Did you know that the National Sleep Foundation recommends you replace your pillow every one to two years?
This may not seem like long, but pillows go through quite a bit of wear and tear. And because you rest your face on them, they can accumulate quite a few unpleasant things like saliva, skin oils, makeup, dead skin cells, and yes, even dust mites and mold.
So, if the average person is replacing bed pillows that often, what happens to all the old pillows? Luckily, these squishy cushions can still be useful after their days on the bed are done.
Take a look at a few creative ways to put old pillows to use and keep them out of landfills.
If you have several old pillows to reuse, making larger floor cushions is one practical solution. Perfect for impromptu video gaming, movie parties, or gathering around board games, a few large cushions make a welcome addition to any family room or playroom.
It can be as easy as finding pre-made cushion covers (some may fit two or more bed pillows). Or you could sew your own covers with fabrics that match your decor. Check out Homedit for some inspirational ideas. Or, make a nifty long cushion/pillow bed by using old pillowcases, as described on It’s Always Autumn (it’s super simple!).
You know how you can spend dozens of dollars on a fancy bed for Fido or Fluffy, yet they’d still rather curl up in your dirty laundry? A pet bed made from your old pillows can solve two problems in one go.
First, it’s an easy way to repurpose pillows and second, it smells like you and not a random factory so your pet may be more apt to nap there. Check out Handimania’s simple old sweatshirt pet bed, try this no-sew pet bed from Instructables, or re-stuff an existing pet bed with your old pillow.
Keep old pillows around to use as packing filler or for moving. Vacuum storage bags can be a good way to compress them until needed. Then, when you have a box of delicate items to ship or want to protect furniture from scrapes, you have them handy. This is a good way to use solid memory or latex foam pillows since the materials can be cut to size.
No need to pay big bucks for designer throw pillows when they’re one of the simplest DIY sewing projects around. You can compress the filling and make them into square throws with limitless possibilities for DIY or store-bought covers, turn them into smaller travel-size pillows, or turn them into oblong bolster pillows for a bench or daybed.
Drafty doors and windows can have your AC or heater working overtime, equaling a lot of wasted energy. Draft stoppers are a pretty simple DIY project, and a good way to reuse pillow stuffing.
Try this nifty draft stopper repurposing long socks, or this one using old pillowcases. Place them in front of external doors, by drafty window sills, or to keep certain rooms cooler or warmer. They can make a cute housewarming gift, too!
Gardening is a rewarding and awesome hobby, but all that weeding and sowing can be a little tough on the knees. Rather than buying a new knee cushion, double up an old pillow in a sturdy pillowcase. Or if you’re crafty, make a cover with outdoor-safe fabric so it’s more durable.
Check out the tutorial on Sum of Their Stories for a handy gardening kneeling pad filled with pillow stuffing. And The Bumbling Bee has a tutorial for a pad with a removable cover.
Secondhand stores and charities like Goodwill, Easter Seals, The Purple Heart Foundation, and the Salvation Army accept all textiles for donation as long as they aren’t “wet or contaminated with hazardous materials.” If they can’t sell the pillows, these organizations have relationships with textile recyclers so there’s a good chance they’ll get recycled.
You may also have some luck donating old pillows to a local animal shelter or wildlife rehabbers (or, turn them into pet beds and donate those). You could also give them away via Craigslist or Freecycle to someone who could get a little more use from them.
You might have a textile recycling facility nearby that specializes in fabrics and fibers and that accepts pillows. Some will only take linens, and foam pillows might be best taken to mattress or foam recyclers.
Check Earth911 Recycling Search or look for American Textile Recycling Service bins (they accept household textiles and are accessible in several states). If your pillows are feather or down, you can empty the feather into your compost bin.
There are also a few ways to extend the lifespan of your pillows. The first is to buy good-quality, sustainable pillows that tend to keep their shape longer. Product review website Sleep Like The Dead finds that latex foam, buckwheat, and down pillows tend to be more durable than down alternative and polyester pillows.
The second most important thing you can do is use a pillow protector. These zippered cases go directly on the pillow, beneath the pillowcase. Protectors are typically inexpensive and prevent moisture and some allergens from reaching your pillow, prolonging the life of your pillow.
Other helpful tips include regularly swapping the side of the pillow you sleep on often, following the manufacturer’s washing instructions, and regularly fluffing the pillow.
Have old bedding, too? Check out these tips to see what to do with old sheets.
Feature image courtesy of Kim Love. Originally published on June 24, 2015, this article was updated in January 2022.