How to Repurpose Old Fabrics into Home Insulation
Why repurpose fabrics into insulation?
Reusing old fabrics to make home insulation is a great way to reduce waste and lower your home energy bills. Fabrics like old clothing, curtains, tablecloths, sheets, and fabric scraps can be upcycled into insulation batts, stuffing, or loose fill to insulate walls, attics, floors, and more. Insulating with repurposed fabrics is eco-friendly, economical, and easy to do yourself.
Here are some key benefits of repurposing fabrics into insulation:
- Saves money – Making your own insulation with used fabrics costs a fraction of buying traditional fiberglass or foam insulation. Repurposing old textiles you already have makes it practically free.
- Reduces waste – Clothing and other fabrics take up lots of space in landfills. Upcycling them for home insulation keeps textile waste out of landfills.
- Good insulator – Fabrics trap air pockets, which provide good insulation against heat loss and gain. Densely packed fabric insulation can insulate as well as fiberglass.
- Safe and non-toxic – Natural fabrics like cotton, wool, and silk are non-toxic, unlike some manufactured insulation which may contain harmful chemicals.
- Easy DIY project – Making fabric insulation is an easy, beginner-friendly DIY project requiring no special skills.
What types of fabrics can be repurposed as insulation?
The best fabrics for insulation have these qualities:
- Natural fibers like cotton, wool, silk, and linen. These trap more air than synthetic fabrics.
- Thick and dense fabrics like denim, corduroy, canvas, felt, flannel. These trap more insulating air pockets.
- Undamaged, clean fabrics without holes, tears or stains which compromise insulation ability.
- Pure cotton and wool is ideal. Avoid fabrics with synthetic blends.
- Avoid unstable fabrics like stretchy lycra which may change shape over time.
Some good choices are:
- Old clothing and accessories – jeans, sweaters, t-shirts, dresses, coats, towels, blankets, curtains
- Scraps from sewing projects and crafts
- Natural fiber sheets, tablecloths, dishcloths
- Wool suits, blankets, and heavy winter coats
Check any fabric’s fiber content before using. Natural, tightly woven fabrics are best.
How to prepare and cut fabrics for insulation
Here are some tips for prepping fabrics:
- Clean fabrics to remove odors, dust, and pests. Wash in hot water and dry fully.
- Shake out dust from fabrics stored long term before cutting.
- Mend any holes and tears so fill won’t leak out later.
- Cut fabrics into strips 2-4 inches wide. Different widths create loft.
- Cut fibers across the grain – this prevents stretching and sagging over time.
- Use sharp fabric scissors for neat cuts and less fraying.
- Cut woven fabrics; don’t pull apart. Pulling yarns damages insulation performance.
Separate fabrics by type, thickness, and density into different piles for filling insulation.
How to make batt insulation from fabrics
Making fabric batt insulation is similar to making traditional fiberglass batts. Follow these steps:
- Cut fabric strips
- Scissors or rotary cutter
- Measuring tape
- Fabric or quilter’s pins
- Needle and thread
- Plastic bag or sheet
Determine the area you need to insulate and measure to size your batt. Add 4 inches to the length and width.
Cut a plastic bag to this batt size plus 1 inch on all sides. This will be the backing.
Lay out the backing flat. Start placing cut fabric strips horizontally across the backing, filling in space.
Place strips close together and lightly compress. Continue adding rows until the section is filled.
Add a second layer of fabric strips vertically. Lightly compress again.
Fold over the excess backing plastic and pin in place to seal edges.
Use a needle and thread to sew together opening and permanently secure layers.
The dense batt can now be installed between wall studs, floor joists, or across ceiling rafters like traditional insulation.
How to make loose fill insulation from fabrics
Loose fill insulation made from cut fabrics can be used to blow into existing walls, attics, and other hard to fill spaces:
- Cut fabric strips
- Scissors or rotary cutter
- Blower machine
Cut or tear fabric scraps into small pieces, from 1 to 3 inches maximum.
Use a fabric shredder, chipping machine or your hands to further separate and fluff the fibers.
Load the fabric bits into a blower machine hopper. Electric blowers are most efficient but a leaf blower can also work.
Feed the hose into spaces and fill loosely with fabric bits. Don’t compact; air pockets provide the insulation.
Fill until space matches the desired R-value for your climate zone.
This fabric fill works well for attic floors, walls without cavities, and DIY projects like cat houses!
Tips for successful fabric insulation projects
Follow these tips for getting the best performance from your fabric insulation:
Wear gloves and a mask when cutting fabrics to minimize exposure to dust and fibers.
Fill spaces densely but not overly packed. Too loose and insulation value is reduced. Too compressed and air pockets are minimized.
Combine fabric types – lightweight and heavyweight – for blended insulation performance.
Install vapor barrier facing over batts in wall cavities to prevent moisture damage.
Use fire-resistant fabrics like denim near potential ignition sources for fire safety.
Conduct an insulation audit first to identify all areas needing better insulation.
With some creativity and elbow grease, those old clothes and linens can become the warm, sustainable insulation your home needs. Let your fabrics live on in their coziest new role yet!