Reader question: What about old pantyhose?

Reader Joan wrote in with this question:

What does one do with old pantyhose that is no longer wearable because of holes, etc.? Is there a way to recycle this material?

That’s a great question. The short answer is no. Most pantyhose is made from nylon and it is a difficult material to recycle — and it can take up to 30 to 40 years for it to decompose in a landfill. A few years ago, an American pantyhose manufacturer had a recycling program but it is now discontinued.

Since a recycling program is not available, let’s take a look at the other two Rs, reduce and reuse.

Reduce

Deciding not to wear pantyhose ever again is an option but it might not be possible to change the dress code at your office or that of a specific event. So, let’s look at some ways to reduce the amount of pantyhose used.

It might seem obvious, but buy higher quality pantyhose. The cheap ones might seem like a deal but if you tear them when putting them on for the first time, you’ve wasted money.

Take some time to find a brand that fits you properly. Some brands are more generous in the seat and thigh area, other brands are great for people with longer legs. Once you find a brand that you like, stick with it.

Look at your wardrobe and see if you can reduce the types and colours of hosiery you need. You may find that you only need black to coordinate with your winter wardrobe and sheer to coordinate with your summer wardrobe. Also, the colour of “sheer” varies drastically so find a brand that makes a colour that matches your skin tone.

Careful treatment of pantyhose helps them last longer. Before putting them on, ensure your finger and toenails have no snags and do not wear jewellery. Hand wash your hosiery in cold water or put it in a mesh bag and wash it in the machine on the delicate cycle. Lay them flat to dry, preferably on a towel (hanging causes them to stretch out of shape). Do not use detergent with bleach as that breaks down the fibres.

Store your pantyhose so it won’t get snagged on any other clothing. You can store it in your drawer in a mesh bag. Some people prefer to store their panty hose in their closet in a hanging pocket organizer.

Reuse

My grandmother was raised in the Great Depression and was frugal her whole life. If one leg of her pantyhose was damaged, she cut it off. If she had two of the same pair with one leg each, she wore both pairs at the same time — both of her legs were covered and she had extra tummy control.

Besides wearing two half-pairs at a time, there are many other ways to reuse pantyhose. Bright Life Direct has one of the best list of ideas. It includes:

  • Deodorize up to three or four months. Chop a handful of any pleasant-smelling herb from your garden then add a box of baking soda. Mix and tie up in fresh smelling sachet balls of nylon. Place under sinks, in cabinets, drawers or storage areas.
  • Hold gauze or bandaging in place. Cut a circular strip from the part of the leg with similar size, like the ankle circumference used for the mid arm to keep bandages from sliding. Plus, it allows “breathing”.
  • Store onions or flower bulbs in a stocking leg.
  • Store rolls of gift wrap, wallpaper, posters in a stocking leg to help protect them from damage.
  • Place pantyhose over growing vegetables such as squash to reduce damage from bugs. You can also hang some vine vegetables in this way to keep them off the ground.

Pantyhose can also be used to tie bundles of clothes, blankets, or fabric together. It also great for straining paint.

There are so many craft projects that use pantyhose. You can stretch them over a coat hanger to make angel or fairy wings or braid them together to create a rug. An internet search will generate over a million websites with great ideas.

Thanks again for your great question Joan. We hope this post gives you the answers you were looking for. Our fellow unclutterers are also a great source of ideas so keep checking the comments for more tips.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject as “Ask Unclutterer.”

15 Comments for “Reader question: What about old pantyhose?”

  1. posted by Happy on

    I cut off the leg part, and sometimes cut them in strips, and use them to tie up tomato plants to stakes.

  2. posted by Bridget Wall on

    No Nonsense used to take them for recycling, but no longer (very sad). However – when I posted on their twitter about this, a woman from Recycled Crafts wrote to me with this:

    Although we try to minimize our impact, reusing and recycling all that we can, a lot of items are still not considered recyclable. Tights and Pantyhose are not biodegradable, and are expected to last over 30-40 years in a landfill, but they do have reuse and recycling options. Hosiery sales are over $1 billion a year. With most of those heading for a landfill, it is important to find alternatives like our recycling program. Thank you for choosing to recycle!

