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What To Do With Old Pillows? (Your Options)

A collage of old pillows.

Do you have old pillows that you hate to throw away? 

They look clean, so you consider recycling them or donating them to a local thrift shop or a local charity. Do you want to get rid of them but do not know what to do with the old pillows now that you purchased new down pillows, memory foam pillows or bamboo pillows.  

Pillows date back to ancient times when the Mesopotamians, the Chinese, and the Egyptians made pillows out of stone, wood, ivory and other uncomfortable materials.

Maybe you feel that because your pillows provide more comfort than ancient stone or wood pillows that someone likely wants them.  

What are your options for old pillows that you believe still have a lot of use in them? You likely have more options than you thought you had for old bed pillows. The options that you considered may not be a good way, or even an acceptable way, of recycling or disposing of them. 

Related: Types of Pillows | Sofa Throw Pillow IdeasDoes Goodwill Take Pillows | King and Queen Bed Pillow Arrangements

Can I Donate My Old Pillows to a Thrift Shop? 

Different types of pillows on store.

The Goodwill of Northern New England has a long list of items that they accept as donations. They also have a long list of items that they do not accept as donations. They accept sofas, chairs, clothing, sports equipment, area rugs and bed frames. They do not accept mattresses or box springs.

They also do not accept bed pillows. You might believe that your old pillows are a good donation item. Unfortunately, clean pillows in good condition are not the only type of pillows that likely find their way to a thrift shop.

Some online sources indicate that thrift shops accept bed pillows. Go directly to the thrift shop site to learn if the organization accepts old pillows. Chances are, the thrift shop near you follows the same policy as Goodwill and other nationwide thrift stores. 

Consider donating your old pillows to an animal shelter. Many animal shelters accept donations of old pillows to use them for pet beds. Call before you go or check the shelter’s website to see if they accept pillows for bedding of the pets at the shelter. 

Do not take dirty, stained or ripped pillows to the shelter. Make sure that you include only gently used pillows in your animal shelter donation. 

Use Old Pillows for Your Pets 

Dog and cat on pillow.

Do you have a pet? Old pillows likely fit nicely into your favorite pet’s bed. Does Fido or princess already have a pet bed? Are pet beds too expensive for you right now? Many pets love to lay on the pillow in their own area or near the family. 

Make sure that the pillow does not have decorations or finishes such as buttons, zippers, fringe or pom-poms. You pet can easily chew on these and possibly cause a medical emergency for your dog, cat or other pet. 

Does your pet like to pillow fight with himself? You probably want to think about other options for the old pillows. 

Create New Compost Material 

Are you surprised to learn that the feathers inside your down pillows or old feather pillows make for a great addition to the compost bin?

Empty the feathers and other stuffing into the compost bin. Green Living Zone indicates that the next step is to add leaves, coffee grounds and vegetable scraps. Six months later, and voila! You have nitrogen-rich fertilizer. 

The site recommends throwing away the shell or cover of the pillow. I strongly recommend finding another use for it. Consider using the old pillow cover as a draft stopper or as a packing, storage, or moving material. 

Make a Garden Cushion 

A garden couch with pillow.

Old pillows make an excellent garden cushion. Avoid the uncomfortable, sometimes overpriced garden cushion and use your old pillow. It makes for a soft, comfy material to kneel on while participating in your gardening hobby. 

Consider adding a cover made of outdoor safe materials or just pop the pillow inside an old, study pillowcase to prolong the life of your “new” garden cushion. 

Neighborhood Donation Bins Provided by the American Textile Recycling Service 

The American Textile Recycling Service touts the organization as the “fastest growing donation bin operator in the USA.” Donate your old pillows by taking them to one of the recycling bins any time, 24-hours a day, 365 days a year.

Do not forget to grab the gently-used toys, shoes and clothing to donate when you donate the old pillows. Find the professionally maintained donation bins at major malls, at shopping centers, grocery stores and in the parking lots of convenience stores and drug stores. 

Donate clean old pillows at your neighborhood recycling bins. Help organizations in their mission to preserve the planet and provide green recycling solutions. 

Recycle Your Pillows at Home 

A woman sewing pillow.

You do not have to leave home to recycle your old pillows. You have the option to use them as outdoor cushions or outdoor seating for the kids. Cover the pillows with weather-resistant fabric and enjoy giving your old pillows a longer life. 

Make your old pillows into “new” throw pillows. Save the money that you normally spend on fancy throw pillows by covering the old pillows with fabric of your choice.  

Add the tassels, buttons, embroidered fabric or simply use your imagination. Nobody knows but you that the throw pillows on the sofa or the floor are actually your old bed pillows

Clean the Old Pillows 

Do not donate pillows or repurpose your old pillows for use in your home without first cleaning them. Pillows often retain heat, sweat, skin cells, and saliva.  

Check the label on the pillows for cleaning instructions. Is the cleaning label long gone? There is a general process for cleaning pillows. 

Toss the pillows into the washing machine if you know that it is okay to wash them. Use a mild detergent. Wash the old pillows on the gentle cycle. 

Throw the pillows into the dryer. Toss in a tennis ball or two, or homemade dryer balls, which helps to break up the lumps and clumps.

The Bedding Planet explains that you should put down pillows on the air or the fluff setting before you start the dryer. Put synthetic pillows on low heat and start the dryer. 


How do I know when it is time to recycle my old pillows? 

The length of time that pillows last often depend on the type of pillow. Pillows with budget-friendly polyester fill need replacing more often down pillows or bamboo pillows.  

Casper suggests replacing old pillows after about two years, or when the pillow gets lumpy, or if you have head or neck pain after laying on your pillow. 

Do charities accept old pillows? 

Check with your local charity before you take your old pillows to drop off as a donation. You do not want to bring them back home with you. Many charities do not accept pillows because of risks such as hygiene issues. 

Are there other options for my old pillows? 

There are always other options for what to do with old pillows. Use your imagination for what to do with them inside your home. Let the kids use them as pillows for their dolls or stuffed animals.

Consider adding insulation using old pillows around your bath tub, or the pipes under your sinks. Do not use pillows for insulation on furnace pipes. Do not store them near the furnace. 


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