Race T-Shirt Recycle!

2 Aug

Race t-shirts are taking over my dresser. If this continues, I might just need to call for back-up!

Over the last 6 or so years of running, I have amassed a ridiculous, disgusting number of race t-shirts. Since my husband runs just about every third race with me, there are many race t-shirts that we have at least two of. Oh, and then there are the shirts that come along with volunteering too!

When I first started running, I thought the shirts were kind of cool. I felt like every time I wore a race t-shirt it was like I was sending this beacon out into the world that screamed, “That’s right, people! I ran a race! I earned this t-shirt, buddy!” It made me feel proud. And then I got my first tech tee from a race…and suddenly, the t-shirts did not seem nearly as cool. I felt like I had sort of graduated, if you will. I know, I know…just writing that makes me feel like such a snob.

As my collection of race t-shirts multiplied like bunnies, I have had to draw a line somewhere. Here are the shirts that definitely fall into the “keeper” category:

  • Technical tees (Fun and functional!)
  • Long-sleeve t-shirts (For days when I just want to be cozy.)
  • Uniquely colored t-shirts (Neon, anyone?)
  • Extra soft t-shirts (I heart being cozy.)


  • The shirts above make up probably less than 10% of all race t-shirts that I get. So, what am I supposed to do with all the rest of them? I can’t just throw them away. That would be wasteful, right? Here are 10 fun things to do to help you clear out the race t-shirt clutter.

    Donate them!
    If the shirt holds no or very little sentimental value for you, please consider donating it. Goodwill is perfect place to start. If you prefer, consider your local shelter or mission. Please be sure that all clothing is either new or has been laundered before donating and that it is free from holes or stains.

    Make a t-shirt quilt!
    If you have the extra funds and want to hang on to those shirts, consider doing something practical with them if you know you aren’t going to wear them. Send them off to have a quilt made of your race t-shirts! There are lots of companies that can do this for you, but of the ones I have seen in person, I think Campus Quilt Co. and Too Cool T-Shirt Quilts do the best job. My host could never have too many cozy blankets!

    Help make headscarves for chemotherapy patients!
    You can donate your clean and unused race t-shirts to a group called Halos of Hope, which makes headscarves call Bal-Dannas. A cotton race tee is a perfect way to gently cover a tender head that has lost hair as a side effect of chemo treatments. Colored race t-shirts are used just the way they are and white race t-shirts are dyed or tie-dyed after sewing!

    Make a laptop sleeve!
    Hello Rewind sleeves are taken from the design and material of the t-shirt you send to their headquarters. Once received, it is cut up, sewn up, batted, felted, secured with a bit of Velcro and sent right back to you in brand new form. From the looks of things, these sleeves can withstand some abuse, and will slip snugly into any backpack or purse sans the compromise of style.

    Make a t-shirt cardigan!
    If you are feeling super crafty, try re-purposing your favorite race t-shirts into a fancy t-shirt cardigan. This is a really good idea for those oversized race t-shirts that you can’t fit into anyway. The instructions can be found here.

    Make a t-shirt shag rug!
    This is a new one for me, but I totally LOVE the idea! This looks like a good project for a rainy day spent inside! I like how the finished product looks, and the reviews say they are super soft and make interesting conversation pieces! You can click here for the instructions.

    Turn them into a T-Shirt Bean Bag Chair or Pet Bed!
    Again, this is a really good idea for the crafty folks out there! I love the idea of making a dog bed out of my old t-shirts. I know my pup loves curling up on my laundry, so this way I could trick him into thinking he was doing it all the time! Then, maybe, just maybe, he would stay away from the clean clothes.

    Make bean bags for a game!
    This is a great project for kids. You can either turn your old t-shirts into a bean bag alphabet game or just make extra bean bags for a fun game of cornhole! When tailgating season rolls around, you’ll be glad you had the extra bean bags. I always seem to lose one at each game!

    Turn them into dust rags!
    This is probably the simplest and easiest thing to do with them. Besides, you know you’ve probably got some cleaning up you need to be doing anyway. I know I do! Cotton t-shirts make FANTASTIC dust rags. Cut them up into large squares, bust out the Pledge furniture polish, and get to cleaning!