    When they are ready, box them up and send them in for a new life!

    Please send them to:

    Recycled Crafts
    2604 NW 36th St
    OKC, OK 73112

    Thank you,
    Angela
    Recycled Crafts
    savemyhosiery.yolasite.com

  3. posted by Anna on

    I come from Russia where people are extremely poor and consequently extremely inventive. So I know that they used to fix holes in old pantyhose holes with nail polish. Pantyhose does not look ideal after that treatment but it is wearable

  4. posted by J. on

    I live in a climate with cold and snowy winters, and we use old pantyhose to help prevent ice dams on our roofs (cut off the leg parts, fill with ice salt, tie a knot to close and place them perpendicular to the edge of your roof).

  5. posted by Catherine on

    Pantyhose are excellent “soft scrubbers” for cleaning and are particularly good around taps to clean the point where they join the sink. Put them around the tap and “saw” back and forth. They get to parts that are otherwise very hard to clean.

  6. posted by Dorothy on

    Support PONTY hose and tights both last longer than panty hose for me.

    But I retired 8 years ago and I did swear off them. I haven’t worn them a single time since.

    I can’t imagine many work places in the US still REQUIRE women to wear them. Unless you wear a costume, most places can’t have different dress codes for men and women.

  7. posted by Rebecca Surette on

    Some years ago a brilliant young man came up with system that would clean 90+% of oil from spills. He stuffed old pantyhose with hair clippings from barbershops, beauty shops and pet grooming salons. I wonder what ever became of that idea?

    That said, I use the legs to store onions, as suggested. I do cut the feet off and save those separately. If I drop something very small, such as an earring back, I slip the foot over the end of my vacuum cleaner’s hose, secure with a rubber band (a hair elastic works well, too), and vacuum. Keeps the tiny whatever from being sucked up into the machine and lost forever!

    LOL, since I quit working, and no longer HAVE to wear them, I occasionally stop in at one of our local Dollar stores and pick up two or three pairs just for onions and the occasional lost tiny item!

  8. posted by laura ann on

    Me and a sister and several friends several years back, ditched our dresses/skirts for dress pants. yaaay!! Lots more closet space. No need to dress up. Church and funeral attire is casual. No need for extra clutter or pantihose either. Ladies, consider doing likewise.

  9. posted by Catherine B on

    In high school, my chemistry teacher stated that nylon is a very strong fiber. In order to sell more nylons, my teacher added that companies treat their hosiery with a chemical that reduces that strength. She recommended soaking new hosiery in a water/vinegar mixture to extend the life of the hosiery. When I wore nylons, I took her advice and they didn’t run as quickly as when I had no time to do the soak.

  10. posted by Neha Shah on

    I just use it as a scrubber to clean the sink or the bathroom shower or tub.
    Just use some cleaning solution with the pantyhose.

  11. posted by Audrey Johnson on

    Good ideas on using less nylons. Great ideas for repurposing. I use them for the deodorizing. I also put moth balls in them and tie around the bottom of garden posts to keep little critters away. In general they don’t like moth balls.

  12. posted by Susan on

    I use one “foot” of the panty hose to hold a bar of soap each time we go camping. I then tie the panty hose up to our water spout so that we (and anyone else that uses the spout) can easily wash their hands with the soap. You scrub on the hose and it bubbles up right away. If we don’t have a spout at the camp site, I tie it on the spout of a large water jug (the kind that is rectangular, sits on the table, and the spout is at the bottom) for easy hand washing. Everyone is always so impressed with this camping hack.

  13. posted by Brid on

    Old nylons are also superb for putting shine on shoes.

  14. posted by momof3 on

    When i was a girl scout in my youth, we used cut up panty hose to stuff the cloth animals we made for service projects.

  15. posted by DaveYHZ on

    If you live in a cold climate, fill the foot with some crystal cat litter and leave it under the seat in your car. It acts like a giant silica pack which prevents frost from forming on the inside of your car windows.

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