How to use old towels in the garden - 5 handy ways to repurpose them

Don’t throw away your old towels!

A blooming garden with a hedge and a shed
(Image credit: Lizzie Orme Photography Ltd/Future PLC)

There comes a time in every towel’s life when it’s no longer fit for purpose in the bathroom. But did you know that you can use these old towels in the garden? Below, we’ve explained how.  

If you’ve been using a crusty and frayed towel for the past six months, we won’t blame you for fawning over the best towels on the market. There are some things that washing your bath towels just can’t fix, and sometimes old towels need to be retired and replaced with something fluffy and new. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to throw them away.

As we’re huge advocates of recycling and reusing here at Ideal Home, we wanted to know whether you can use your old towels to bring your garden ideas to life. And, as it turns out, you can! 

How to use old towels in the garden

Whether you have a set small garden idea in mind or you’re just looking to keep up with general garden maintenance, you might be surprised to know just how handy old towels can be in the garden. 

That's right: just as you can reuse an old mattress in the garden, you can do the same with your towels. And, from protecting your plants to protecting your gardening garb, you’ll find the best ways to use towels in the garden below. 

1. Use old towels as plant protection

When the weather turns colder and the frost descends, it’s important to prepare your garden for winter. Of course, using the best plant covers will protect your tender plants from damage, but you could also make use of some old towels if you’re pinching the purse strings. 

Steve Chilton, a garden expert from LeisureBench says, ‘You could use old towels to help shelter plants during extreme weather conditions. Wrap the towel around potted plants to protect them from frost.’

These old towels aren’t just handy for the winter months, though. Steve also suggests using towels to create a shade to cover your plants during the summer when the temperature soars and your plants may struggle with this extreme heat.

Headshot of gardening expert Steve Chilton
Steve Chilton

Steve is a passionate and knowledgeable garden expert with several years of experience within the field and has developed strong expertise for all things nature and plants. Steve is a keen educator and loves to share this knowledge with others. He strives to simplify complex garden practices and encourage eco-friendly gardening.

Garden filled with potted plants, set on a patio against wood panelled walls

(Image credit: Future PLC)

2. Use old towels as weed barriers

If you spend most of your days Googling how to kill weeds, you’re not alone. Weeds can wreak havoc on your garden, and just when you think you’ve got rid of weeds, they come popping up once again. 

However, what you might not realise is that you can actually use old towels to make your own DIY weed barriers. Not only that, but they can also lock in moisture during the warmer months. 

‘Simply cut the towels into smaller strips or pieces and use them as weed barriers in your garden beds,’ explains Steve. ‘Place them on top of the soil around your plants, overlapping the edges to prevent weed growth. The towels will help block sunlight and prevent weed growth while also saving soil moisture.’

3. Use old towels to aid moisture retention

If you’re lacking in-ground planting space or just love these container garden ideas, planting your flowers and herbs in containers can be a great space-saving solution. Keeping these containers watered can seem like a full-time job, though. 

Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about skipping water day if you use the moisture-retaining qualities of your old towels. 

According to Steve, you can ‘Place old towels in the bottom of large pots or containers before you add any soil and plants. This will help retain moisture in the container, reducing the frequency of watering needed, especially during hot summer days when the weather is more extreme.’

Garden plants with a blue gate

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

4. Use old towels to protect your knees

Gardening can be hard work, especially when your knees aren’t as young as they used to be. But if you’re looking for ways to protect your knees while you’re planting your spring bulbs, your old towels could become your next best friend. 

‘Instead of investing in expensive knee padding, simply fold over some old towels and use it instead. This isn't only cost-effective, but will help you work in your garden with added comfort and protection of your joints in the cold,’ explains Steve. 

Plus, you don’t have to be a master in origami to get this right. Just fold the towels until you find something that feels comfortable for you and your knees. 

A wooden garden shed with a table filled with potted plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

5. Use old towels to clean up

After a long day in the garden, there’s a high chance that you need to wash yourself and your clothes. You might have mud all over your hands, twigs stuck in your hair, and pollen all over your gardening trousers. 

But if you’re looking for ways to use old towels in the garden, why don’t you use them to help clean up?

Steve says, ‘Keeping some old towels in the shed or garage will always come in handy after particularly muddy gardening jobs.’ 

He also suggests using these towels to clean your hands, shoes, tools, and even your garden structures and furniture. 

‘When you’re pruning and looking after your garden, keeping your tools clean is really important in order to prevent the spread of diseases, so cleaning your tools often is essential,’ he explains. 

Just remember that if you do choose to use old towels to clean your gardening tools, you should only ever do this once and at the end of your pruning tasks. This will limit the chance of cross-contamination and the spread of the disease. Then, make sure you wash these towels after each use. 


What can I do with lots of old towels?

One of the best ways to make the most of old towels is to store them in the shed or the garage. It’s super easy to use old towels in the garden, and having them on hand at all times can help you protect your plants, clean your tools, protect your knees, and even aid moisture retention.

Just remember that your towels will be beyond salvaging after you’ve used them in the garden, so you need to make sure that you’re 100% finished with them in the bathroom. 

How do you make rags out of old towels?

It couldn’t be easier to make rags out of old towels. All you need to do is cut them to your desired size, whether you’re after big rags to clean the car or smaller rags to clean your bathroom. 

In most cases, it’ll work in your favour to cut your rags into square or rectangular shapes. However, some people find that cutting their towels into thin strips works better for them. 

So, will you be using your old rags in the garden this summer?

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.