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Throwing out old pillows? Do this instead

If you can’t remember the last time you replaced your bedroom pillows, you may want to think about it. Experts at the National Sleep Foundation say people should replace their pillows every year or two because they “absorb body oil, dead skin cells, and hair,” which can “create the perfect environment for dust mites (common allergens).”

It makes sense, given the number of hours we lay our heads on them at night. Changing them so often means throwing out the old ones. But pillows aren’t cheap. Instead of tossing them in the garbage (which you should never do), there are some things you can do to reuse or repurpose them, so you aren’t throwing money out the window or polluting the environment.

woman hugging pillow
united photo studio/Shutterstock

Options for old pillows

If you’re looking for a fun project and aren’t sure what to do with old pillows, why not repurpose your old pillows by turning them into floor cushions for your living room? Find some scrap fabrics at your local fabric store or any old material you have lying around the house and stitch new cushion covers for them. You can use them for family movie nights or for extra seating the next time you host a football party.

If you like spending time in the garden or have a big landscaping project this spring and need a gardening cushion, use your old pillows instead of buying new ones. You can also make gardening knee pads by splitting your pillow in half. Pillow batting or stuffing can also be reused for filling stuffed animals or quilts.

old dirty pillow

Can you recycle old pillows?

The short answer is “yes.” Land and sea pollution is a major problem today, and throwing out your pillows should be the last resort. Many pillow fillings are made from synthetic material like polyester fibers, also known as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is a form of plastic. Memory foam pillows are made of toxic polyurethane and contain other harsh chemicals, which can end up in landfills.

The raw materials used to make pillows are not all renewable, so any way you can reduce and reuse the products will make a significant environmental impact and lessen the amount that ends up in landfills. If you want to research options in your area for the proper recycling of pillows, you can check a few options here.

pet bed
Patryk Kosmider/Shutterstock

A couple of other options

If you’ve got pets, you know how expensive it can be to buy them beds. Why not repurpose your old pillows and make a pet bed yourself? Again, you can find the right fabric by visiting your local fabric store. Just make sure to tell them what you’ll be using it for so they can recommend a fabric that will hold up to the wear and tear it will likely experience. The bonus is that your old pillows smell like you and will be comforting to your fur babies, who now have a soft place to curl up.

If you have any couch or chair pillows that have lost their bounce, you can also take out the stuffing from your old pillows and use it to fill up other pillows and cushions that have gone flat. If you want to donate your pillows, you can call your local Goodwill or homeless shelter and ask if they accept pillows as donations. Vet clinics and rehabilitation centers for wildlife often need pillows and will be more than willing to take old pillows off your hands.

Before donating, upcycling, recycling, or repurposing your unwanted or old pillows, make sure to give them a quick wash first. Add about a third of the soap you would normally use to wash your clothes, set your washer to a bulk setting, and once they are washed, let them air-dry.

If you’re not a fan of crafty projects and don’t feel confident taking on one of the options above, you can also reuse the filling inside old pillows to pack items you’re mailing or boxes of fragile items you keep in storage. If you’re moving (or know someone who is), use them to protect boxed items. There are countless ways to reuse the material that are eco-friendly, easy to do, and will help pad your wallet. It’s a win-win-win.

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