image of dog lying on pillow

Best Ways to Repurpose and Recycle Your Old Pillows

by
/ April 26, 2022

If it's been a year or two since you last changed out your pillows and they're getting a bit too flat or lumpy for comfort, you're likely due for some new ones. 

But after you've found some comfy new pillows, what are you supposed to do with your old ones? If you throw them out, they'll just end up in a landfill. 

Your most eco-friendly option is to get crafty. Because pillows collect lots of dead skin cells, dust mites, and other debris over time, be sure to wash your old pillows before you get started. Then, give them new life with these 12 creative ways to reuse old pillows.

Top 12 ways to repurpose your old pillows

Comfortable, high-quality pillows are essential for getting a good night’s sleep—but it seems so wasteful to throw them away after you get a brand new set. 

Luckily, most bed pillows are incredibly versatile, so you can reuse them in a few different ways around the house. Additionally, you may be able to find a good place to donate or upcycle them.

Let’s discuss the top 12 ways you can repurpose, reuse, or donate your old bed pillows before you throw them away.

1. DIY a floor cushion

For extra-comfy seating in your living room or bedroom, you can't go wrong with a large floor pillow.

Rather than splurging on a new one, repurpose your old pillows as the stuffing for a simple, homemade pouf. This is an easy DIY project that you can complete at home to give your old pillows a new life.

For this Apartment Therapy tutorial, all you need is some scissors, a needle and thread, some fabric or old sheets, a few yards of welt cording, and your old pillows.

2. Create a kneeling pad

Hours of kneeling to tend to your garden or scrub the floors can often lead to super-sore knees. That's where a supportive kneeling pad makes all the difference. 

Use your pillow stuffing to make your own with old cloth napkins, sheets, or a waterproof fabric like oilcloth. Here, Washington Gardener provides a simple how-to.

3. Make a pet bed

Research shows your dog literally loves your scent, which makes a pet bed made from your old pillows and clothes the perfect curl-up spot. 

For a small dog or cat, you can sew up an old pillow or two inside a sweatshirt or blanket according to this tutorial from Handimania. For a larger pup, use some old sheets or colorful fabric to make this two-pillow pet bed by Joyful Abode.

4. Block the breeze with a draft stopper

Hardwood floors and airy spaces are lovely until winter drafts and sky-high energy bills arrive. To keep your space warm and insulated throughout the winter, repurpose your old pillows as the stuffing for a door stopper. 

Simple Life Mom's guide makes it easy: Just stitch together strips from an old pillowcase or sheets and fill them with your old pillow stuffing and rice or sand.

5. Pack up valuables

While older generations tend to put down roots for good, younger Americans have made a habit of moving, picking up every year or two, finds a survey by Porch.

If you know a move is on the horizon, you might want to hold onto your old pillows. When it comes time to box up ultra-fragile items like glasses and keepsakes, they'll make for great reusable padding and packing material.

Old pillows can also serve as a buffer between your furniture and the moving truck to prevent dings and scratches along the way.

6. Give stuffed animals a new life

If your child's favorite teddy bear is looking saggy (or worse, has lost its fluff in a showdown with the family dog), you can give it a new lease on life with some old pillow stuffing. 

Simply cut a hole in your pillow, trim away a few stitches to create a small hole in the stuffed animal, fill it up with stuffing, and sew it back up. New to animal surgery? Here's your master guide from While She Naps.

7. Double stuff pillows

If your pillow has flattened into a pancake but is in otherwise good shape, stuff it into your pillowcase with another less-than-fluffy pillow. With this simple trick, you'll make 'em last a few months longer.

8. Pamper your rodents

If you've got a pet hamster, rat, or another furry friend, you know how expensive their bedding can be. Save some cash and spoil your pet by lining their cage with your old pillow stuffing. 

Sure, you'll need to throw it out as soon as it's soiled, but you'll at least have lengthened your pillow's lifetime a little longer.

9. Put your pillow feathers in the compost bin

Stuck with an old feather pillow you don’t know what to do with? Mix them into a backyard compost bin. Naturally rich in nitrogen, a key building block of life, feathers break down into a nutritious fertilizer to support a lush, leafy garden. Learn how to compost with Better Homes & Gardens.

