The topic of zero waste and the sustainable use of consumer goods is becoming more and more popular. One goal is to create sustainable alternatives to the numerous disposable products in everyday life. There are a lot of disposable products in most kitchens and bathrooms, including paper towels, cotton pads, make-up remover pads and baby wipes. According to statistics, this can make up to 19 kg of waste per person per year.
Upcycling old clothes and other household textiles can create sustainable alternatives to many disposable products. With our simple step-by-step sewing guide, you can easily make something new out of something old. At the same time, you’ll replace disposable everyday items with washable and reusable multipurpose items.
You need to make sure you choose the right material depending on what you want to make. It is also important to know how to take care of the different fabrics, for example, if they are heat resistant and absorbent enough for their intended use.
It’s important to choose a suitable fabric depending on the intended use of your home-sewn items. To practice good hygiene in your home, the properties of the fabric play an important role.
Firstly, the material should be absorbent as this very important. In the bathroom and in the kitchen we commonly use water or other liquid based products, therefore the fabric should be highly absorbent. You should also consider the temperature resistance of the material. The fabric should be able to be washed at a high temperature in order to kill any bacteria and to remove any dirt.
Natural fibres, such as cotton and viscose, both have these properties. Fabrics made out of cotton or viscose are easy to take care of, as they are highly absorbent and can be washed at high temperatures. Natural fibres are skin-friendly and are a good option to for baby wipes and tissues.
It is not uncommon for fabrics to be made out of a mixture of fibres. If a fabric only partly contains natural fibres, the added synthetic or animal fibres will change the properties of the fabric.
Kitchen towels and makeup remover pads need to be absorbent and heat-resistant in order to maintain good hygiene. However, the texture plays an important role in the intended use of the finished product.
If the wipes are going to be used for cleaning kitchen and bathroom surfaces, then a soft texture is not very important. The focus is on the absorbency and temperature resistance of the fabric. Therefore, thicker and coarser fabrics can be suitable for this purpose. For cosmetic use, for example as makeup remover pads or baby wipes, the texture of the fabric needs to be soft. Smooth fabrics from blouses or t-shirts are recommended for this purpose, as well as soft fabrics from towels and bathrobes or non-woven fabrics made out of cotton or viscose.
For people who are new to sewing, fabrics with low elasticity are recommended as they are much easier to work with.
For beginners, it’s good to start with easy projects like kitchen towels, reusable makeup remover pads or baby wipes as they are easy to sew. If you don’t have a sewing machine, you can sew them by hand. As it’s handy to have several kitchen towels and it would be much quicker to use a simple household sewing machine.
In addition to a sewing machine, you will need:
Clothes or household textiles madeout of natural fibres such as cotton, linen or viscose
Thread in a matching colour
Measuring tape or a ruler
Water-soluble pen or a special marking pencil
Sheet of paper
Once you have all your tools ready, you can start sewing your cloths:
When upcycling old clothes, it makes sense to cut the old clothes into individual pieces. You just need to simply cut along the seams of the t-shirt or blouse.
Starting with a simple rectangular shape is the easiest way is to make DIY cloths. A good size to start with is 14 cm x 20 cm as this is about the same size as a hand. You can always make it bit bigger or a bit smaller if needed. For example, you can cut out your reusable makeup remover pads into a smaller size.
Use a water-soluble pen to draw a rectangle on one of the pieces of fabric. Alternatively, you can make a template out of cardboard. The advantage of the template is that you can reuse it to make more DIY cloths at a later date.
When preparing the pattern pieces, pay attention to the so-called seam allowance. Otherwise, your cloth will be smaller than planned. Now add another centimetre to each side of your rectangle making it 16 cm x 22 cm.
The next step is to cut out the pieces of fabric. Start by laying several layers of fabric on top of each other to save cutting them all individually. Fix the layers of fabric with a few pins to prevent them from slipping. Make sure not to use too many layers, so that your scissors can still cut through them. The number of layers will depend on how thick the fabric is.
Next, get two pieces of fabric and join them together. It makes sense to use two different fabrics. If you have patterned fabrics, then combine them with a solid colour. If your fabric is too thin, then add another layer in the middle. The colour and texture are not important as they will not be seen.
Now take the two pieces of fabric and place the two right sides together and then sew around the rectangle with about 1 cm gap away from the edge of the fabric. When doing this, you should lock the seam by sewing backwards after the first three or four stitches.
Stop sewing about 2 to 3 cm before reaching the seam so that you can leave an opening. To finish the seam, backstitch at the end by sewing a few stitches backwards and then forwards again. If you add a third layer, simply place the additional piece of fabric on top of the other right sides of the two pieces together.
A piece of fabric always has a left and a right side. The right side is considered to be the more better-looking side as it always faces outwards on clothes.
Next, turn the two joined layers of fabric inside out by bringing the inside out through the opening. Make sure you smooth out the edges and the corners to keep a nice rectangular shape. By using an iron, you can make this job a lot easier. For a three-layered cloth, make sure the two original layers are on the outside and the third is on the inside.
Lastly, sew a wide decorative stitch around the edge so that you can close both the opening and to firmly fix it into a rectangle shape. Place the edge of your sewing machine presser foot against the outer edge of your sewing product.
Finally, your reusable DIY cloth is ready to be used as a reusable kitchen towel or as a reusable makeup remover wipe depending on the material.
With enough reusable kitchen towels made of absorbent, durable and heat-resistant cotton, you can now replace all paper towels in your kitchen and generate less waste.
Old t-shirts, sweatshirts or even flannel shirts are all good options as the texture isn’t important if it is going to be used as a reusable kitchen towel. In addition, using two layers of fabric will be enough.
It is important to wash reusable kitchen towels at a high temperature, as they can quickly become dirty and full of bacteria. Washing at 60 degrees is usually enough to remove any dirt and to kill any bacteria. However, if you don’t want to take any risks, you can wash the cloths at 90 degrees.
The DIY reusable makeup remover pads made of upcycled fabrics can replace face wipes and cotton pads. It’s a good idea to use two different types of fabric. A good combination is a soft terrycloth from old towels, washcloths, a smooth blouse fabric or a bathrobe.
The terrycloth is usually thick enough to make a cloth from just two layers. You should add a third layer if you are going to use thinner materials.
Some cosmetic products, such as mascara, eyeliner etc. can cause discolouration or they can quickly make the face cloth become quite dirty. That’s why it is a good idea to use colourful fabrics for the reusable makeup remover pads, as a slight discolouration will not be as visible. Depending on how dirty the DIY makeup remover wipes are, they should be washed at 60 or 90 degrees. However, washing at 60 degrees is more environmentally friendly.
Baby wet wipes are made the exact same way as DIY face wipes, as described above. Follow the exact same instructions and use the same materials and measurements.
Once the wipe is finished put some of lotion on it to soak the wipe and then gently wring it out so that it is damp and not too wet.
To make the lotion you will need:
500 ml of distilled or boiled water
One teaspoon of coconut oil and one teaspoon of sunflower oil
To make a special cleansing lotion for baby wipes, heat the water in a pan to 30 or 40 degrees. Then add the coconut oil and stir until it is completely dissolved. Repeat this step with a tablespoon of sunflower oil until no bits are visible. Now gently soak your homemade upcycling wipes with the special cleansing lotion and store the DIY wipes in a sealable airtight container to preserve the moisture.
Adopting a zero-waste lifestyle at home can be achieved through reusable wipes and cloths, as they are easy to make. Consciously avoiding disposable products not only reduces your own household waste, but it is also more environmentally friendly and it helps you to save money.