How to Dispose of a Mattress
As every mattress owner knows, there comes a time when you and your mattress need to part ways. Whether it’s because the mattress has seen better days, your needs have changed, or you’re just looking for something new, even the most beloved mattress has an expiration date. Once you decide that it’s time to move on to a new model, though, there’s still the issue of what to do with your old one. How do you get rid of an old mattress? Is there a way to do it that will help others, or a way that will be less wasteful and environmentally harmful? What are the actual logistics at play?
We’ve got you covered. In this Q and A series, we’ll answer all your questions about getting rid of an old mattress.
Knowing When To Replace Your Mattress
The first step to getting rid of your mattress is knowing when it’s time for the mattress to go.
Q) How often should mattresses be replaced?
A) It’s recommended that the average mattress be replaced every 8 years. However, this is only an average estimation. If your mattress has become uncomfortable or has lots of wear and tear, it’s time to replace it.
Q) Do different types of mattresses have different lifespans?
A) Yes. Some types of mattresses tend to last longer than others. The lifespan of a mattress depends on a few different factors, such as how well you take care of it and how often you use it. However, each mattress type does have an average lifespan. Here’s a basic run-down:
- Futon Mattresses: These mattresses do not last very long. On average, a futon mattress will last five years.
- Air Mattresses: Air mattresses also have a lifespan of around five years, depending on frequency of use. After that point, air usually begins to leak from the mattress.
- Innerspring Mattresses: Innerspring mattresses aren’t all that durable.The lifespan of innerspring mattresses varies significantly depending on the quality of the mattress. These mattresses need to be replaced once the padding wears down or the coils in the mattress lose strength and sag. In general, this happens after around five to six years of use, depending on wire gauge.
- Hybrid Mattresses: Hybrid innerspring-foam mattresses generally last longer than traditional innerspring mattresses. On average, they last around six to seven years, though higher quality hybrid mattresses can last closer to eight years.
- Waterbed Mattresses: With proper care, a waterbed mattress can last 7-9 years. This is primarily because there are no springs that can break or foam that can degrade.
- Memory Foam Mattresses: The durability of memory foam mattresses depends a great deal on foam density and quality. A mattress with low-density foam may last four to six years, while a quality, high-density memory foam mattress can last for around eight to ten years if it is properly maintained.
- Airbed: Airbeds are relatively durable if well maintained and can last for about eight years. It’s worth noting that equipment sometimes breaks within the first few years, but these are often covered under the warranty.
- Latex Mattresses: On average, latex mattresses tend to last longer than other mattresses. This is because of the durability of the material, but also because layers of most latex mattresses can be individually replaced if they get worn down. A good, well maintained natural latex mattress can last for up to 10 years.
Q) How do I know when it’s time to replace my mattress?
A) Knowing the average lifespan of the type of mattress you have is helpful. However, knowing when it’s time to replace your mattress is largely a matter of how it feels. What sort of rest do you get when you sleep on your mattress? Are you still getting the support, comfort, and pressure relief you got from your mattress in the past? Are you regularly waking up feeling tired or achy? Do you have trouble getting comfortable, falling asleep, or staying asleep? If so, it might be time for a new mattress.
You can also look out for physical signs of wear and tear. These include:
- Springs that poke through
- Noisiness and creaking
- Loss of motion isolation (i.e., being able to feel your partner move on the mattress more than you used to.)
Donating Your Mattress
Once you decide that it’s time to get a new mattress, you need to figure out what to do with your old one. In many cases, people decide to donate their used mattresses instead of disposing of them. This is a great way to help someone in need while also making space for your new mattress.
Q) Where can I donate my mattress?
A) There are several ways to donate a mattress. However, it’s important to note that not all charities can accept mattresses. There are a few different reasons why this is the case, including lack of space and regulatory/sanitation issues. However, there are a number of large national and international charitable organizations that do accept mattress donations in certain locations. A few of these organizations are:
- Goodwill: Goodwill runs educational, training, and job placement programs for people who have trouble getting work, such as people suffering from homelessness, people with disabilities, people re-entering the community after being incarcerated, recent immigrants and refugees, and people with limited work histories. One of the ways that they fund these programs is by selling donated items in thrift stores. There are 162 local Goodwills in the US and Canada, and each location has its own policies on whether or not they accept mattresses. Contact your local Goodwill to see if they are open to mattress donations.
- Habitat for Humanity: Habitat helps people access affordable housing by actually building new housing or renovating old housing. Like Goodwill, one way that they fund their programs is by selling donated items at a chain of thrift stores, called ReStore. Individual ReStore locations also vary when it comes to whether or not they can accept mattresses. Contact your closest ReStore location for their donation guidelines.
- Furniture Bank Association of America: This organization, along with their sister organization, Furniture Banks Across America, is a network of furniture banks that provides furniture at low or no cost to underserved people and communities. They have over 80 furniture banks across the U.S., and usually accept mattresses in good condition. Make sure to call your local donation center to make sure they are currently accepting mattresses.
Q) None of the larger charitable organizations have locations where I can donate my mattress. Where else can I donate?
A)If you can’t donate your mattress to bigger charities, you can always try to donate to a local organization, shelter, collective, or non-profit. If you can’t think of any off the top of your head, there are several databases and search tools you can use to try and find one.
Donationtown.org is one of the best online resources for finding a place to donate your mattress (or anything else) on a local level. They provide a free, searchable database of the charities in your area that might accept the mattress, with specifications about whether or not they provide donation pick-up services.
