At some point, you’ll realize that the trusty pillow resting underneath your head no longer feels the way it used to. Maybe it’s suddenly too lumpy or too flat, or maybe it always seems kind of dirty even after being washed. Either way, there will probably come a time when you realize you need to get some new support. And when you find yourself wondering what to do with old pillows, you (and the planet) are better off upcycling or recycling them rather than simply stuffing them into the trash.
Unfortunately, even our absolute favorite pillows can only last for so long. In most instances, the Sleep Experts™ at Mattress Firm recommend replacing your pillows every one to two years, depending on the quality of the pillow and how you’ve maintained it and how you feel when you wake up.
If replacing new pillows every two years or so sounds wasteful, that’s because, well, it can be. Pillows are not recyclable in the toss-it-in-the-bin-out-front way, and it’s not recommended to toss them in the trash .
To minimize environmental impact and be as sustainable as possible, the best option is to repurpose pillows and find new life for them. Here are some smart suggestions for how to reuse old pillows.
12 things to do with old pillows
Turn them into floor cushions
You might not want to use your pillows in bed anymore, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used elsewhere. Jen Stark, founder of Happy DIY Home, suggests turning a few old pillows into a floor cushion. “You’ll need five old pillows and pillowcases for this project,” Stark says. “All you have to do is sew the five pillowcases together on the long sides and slip the pillows in. You can make them as long or short as you like, and you can even add Velcro to close the end of the pillowcase to contain the pillows.” Stark recommends following a YouTube tutorial video if you need more detailed instruction.
Make them into pet beds
If you have pets at home, try repurposing an old pillow into a pet bed for them rather than going out and buying them a brand new bed. If you have a cat or small dog, you’ll only need one pillow to do this. If you have a larger dog, you might want two to three pillows. You can easily follow a no-sew tutorial like this one, or you can use a video tutorial to make a pet bed using two old pillows and a t-shirt.
Fluff up another pillow
Upcycle the stuffing of an old pillow by using it to give some added volume to another pillow in your house. Simply remove the filler of your old pillow, then stuff it into a pillow or cushion that’s been looking a little flat lately.
Turn them into throw pillows
Need a new throw pillow for your bedroom or living room couch? If you’re feeling handy, there’s no need to buy one. Alex Dell’Aringa, maker and blogger of You Should Craft, suggests using an old pillow. “Once they’re washed/dried on hot, I repurpose old pillows as inserts for crocheted throw pillow covers,” she says. If you’re handy, you can crochet a cover for a throw pillow, or procure a cover of your choice, then put it on a clean old pillow. Dell’Aringa suggests following this tutorial.
Create a knee pad with them
If you spend a lot of time gardening, then you know that it can be hard on the knees. Instead of weeding through the aches and pains, turn an old pillow into a knee pad that you store with your gardening tools. To prolong its lifespan, tuck it into a moisture-resistant pillow protector, and tuck that into a washable pillowcase.
Pillows are great at blocking pesky drafts or external noises that may waft in under doors or around windows. You can simply stuff the pillow around the drafty area whenever it’s really bothering you. If you have a drafty chimney, a pillow is a great blocker there as well. Stick it in a trash bag, then shove it up your chimney to keep cool air from coming in. Just remember to unblock it before using it.
Fix up a stuffed animal with them
The same filling that gives your pillow its loft can help revitalize a beloved stuffed animal that’s limp or falling apart. Marissa Likar, writer and course creator at Stitch Clinic, says she loves using pillow stuffing for stuffed animals. “Even some well-loved stuffed animals can be perked up with some added stuffing,” Likar says. Open up your old pillow and remove the stuffing. Carefully open a seam or make a hole in the old stuffed animal, slowly add stuffing until it looks full again, and then sew it back together.
Get some new rags out of them
There’s no reason to purchase new rags to clean with when you have old pillows laying around. Open one up, remove the stuffing, and use the remaining fabric as rags. Michelle Bareid, founder of Lace Wig Advisor, says that they can be used for a variety of cleaning purposes. “I use these to clean my musical instruments because they are softer than other rags and won’t scratch or damage the finish on my favorite guitars,” she explains. “They also make good dusting rags, and you can use them to wipe down windowsills and ceiling fans pretty easily.”
Repurpose them into a tote bag
Stark says that one of the best uses of an old pillow is to turn it into a reusable grocery bag. Open up the pillow, take the stuffing out, and use the remaining fabric to create a tote bag. “They’re great for a quick trip to your local farmer’s market or taking out to the beach or even camping,” Stark says. “As a bonus, they fold up very flat and compact, and this makes them easy to slip into your purse or have a few in your car.” This YouTube video offers an easy tutorial to follow.
Compost the feathers
Getting rid of a feather pillow? The filling in a feather or down pillow is compostable, so you should definitely save it. Empty the feathers out into a composting bin and use them that way. You can then save the shell of the pillow to use for rags or a tote bag, so you’re really using the entire pillow.
If upcycling pillows isn’t up your alley, then recycling them is your best bet. This prevents them from ending up in a landfill and requires minimal effort. There are two ways to recycle pillows: You can drop them off in a donation bin or mail them in. Look into whether the American Textile Recycling Service offers bins for textiles like pillows near you .
You can also mail in pillows through a company called TerraCycle. You pay for a box, they send it to you, then you pack the pillow and send it back. To get the most out of the money you’re spending, you can also use the box for other household items you’re looking to get rid of, but don’t want to toss in the garbage.
If you want to donate your old pillow, start by washing it thoroughly. Once it’s clean, you’ll need to do a little research to find a local place to donate it. Start by contacting local homeless shelters to find out if they accept used pillows — some won’t because of hygiene reasons. You can also try calling local charity and thrift stores to see if they accept pillows. If you can’t find anywhere to donate them, you can always try advertising on a platform like Facebook Marketplace.
Of course, these aren’t the only options available to someone who might be wondering what to do with old pillows. This list is a mere launching pad for whatever crafty ideas you may have, whether using old pillows for packing material, costume stuffing, or anything else you can think up. With a little creativity, patience, and consideration for the environment (along with a few YouTube tutorials), what was once your favorite pillow can become your next favorite you-name-it.