How to Dispose of a Mattress: Recycling, Donating, and What NOT To Do

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You are wondering how to dispose of a mattress— Maybe you are thinking of a new bed or just got a new mattress. Whatever the case, it is challenging to know what to do, especially if there is still some life in your old mattress. It’s probably not something you think about a lot, but knowing how to get rid of an old mattress is just as important as knowing how to select your perfect mattress when it’s time for a replacement.

Because they’re so big and bulky, mattresses aren’t always easy to get rid of, especially in an environmentally friendly way— but there are some good options available for when you need to get them out of your home. Before you get rid of an old mattress though, it’s important to know when it’s time to get a new one.

How To Know When It’s Time To Replace Your Mattress

A good mattress can last you a long time, but you’ll have to replace it eventually. Less expensive mattresses have a shorter lifespan, typically 7-8 years, but higher quality mattresses may have longer lives. It’s important that your mattress keeps you comfortable and your body supported up until it’s time to replace it.

Some signs that you need to replace your mattress include:

  • You’re waking up with aches and pains
  • The mattress is lumpy, sagging, uneven, or visibly worn
  • It’s harder for you to fall asleep or stay asleep
  • Your mattress makes lots of noise as you shift around
  • You just want to choose the best mattress for your sleeping style

What About My Box Spring?

If your mattress rests on top of a box spring, it’s important to check that for signs of wear too. Just like your mattress, you’ll want to replace your box spring if it’s damaged, sagging, excessively dirty, or noisy.

What Do I Do With My Old Mattress?

It may just be tempting to put an old mattress in the dumpster, on the curb free for the taking or for junk removal— but you should consider other options. Illegal dumping is a real problem for large items like furniture and mattresses, and it’s not worth potential fines or repercussions.

If you’re looking to get rid of a mattress, consider these options.

Donating Your Mattress

As the adage goes: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” If your unwanted mattress is clean and in good shape, mattress donation is an excellent option. One of the best times that I see people donating a mattress is when they combine households. Often the mattress is still in great shape, but the new couple wants to start with a new bed and that makes sense on many levels. 

Not only can your old, in good shape mattress help a person or family in need, but these donations may be tax deductible as well. Remember to include the box spring too if you are getting rid of it as well.

Where to Donate Your Mattress

Note: Always get in touch with your local branches and organizations to make sure they accept mattress donations— some may not accept them while others will.

Recycling Your Mattress

Your typical box spring mattress is made from fabric, wood, and metal springs— in other words, things that can be recycled! But you can’t just stuff your old mattress in your recycling bin and wait for your area recycling program to take care of it. If there is a mattress recycler or mattress recycling program in your area, it can be as easy as taking your item to them. They might even be able to pick it up for you.

You’ll need to pay a small recycling fee when you turn in your old mattress, and also the price of mattress removal if they’ll come out and pick it up for you though.

Why Recycle Your Old Mattress?

Recycling mattresses keeps them out of the landfill and can give those parts a new lease on life. Foam from mattresses can be shredded and reused as carpet padding, the metal components can be melted down into all kinds of items, and the fabrics can be reused in other items, or repurposed into insulation.

Where to Recycle Your Mattress

  • The Mattress Recycling Council (for residents of California, Connecticut, and Rhode Island)
  • To find a recycling facility near you, check out the Earth911 directory
  • Community drop-off locations, or locally-run mattress recycling days

Note: Your mattress retailer may be partnered with a mattress recycling program— this is especially helpful if there are no mattress recycling centers near you.

Why You Shouldn’t Take Your Old Mattress to the Landfill

Mattresses are big bulky items, and they take up a lot of space. This is true for your home, and it’s also true for your area landfill. In fact, even among all the other trash and solid waste there, mattresses also take up a huge amount of landfill space.

Americans dump about 20 million mattresses a year, and this can add up to 800 million cubic feet of refuse to landfills already packed to the brim with other garbage. Because of the padding, fabric, and springs, discarded mattresses are difficult to compact and can even break the landfill machinery!

Consider all other options before considering the landfill. Your local charities, thrift stores or recycling centers— and the Earth— will thank you!

Selling or Giving Away Your Mattress

If you’ve got a perfectly good mattress that you still need to get rid of, this is another good option. Just be sure that any transactions are safe, secure, and fair for both buyer and seller.

Where to Sell Your Mattress

  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Craigslist
  • Nextdoor
  • Your local classified ads

Note: If you need the mattress out of your home quickly, this likely will not be your fastest option.

When NOT to Donate or Sell Your Mattress

Even if you can’t sell or donate your mattress, you have to consider proper disposal. This is especially true if your mattress isn’t in the most pristine condition. Generally, donation centers will not accept mattresses if they display any of the following:

1. If It’s Broken or At the End of Its Lifespan

If you can’t sleep on a broken or aged mattress, you can’t expect anyone else to either. As long as it’s not completely destroyed, a well-used mattress can still be recycled for parts or repurposed.

2. If It’s Stained, Dirty, or Smelly

Suspicious stains on the mattress don’t inspire a lot of confidence and can look unhygienic. If your mattress is looking dingy and the stains aren’t coming out, consider recycling it.

3. Bed Bugs and Other Pests

If your mattress has been infested by bed bugs or other pests, then you absolutely should not risk spreading the pests to others. Even recycling the mattress can potentially spread the pests, so proper disposal is vital here.

When disposing of infested items, it’s important to contain the infestation before attempting to move them. For smaller items like pillows, placing them in a plastic bag will work. Larger items like mattresses should be shrink-wrapped or tightly covered in tarp or painter’s plastic to contain the pests and prevent further spread. 

Once moved outside, clearly label that the mattress is infested to deter anyone who may be tempted to rehome your item before waste disposal picks it up.

Why Mattress Care Matters

A little extra care goes a long way. Keeping a clean and well-maintained mattress can actually encourage better sleep and can also extend the life of your mattress. For more information, check out my tips for how to clean your bedroom for better sleep.

Periodically rotating your mattress and box spring can prevent sagging and excessive wear— in turn, this prolongs their lives and keeps things comfy for years to come.

The Importance of Investing in a Quality Mattress

With mattresses, you really do get what you pay for. A sturdy, high-quality mattress will keep you feeling comfortable and well-supported for years to come— and some, like Hastens, may last generations. Cheaper mattresses may leave you feeling uncomfortable or even in pain after only a few years and require replacement. That’s why it’s so important to spend as much as you comfortably can on a good mattress that will last.

Comfort is subjective, but some good things to look for in a mattress include:

  • The mattress holds your entire body and keeps your hips supported
  • It’s comfortable on pressure points such as your head, shoulders, hips, and knees
  • Lets your muscles relax throughout your body— especially those in your back

Shopping for a new mattress can be a daunting experience, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re in the market for something new, check out my guide on how to choose a mattress

Whether you’re getting rid of your old mattress or looking for a new one, you shouldn’t be losing sleep over your mattress!

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD, D, ABSM; FAASM

The Sleep Doctor

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Michael Breus, Ph.D - The Sleep Doctor is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and one of only 168 psychologists to pass the Sleep Medical Specialty Board without going to medical school. Dr. Breus is a sought after lecturer and his knowledge is shared daily in major national media worldwide including Today, Dr. Oz, Oprah, and for fourteen years as the sleep expert on WebMD. Dr. Breus is the bestselling author of The Power of When, The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan and Good Night!

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