    Make a super cute diaper cover for your favorite baby!
    Seriously, extra super huge bonus points if you have the skills to pull this one off. I love the idea, but I know that I, personally, do not have the talent required to make this. But the *idea* is awesome! With Baby Key on the way, I would love to make some cute diaper covers out of my cool-looking race t-shirts! Just one more subtle way to push my boy into becoming an Ironman! :)



    What do YOU do with all of your old race t-shirts? Do you have some other creative way of recycling or re-purposing them? If you do, please share!

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    27 Responses to “Race T-Shirt Recycle!”

    1. runtobefit August 2, 2011 at 8:33 AM #

      Great idea on the T-shit quilt!!! I never thought of that before!!!

      • katieRUNSthis August 2, 2011 at 2:05 PM #

        In person, they look really cool! Great gifts for your own shirts or to do for a loved one (with their permission, of course)!

        • Lindsey deBlieux August 3, 2011 at 3:03 PM #

          My mom and grandmother made me a quilt from all the my LSU shirts that I never wore after college but hated to part with. It keeps me warm in my drafty house during winter and makes me happy.

    2. Sarah August 2, 2011 at 8:35 AM #

      If it wasn’t for racing, I might have to buy pajamas.
      I love the idea of a quilt. I have like 3 of the same shirt bc I run it every year. It would look cool in a quilt.

      • katieRUNSthis August 2, 2011 at 2:06 PM #

        Ha! I am with you on that! I would also paint and work in the yard naked without my leftover or old race t-shirts. :)

    3. Susan August 2, 2011 at 8:44 AM #

      I’ve been plotting a favorite race/ PR race/ momentous race T-shirt quilt for some time now! If I get to keep running into old age as I hope and plan to…. I may have multiple quilts. ;)

    4. Amanda @FancyOatmeal August 2, 2011 at 9:21 AM #

      OMG! I am totally in the “it’s cool to get a t-shirt” club, and I think the t-shirt quilt will probably be my outlet when I get enough shirts to make something bigger than a burping cloth. =)

      • katieRUNSthis August 2, 2011 at 2:06 PM #

        Oooh, a burp cloth! That’s one I hadn’t thought of! With Baby Key on the way, that could really come in handy! Thanks for the idea!

    5. Megan August 2, 2011 at 9:32 AM #

      How cool! I really wish I could quilt so I could make a t-shirt quilt. Scratch that.. even if I COULD quilt… it looks like too much trouble.

      • katieRUNSthis August 2, 2011 at 2:09 PM #

        Yeah, even if I could quilt…sometimes these things are better left to the professionals!

    6. Lauren/merrymishaps August 2, 2011 at 9:34 AM #

      I keep saying I’m going to make a T-shirt quilt. Both for me (race shirts) and my husband (concert Ts). Yeah, my T-shirt drawer is still exploding and he collected a giant bag full of shirts for me years ago!

      Oh, and I don’t sew very well. But it would be good practice!

      • katieRUNSthis August 2, 2011 at 2:11 PM #

        This is a great idea for concert tees too! The more you wear the t-shirts the more they degrade, so I am all about saving them…but still getting them out of my dresser!

    7. Liz Glomb August 2, 2011 at 9:59 AM #

      I haven’t amassed enough running shirts yet to warrant anything here, BUT I am currently in the process of making a tshirt quilt out of all the Rowing tshirts I have acquired over the past 25 years. I seriously have 2 (maybe even 3 at this point) 22 gallon containers FULL of tshirts from my rowing team in high school, shirts from the crew team in college, regatta shirts, volunteer shirts, and the general “we want to make a shirt just because” shirt. TOO MANY SHIRTS!

      Anyway… I’m still in the “running shirts are cool” phase. We’ll see in another 15 years how I feel about that…

    8. Michelle August 2, 2011 at 11:14 AM #

      Before I moved I had way too many running shirts piling up in my drawer. Rather than take all of them with me I decided to donate them to Goodwill. I hope someone will enjoy my random race apparel. One day I’d like to make a quilt, but I think I kept all of the shirts I’d want to use. Perhaps I’ll do that when I build my collection back up in the next year.

