How to Dispose of Old Pillows

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Wondering how to dispose of old pillows and blankets? Like donating a mattress, getting rid of old pillows and bedding is something you might expect to be simple. If they're in good condition, shouldn't someone else want them? But pillows and other items, like mattresses, can harbor all sorts of hard-to-kill germs — so donation is generally not a viable option when disposing of old pillows and cushions. Here's what to do to responsibly dispose of old pillows.

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How Should You Dispose of Pillows and Bedding?

Pillows and bedding take up a lot of space in the landfill, so finding ways to reuse and recycle them is ideal. The recycling services that accept and process cardboard, plastic, and other recyclables aren't equipped to process textiles, though. Don't put these materials in your curbside recycling bin.

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One way to make sure that your old pillows find some kind of new life is to drop them off at a recycling bin that accepts textiles. Companies including the American Textile Recycling Service manage these bins, which you might find located outside of churches and in parking lots. Pillows and other bedding that you drop in these bins can be sorted and sold to textile recyclers, generating money that the bin owner may then donate to charitable organizations.

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Keep in mind that memory foam pillows may not be accepted by textile-recycling companies, since the foam is made from hard-to-recycle plastics.

If you can't find a way to reuse or recycle your pillows ⁠— or if they're too dirty or otherwise damaged to hold onto ⁠— you should be able to dispose of them with the rest of your trash. Your local waste disposal service (whether that's a municipal service or a private trash collection company) will generally pick up your pillows and other textiles, like old sheets, along with the rest of your weekly trash. Just put them in trash bags before putting them at the curb.

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How Often Should You Dispose of Pillows?

Bed pillows should be replaced every two years, or even more frequently if they start showing signs of wear, like lumpy filling or rips in the fabric. While there are strategies you can use to clean mold and mildew from pillows, visible stains or bad odors are obviously a sign that it's time to replace your pillows. Waking up with an achy neck and shoulders may also indicate it's time to find a new life for your current pillows and replace them with more supportive versions.

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Do Animal Shelters Take Old Pillows?

The animals themselves might like to curl up on your old pillows ... but animal shelters generally don't accept donations of pillows or any kind of used bedding that's thick and cushioned, like down blankets and comforters. You may be able to donate flat sheets, thin blankets, and other types of bedding to an animal shelter, however. Each shelter has its own policies and wish list, so check your local shelter's website before dropping off used bedding.

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Homeless shelters and organizations that work with refugees and domestic abuse survivors are also a place to look when you're trying to figure out what to do with old pillows and sheets. Only donate pillows that are still in good condition, can be cleaned before you donate them, and come from a smoke-free and pet-free home.

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How Can You Upcycle Old Pillows?

Before you drop your old pillows off to a textile recycling bin, think about whether there any ways to reuse them around your home:

  • If you do any gardening or spend time on your knees while playing with little kids on the floor, cover old pillows with new covers and use them as kneeling pads.
  • Put old pillows into waterproof vinyl covers first, especially if you'll be using them as kneelers in your garden.
  • Put pillows down as makeshift pet beds for cats and dogs.

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The filling in down pillows can also be reused in a few ways:

  • Empty out the feathers inside your pillows and add them to your compost pile to create nutrient-rich soil for your plants.
  • Save these pillows to use as cushioning the next time you need to pack up breakable items for moving or shipping.

Find ways to recycle comforters and other bedding around your home too. Cut up old textiles to make rags, quilts, or even Halloween costumes and dress-up clothing for kids.

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