What to do with old pillows

What to do with old pillows?

Pillows provide that extra comfort that makes sleeping in bed and sitting on the couch more enjoyable. They help prevent joint pain and stiffness caused by lying or sitting in one position for a long time. Pillows are great, but they don't last forever. So if you’re wondering what to do with those used pillows to prevent them from going to waste, here’s a run down of the practical advice you need.

Pillows absorb body oil, makeup chemicals, saliva, and dead skin cells. They begin to smell after a while and become breeding grounds for dust mites. Washing pillows every six months keeps them clean and prolongs their lifespan. However, you can not just toss every kind of pillow in the washing machine, so do check the label. (For example, foam pillows are not washable).

Furthermore, the national sleep foundation recommends that you replace your bed pillows every one or two years. If your pillows get lumpy or flatten out too quickly, you may need to replace them more often. And that presents the issue of what to do with old pillows. Below is a list of things to consider

  • Donate
  • Compost
  • Reuse
  • Repurpose
  • DIY projects
  • Recycle 

Donate your old bed pillows

Animal shelters are always in need of cheap and comfortable animal bedding. They will be glad to receive your old pillows and repurpose them into beddings for animal crates. Along with your old pillow donations, you can also check if your local animal shelter accepts old bedsheets and blankets.

Along similar lines, you can donate them to friends or family members as a useful addition to their dog’s pet bed. 

You could also give out pillows to people who need them for one project or the other. Use platforms like Craigslist or Freecycle to get this done. You may also donate old bed pillows to a local homeless shelter if they’re sufficiently clean for someone else to use. Providing they're in good nick thrift stores may also accept them but do check first.

Compost pillows that biodegrade

If your old pillow stuffing is full of feathers or down, then you have compost material on your hands. Both items enrich the soil with nitrogen. Just unstuff the pillow and put the down or feathers into a compost bin. 

This, of course, leaves the pillowcases. If the pillowcase is made from 100% organic fiber, then it too may be suitable for composting. You will need to cut up the pillowcase into tiny pieces to aid decomposition.

Reuse your pillows

Photo by Katja Bayer on Unsplash

You can repurpose old pillows to serve other functions in your home. This could save you money and make life a little more comfortable. To add some functional decor to your living room, you can take out stuffing from old pillows to make new throw pillows for your couch. Just grab an outer to suit your decor, and you’re ready to go. 

Also, consider using your old pillow as floor cushions to make sitting on the floor a lot more comfortable. You may use the pillows exactly as they are or put the stuffing in pre-made cushion covers. Another way to go about it is to get a furniture maker to use the stuffing to make an ottoman, resulting in a more stylish look for your partially recycled floor cushion.

If you use the stuffing from your old pillows as material for a new outdoor garden cushion, it significantly cuts down the furniture cost. 

Repurpose for another use around the home

All you have to do is throw an old pillow in a waterproof fabric or trash bag and use it as a kneeling pad while you work. A knee pad reduces the physical strain from gardening, cleaning, or other chores that stress your knees. Pillows made from solid memory foam serve this purpose well as they’ll bounce back for long-lasting care for your knees.

If you have pets in your home, your old pillow might also make a nice zero-cost pet bed. Simply cover the pillow with a soft blanket or old cotton shirts, and your pet bed is ready for use. Of course, they also make a great addition to an existing pet bed, providing your pet dog isn’t the type to get chewing; otherwise, you may end up with pillow filling or feathers all over the house. 

You can also use old pillows to provide a cushioning and protective effect when packing items in storage. They are also great options for keeping fragile items stable when moving. A foam pillow can be cut into different sizes to fit this purpose so use that rather than a feather pillow in this case.

You can use pillowcases as cleaning rags. This keeps them off the landfill much longer.

DIY Projects

Old pillows serve as excellent materials for people who like to get creatively crafty. There are a lot of fun things that you can use old pillows for. You can use pillow stuffing to create stuffed toys for your kids. Other creative ideas include DIY floor poufs, bean bags, and pet beds. 

You can also make DIY draft stoppers out of old pillows to keep the wind out. With a dash of creativity, your draft stopper could be eye-catching home decor. If you are a novice at craft making, there are many tutorials that teach crafts online.

Recycle old pillows should nothing else suit

If you have a pillow that is too damaged to be given away and you don’t have a need to reuse or repurpose it, then recycling is your next option. Just make sure the pillows are dry and free of grease and oil.

We cannot recycle pillows with the curbside recycling bin because of the materials they comprise. Pillows have various materials combined into one, and this makes it a little difficult to sort. For example, the pillow stuffing may be made from a petroleum-based material, and the pillowcase may be from natural fiber. Now, facilities can not recycle these materials together.

The American textile recycling service bin allows you to recycle all types of pillows. Some fabric recycling centers may accept only bed and pillow linens. And others accept whole pillows. Use recycling search engines to find recycling centers close to you.

Why does what you do with old pillows matter

Your trash is valuable, if not to you, then to someone else or the planet. That is why we recycle, to give products and materials a new life after they are no longer wanted. Below are some reasons why recycling your old pillows matter.

Financial savings

When you donate your old bed pillows to those, who need them, especially shelters that run on charity, you help them gain significant financial savings. They can then use their new pillow budget to meet more important needs.

Reusing pillow fillings, stuffing, and fabric from old pillows for your DIY ideas and new furniture will reduce costs. 

Material savings

Humans need natural resources to meet all kinds of needs in life. But, current resource consumption practices are linear and therefore unsustainable. One way to conserve natural resources is recycling. Textile recycling facilities use the fibers from your unwanted pillow to make carpets and insulation.

Emissions savings

When you recycle or reuse goods, you use already existing materials to meet new needs. In doing so, you eliminate the emissions associated with producing new goods to fill those needs. This helps in the fight against climate change.

How to make your pillows last longer

The highest value you get from a product is by using it for its original purpose for as long as it can be useful. Caring for your pillows is important so that they stay in use longer.

Here are some tips for pillow care

  • Air out and fluff your pillows regularly
  • Wash every six months with hot water and mild detergent
  • Add tennis balls in the dryer to break down lumps
  • Layer the pillow with a protective case between the pillow and pillow covers


If you thought old pillows are nothing but trash, this article will help you see it differently. Both the fabric and stuffing of old pillows have uses that will benefit you and the environment. 

Jennifer is a content writer with an educational background in Public Relations and Advertising. From her desk in Lagos, Nigeria, she helps businesses around the world reach and connect with their audiences.
Photo by Max Rosero on Unsplash
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