What to do with old pillows
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What To Do With Old Pillows? Ideas for Reuse and Recycling

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 rundown of the practical advice you need.

6 Things You Can Do With Old Pillows

Pillows absorb body oil, makeup chemicals, saliva, and dead skin cells. They begin to smell after a while and can 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 

1. Donate your old bed pillows to a new home

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 bedding 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 your old bed pillow 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 local homeless shelters if they're sufficiently clean for someone else to use and in a usable condition. Providing they're in good nick, online thrift stores or second-hand shops may also accept them. Either way, do check if they are accepting pillow donations to avoid a wasted trip to the thrift store of a local shelter.

2. Compost pillows that biodegrade

If your old pillow stuffing is full of feathers or down, then you have compost material on your hands. The insides of 100% organic feather pillows 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, it, too, may be suitable for composting. You will need to cut up the pillowcase into tiny pieces to aid decomposition.

3. 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 a colorful fabric outer to suit your decor, and you're ready to go. 

Also, consider using your old pillow as floor cushion seat to make sitting on the floor much 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.

Using the stuffing from your old pillows as material for a new outdoor garden cushion significantly cuts down the furniture cost. 

4. Repurpose your old pillows for another use around the home

All you have to do is throw your old bed pillows 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 to make a pet bed ready for use. If your pet's bed is starting to look a little deflated, you can also use your old pillows to re-stuff it.

Of course, they also make a great addition to an existing eco-friendly dog bed, providing your pet dog isn't the type to get chewing; otherwise, you may end up with the filling from your old feather pillow all over the house.

Old pillows have loads of uses

You can also use old pillows to provide a cushioning and protective effect when packing items in storage. They are also great options as packing material to keep 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 the remaining fabric from pillowcases as cleaning rags. This keeps them off the landfill much longer.

Old pillows also make great insulation. For example, you can use them wrapped around a hot water tank to help keep the water arm for less cost, saving electricity at home.

5. 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 for your furry friend.

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

6. 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, most facilities can not recycle these materials together and, therefore, won't accept pillows.

However, 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 other textile recycling facilities will accept whole pillows. Use recycling search engines to find a textile recycling facility close to you.

If you find a suitable recycling facility, your old pillow will show up somewhere else as carpet padding or insulation helping to ensure it doesn't go to waste.

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 matters.

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 essential 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 to the dryer to break down lumps
  • Layer the pillow with a protective case between the pillow and the pillow covers

When is it time for a new pillow?

If you start to experience neck pain or disrupted sleep, it might be time to replace your pillow. Most experts suggest replacing your pillow every couple of years is a good idea. Over time, the support pillows offer when you sleep can decline.

Additionally, replacing your pillow when it starts to look less than new is always a good idea. Those stains and a less-than-fresh smell mean it can harbor dust and mites, which no one wants to share a bed with.


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

By Jennifer Okafor, BSc.

Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.

Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Photo by Max Rosero on Unsplash
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