the planet. Plus, they’re free!
Fold big ones into layers to form thick cushions for breakable items, or use them to prevent scratches while moving. Save pillowcases for the smaller stuff, like glasses, small picture frames, and trinkets. You can also stuff sheets into the corners of boxes to keep loose items from jostling around. Or, use them as an extra top layer to cushion your stuff before taping boxes up.
4. Three words: Instant movie screen.Nothing beats watching a movie outside on a warm summer night. Hang a large sheet between two trees and use it as a projector screen under the stars. (If the sheet’s a little wrinkly, iron it first for a smoother picture.)
Don’t have a projector? No problem. Search eBay or Craigslist for inexpensive used ones, or ask your neighbors and invite them to the flick, too. You can also check about borrowing one from your local school or rec center.
5. Package gifts with zero waste.Sure, wrapping paper looks nice—for about five seconds before your gift recipient tears it up and tosses straight into the trash. Instead, cut sheets into wrapping-paper sized squares, using pinking shears to get a pretty edge that won’t fray.
Fold the sheets just like wrapping paper and secure with safety pins at the corners. Or, place your gift item in the middle of the sheet, gather the edges on top, and tie the whole thing up with ribbon or twine. Stamps and paints can be used to make the wrapping more festive, and makes a great holiday project for kids.
6. Give ‘em to the dogs (or cats).It’s no secret that pets love having warm, cozy places to burrow and snuggle. But to your furry friend, it won’t matter whether his or her cuddly blanket came new from the pet store or used from your linen closet. Sheets can also be used to re-stuff pet beds.
If you don’t have a dog or cat, you can always donate your sheets to a local animal shelter. Since most are always short on supplies, it’ll definitely be put to good use.
7. Reduce paper waste.Old sheets that have been cut into squares are a greener alternative to many disposable products. Turn them into rags to replace paper towels, use them for cleaning up floors or for dusting cloths. They can also be put to use in the garage for cleaning messy hands or shoes.
8. Or take them to the store.With zero effort, pillowcases can instantly be transformed into reusable shopping bags. They’re especially useful at the grocery store, where you can use them as an alternative to plastic produce bags or plastic containers in the bulk aisle. Sew on a couple handles and you’re good to go.
9. Make draft catchers.Drafty doors and windows don’t just make your home uncomfortable in the winter—they also make your heating system work harder than it needs to. You can stuff pieces of old sheets into drafty corners to block out cold air, or craft easy-to-make draft catchers: Cut the sheets into squares or rectangles, sew up three sides, fill ‘em with rice or dried beans, then sew up the last side.
When microwaved for 30 seconds or so, mini draft catchers also make great hand warmers that you can stick in your coat pockets or heat packs for sore muscles. Just be sure to test the warmers with a finger before grabbing them with your whole hand, in case they’re too hot.