Person holding an old pillow
Care Tips

What To Do With Old Pillows: Reuse, Recycle, or Get Rid Of? (6+ Tips)

    Last Updated
    June 1, 2023
    min read

    Pillows are essential in our daily lives, providing comfort and support while sleeping. However, over time, pillows lose shape and become lumpy and uncomfortable, prompting us to replace them with new ones. So, what do you do when you have old pillows and need to replace them with new pillows? 

    Rather than discarding them, there are ways to recycle and reuse old pillows. You can repurpose old pillows or dispose of them in eco-friendly ways.

    Upgrade your pillows with Purple. Say hello to no-pressure support and cool comfort.

    How To Repurpose Old Pillows

    You can make many things with old pillows in just one DIY project. Consider these options if you have pillow stuffing and pillowcases to upcycle.

    Pet Beds

    Pillows can be a great alternative for a pet bed. If your pet is small enough, your old pillow can give them the added cushion they need.

    Floor Cushions

    Add pillows to the floor surrounding a coffee table to create seat cushions for game nights and group gatherings.

    Garden Cushions

    Rather than purchasing a new knee cushion, double up an old pillow in outdoor-safe fabric. Use a soft, gentle pillow protector that won’t scrape against your knees or cause bruising.

    Outdoor Seating

    If your bed pillows are no longer comfortable, why not reupholster them for outdoor furniture? You can use old throw pillows and sew on weather-resistant fabric to protect them from environmental factors.

    Where & How To Donate Pillows

    If you don’t have the time to upcycle your pillows, you might wonder: can you donate pillows? While you can bring pillows to most donation drives, many thrift stores won’t accept them for sanitary reasons. 

    Instead of taking your old pillows to places like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, consider these charities and donation centers:

    • Animal shelters: Most accept clean and gently used pillows as animal bedding. While you can safely donate materials like cotton and polyester fiber, you’ll want to avoid donating down, as it may cause allergic reactions.
    • Homeless shelters: Unlike thrift stores, most homeless shelters will accept old pillows. Still, you should contact them before bringing your donations.
    • Online donation sites: Some online donation sites such as Freecycle and Craigslist have sections where you can post items you want to donate for free.
    • Community centers: Some local organizations, like churches and nonprofits, accept used foam pillows and pillow covers to distribute to families in need.

    How To Dispose Of A Pillow

    If it’s time to get rid of your pillow, there are many other alternatives to throwing it in the garbage. 

    Here’s how to dispose of pillows sustainably:

    • Contact a textile recycling facility: Instead of tossing your old pillows into the recycling bin, you can bring them to these recycling facilities. Textile recycling facilities reuse old stuffing as padding, cleaning rags, and insulation, preventing them from ending up in landfills.
    • Compost your stuffing: If you have feather pillows, you can remove the filling to place into your compost bin. Other organic materials like wool, 100% cotton, and bamboo will compost. However, you’ll want to avoid composting synthetic fabrics like latex or fiberfill, as doing so may be unsafe.

    You’ll know it’s time to get rid of a pillow under these circumstances or when you start to notice the following signs:

    • It’s more than two years old.
    • It feels lumpy and sags often.
    • It no longer provides body, head, neck, or lumbar support.
    • It emits a bad smell, indicating the presence of toxins and harmful chemicals.
    • It’s excessively stained.
    • It’s torn, and stuffing or feathers are falling out.

    Some cushions, like latex pillows, last longer than others, such as fiberfill or other synthetic materials. Learn more about how often you should replace your pillows in our guide.

    Upgrade Your Sleep With Purple

    If it’s time for a pillow replacement, keep these tips in mind to dispose of the product responsibly and sustainably. To learn more about how to choose the best new pillow, read our complete guide.

    Upgrade your sleep with Purple. Our unique and flexible GelFlex® Grid pillows are breathable, moisture-wicking, and last a long time with the right care. Don’t forget to shop for the right pillow size – check out our guide for more information.

    Old Pillows FAQs

    Is it okay to throw away old pillows?

    It’s best to avoid disposing of old pillows by using the garbage where they often end up in landfills and take years to biodegrade, if at all. Instead, you can upcycle old pillows into other household items, donate them to someone in need, or send them to a recycling center.

    Can you keep a pillow for ten years?

    While you can technically keep a pillow for ten years, how safe it is will depend on the product material. For instance, natural materials like down/feathers will last longer than synthetic counterparts, lasting only one to two years.

    You can extend your pillows’ lifespans by taking care of them correctly. Use our guide to learn how to wash them correctly.


    About the authors

    April Seifert

    April has nearly a decade of writing experience, with 3+ years specializing in sleep content. Her work has been covered by sites like BuzzFeed, Entrepreneur, and Money Under 30. She has an M.A. in Magazine, Newspaper, and Online Journalism from Syracuse University and a B.A. in Communication Studies. As a self-proclaimed expert in all things cozy, she sleeps better at night, knowing her writing helps others sleep in comfort, too.

    Judith Palmer

    Judith Palmer specializes in product management, leading efforts to understand customer needs and create Purple products across pillow, bedding and cushion categories. Judith has spent over 3 years understanding the pillow and bedding category to provide people with products for better sleep.