    9. Erika August 2, 2011 at 11:14 AM #

      When I’m done usinig the shirts for exercise, I wash them and then cut the logos out and put those in my running scrapbook along with the bib I wore. Then I use the left over as rags or recycle it. There’s a scraps/clothing drop off place in NYC where scraps of clothing is made into insulation. Cool, huh? (Can I have someone make the rug for me?!)

      • katieRUNSthis August 2, 2011 at 2:13 PM #

        That is so cool! Do they accept t-shirts or t-shirt scraps that have been mailed in? If so, could you post the link here? I would love to share the idea with the other katieRUNSthis readers!! What a neat thing to do!

    10. Charlene Ragsdale August 2, 2011 at 12:35 PM #

      My non-keeper shirts are my sleepwear and cleaning house clothes. I have a separate drawer for my “keeper” shirts (like yours) and the rest – I use as whatever comes up. Anything green, neon or 80′s colors are not keepers to me.

      • katieRUNSthis August 2, 2011 at 2:12 PM #

        Ha! Well, feel free to send anything green, neon, or 80′s my way! See? THAT’S recycling!

        I heart green, neon, AND the 80′s! :)

    11. Jamie August 2, 2011 at 2:37 PM #

      I recently inherited my grandmother’s sewing machine. As soon as I have enough, I’m making a t-shirt quilt. Did I mention that I need to learn how to sew first?! Ha!

    12. RunToTheFinish August 2, 2011 at 4:37 PM #

      i really wanted to do a t-shirt quilt, but ended up just donating my shirts :) I’m not sure if I can do it with dry fit shirts or not??

      I agree i love the really unique shirts

    13. Jeff Lorow August 2, 2011 at 8:13 PM #

      I always opt out of the t-shirt if I can – I used to think they were a great freebie, but after my first three or four races I maxed out.

      I usually sleep in mine, but eventually they make their way to the salvation army. This appalled my wife when I did that to my JFK 50 miler shirt!

    14. runaroundsara August 2, 2011 at 9:29 PM #

      Oh I’m a lover of the T-shirts too. I won’t sign up for a race if I can’t get a free t-shirt. I wish I was kidding. I’m such a t-shirt snob. I’m really in the races for the t-shirts. And out of the 7 races I’ve done this year, I’ve only worn one of the t-shirts for anything. Only because it’s super comfy. The others? I was thinking about making a quilt out of them, but one is a super neon (ugly) orange color. Not even a cool neon. So I wouldn’t want that messing up my (as of now) all white “quilt” lol. I’d have to get way more than just the 7 I have now to make a quilt, so we’ll see.

    15. cisforcourtney August 3, 2011 at 1:10 PM #

      loving the quilt idea! i’m trying to convince luke that we need to do this! he has container after container filled with race shirts!

    16. Halos of Hope Web Response Team August 11, 2011 at 11:02 PM #

      We apologize for any confusion. Halos of Hope ™ has not accepted t-shirts to be turned into hats since early 2010. We ran this campaign from 2008-2009, and discontinued it, as we received hundreds of t-shirts, but insufficient volunteer support to turn them into hats. We do have pattern ideas that we can share if groups want to take the shirts and turn them into hats, sleep caps, and our Bal-Danna ™ headscarf. But we can only accept finished hats, not the shirts themselves.

      We realize that this theme has been republished recently through a number of different sources. These sources did not validate with our charity that we could still accept t-shirts. We cannot.

      We thank you for your support and interest in Halos of Hope, a 501c3 national charity.

    17. Stephen August 18, 2011 at 10:22 AM #

      I’m surprised that technical t-shirt fall in the less than 10% category. It’s all I ever seem to get these days. I miss cotton shirt.

      • katieRUNSthis August 18, 2011 at 10:34 AM #

        Really? I would love it if more races opted for tech tees. I actually use those. A lot of race directors think that tech tees cost so much more than cotton ones, but some of them are pretty cost effective. I would like to see more events at least have an option for a tech tee.

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