10. Cut up cleaning rags

If you don't feel like crafting but still want to reduce your environmental footprint, cut up some cleaning rags to lower your paper towel use. Simply remove your old pillow's stuffing and cut the remaining fabric into square cleaning rags.

You can also use this easy DIY trick on old throw pillows and pillowcases as well.

11. Donate to a shelter

While homeless shelters and thrift stores sometimes refuse pillow donations for hygiene reasons, others accept (and have a need for) lightly-used pillows. 

Call or email your local shelter to see if they'll take yours, or try reaching out to your vet, a local animal shelter, or a wildlife rehabilitation center—many will take pillows for bedding in animal crates. While you're at it, consider donating old sheets, comforters, and towels too.

12. Recycle

You can't just toss old pillows into the recycling bin, but there are textile recycling facilities across the United States that will gladly take them. As long as your pillows aren't stained with blood, grease, or oil, their fibers can be recycled into clothes, cleaning cloths, carpet, insulation, and more. 

Use Recycle Nation or American Textile Recycling Service (or Home for Foam if you have foam pillows) to find a drop-off station near you.

Signs you may need a new pillow

Now you know exactly what to do with your old pillows when you’re ready to get rid of them. But how do you know when it’s time to get a new set? There are some telltale signs it's time to replace your bed pillows. Some of these include:

  • You’re waking up with neck or shoulder pain: An unsupportive pillow can be a key cause of shoulder or neck pain in the morning. If you keep waking up with back and neck pain, then it may be time to replace your pillow.
  • It has noticeable stains or smells: You sleep on your pillow every single night, so it’s bound to get dirty over time. But you'll want to replace it if it gets too dirty. With any large stains or smells, it's best to replace your pillow ASAP.
  • You're constantly re-fluffing your pillow: Pillows will de-fluff over time. If you constantly find yourself re-fluffing your pillow, it may be a sign that it’s time for a new one.
  • You’ve had it for three years or more: The lifespan of a pillow can vary from product to product, but generally, they don't last longer than three years. If you haven’t purchased a new pillow set within that time, it may be time to think about replacing it.
  • You frequently wake up sneezing: Pillows, especially down or feather pillows, can attract dust mites and other allergens fairly easily. If you're waking up sneezing, it may be a sign it's time to replace your old pillows.

A comfortable pillow is the key to a good night’s sleep. If you find your sleep is being impacted by your pillow, it may be time to buy a replacement.

Frequently asked questions

How long do pillows last?

A pillow’s lifespan is heavily dependent on the quality and type of pillow you buy. As a good rule of thumb, pillows will generally last anywhere between 18 months and three years. Proper maintenance can help extend the life of your pillow. If you're consistently washing your pillows and taking proper care of them, you may be able to extend their lifespan.

How frequently should I be washing my pillows?

You should aim to wash your pillows once every three to six months. However, your pillow covers and pillowcases should be washed every few weeks.

Can I wash my pillows in a washing machine?

This can depend on the type of pillow you have. For example, down feather pillows and synthetic down pillows wash very well in the washing machine. That said, we do suggest you add tennis balls in with your feather pillows to reduce clumping.

Memory foam and latex foam pillows, on the other hand, are a little more sensitive and can't be washed in a washing machine. As a best practice for pillow maintenance, read the manufacturer's instructions to ensure you're properly caring for the product.

Get high-quality pillows, mattresses, and other bed accessories with Saatva

There are quite a few creative ways you can reuse your old pillows once you replace them with a brand-new, high-quality set. But shopping for a new set of pillows can be difficult with so many brands on the market.

Luckily, Saatva has a variety of high-quality and comfortable pillows, like the Saatva Memory Foam Pillow and Saatva Down Alternative Pillow. Additionally, you can shop our wide variety of mattresses, bed sheets, and other bed accessories to upgrade your bedroom.

lauren krouse

Lauren Krouse

Lauren Krouse is a freelance writer who covers health, domestic violence, and self-advocacy. Her work appears inWomen's Health, Men's Health, Prevention, Self, HuffPost, and elsewhere. When she's not writing, you can find her trying to meditate more, weightlifting, or walking in the woods with her partner and black lab. Visit her website.

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