You can also donate directly to a local shelter. A quick Google search should give you a list of shelters near you. In addition to Google, you can use the large database of shelters posted by United Way. Some shelters may be in need of mattresses and able to receive them as donations, while others may not. Make sure to call beforehand to see if a local shelter can accept your mattress.
Q) Can any mattress be donated?
A)No. One of the most important things to know about mattress donation is that mattresses have to be in suitable condition in order to be donated. Bringing a sub-par mattress in for donation, beyond being rude, will waste your time and will waste the time of the busy staff members and volunteers working at charitable organizations.
Q) How do I know if my mattress is in good enough shape to donate?
A) Every charity has its own standards for what makes a mattress acceptable to donate. However, there are a few general guidelines that will almost always hold true. Things that will usually disqualify a mattress from donation include:
- Infestations. Though this should go without saying, mattresses with any infestation — be it bugs, mold, or anything else — should not be donated. Even if you think you’ve cleaned the mattress, you have probably not gotten rid of the whole infestation, which is often deeply rooted inside of the mattress. Do not consider donating any mattress that has recently been infested.
- Structural Problems. Do not donate a mattress if it is no longer usable for major structural reasons. These are issues you will know about as soon as you lay down on the mattress. They include large, permanent indentations, excessive sagging and hammocking, and irregular bunching, as well as broken or jutting coils.
- Stains: Mattresses with stains and noticeable discoloration should not be donated. This includes both large and small stains.
- Tears and Holes: Any mattress with visible rips and holes should not be donated. This includes large, obvious gashes and smaller holes (like the holes from cigarette burns). This also includes seams that have come undone, loosened, and/or opened along the mattress.
- Odors: If your mattress has a strong or permanent odor, do not offer it up for donation. People are often “noseblind” to smells they’re around every day, but a strong odor should be noticeable to you. If in doubt, ask someone else (preferably someone who doesn’t also live in your house) to smell the mattress.
In the end, figuring out if your mattress is in good enough shape to be donated is a matter of common sense. Following these guidelines will lead you in the right direction, but simply considering whether or not you would want to receive the mattress as a donation is also helpful.
Q) Can I clean my mattress to get it up to snuff for donation?
A) Sometimes, when it comes to smaller issues.
In some cases, a mattress is simply too degraded or damaged to be usable, and won’t be able to be donated no matter what. However, if your mattress has specific small issues, such as small spots/stains or removable odors, you can try using a few methods to fix them.
- Vacuum: If you want to remove pet hair, dander, and dust (as well as any other crumbs and bits that have found their way onto your mattress), a vacuum is a great tool to use. Make sure to get all sides of the mattress. For flexibility, it’s best to do this job using a handheld vacuum, but if you don’t have one you can also use a regular vacuum. It is probably best to do this as a courtesy before donating your mattress, even if there are no noticeable issues.
- Odors: If your mattress has a slight odor, you can try sprinkling it with a layer of baking soda, letting it sit for a few hours, and then vacuuming off the baking soda. If possible, you should then let the mattress air out outside.
- Spot Clean: When attempting to remove small stains, you can try spot cleaning, or concentrated cleaning in one area.You can do this by using an enzyme cleaner to chemically break down the stain.
You can also mix up a combination of hydrogen peroxide, liquid dish soap, and baking powder, put it in a spray bottle, and spray it on the stain. Afterward, blot it with a wet rag, and then blot it dry.
Another option is to combine lemon juice and salt into a thick paste-like mixture, and spread it on the stain. Let that sit for around 45 minutes to an hour, and then wipe it off with a clean rag.
Q) How should I maintain my current mattress so that I can donate it in the future?
A) In general, your best bet at having a donation-ready mattress when you’re ready to donate is by keeping it in good shape while you’re still using it. There are many ways to do this, but here are some general tips:
- Make sure the mattress is properly supported. Many mattresses are designed to be used with box springs or foundations, rather than just placed on the floor. Most larger mattresses (e.g., queen, king, and California king) need center support, such as center brace bars or extra wide slats. Box springs, foundations, and supports all help the mattress maintain structural integrity and prevent issues like sagging and hammocking. Check with the manufacturer of the mattress to see what kind of support is recommended.
- Use a mattress protector. Mattress protectors are the frontline of defense when it comes to keeping your mattress safe from wear and tear. They guard against spills and accidents, protect the materials inside your bed from damage, and keep allergens like mold and dust from getting in. As soon as you purchase your mattress, you should also purchase a mattress protector — preferably one that’s waterproof. These days, waterproof mattress protectors are basically undetectable beneath bedding, and are no longer the rubbery, tarp-like things you may remember from your childhood. It’s definitely worth it to invest in a mattress protector, both for yourself and for the sake of future donation.
- Rotate and/or flip the mattress regularly. Unless your mattress has a designated head and foot, or the manufacturer specifically advises against it, you should be rotating your mattress 180 degrees every two to six months. If your mattress is two-sided, you should also flip it every two to six months. This makes it less likely for you to create a permanent indentation in the mattress from lying in the same spot every night.
- Clean the mattress according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Every mattress should be cleaned regularly — but exactly how regularly, and by which methods, varies from mattress to mattress. That’s why it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions both when it comes to emergency cleaning (for instance, in response to a spill), and regular maintenance cleaning.
- Let the mattress air out periodically: Every month or two, take advantage of a sunny day by opening the windows, stripping your mattress, and letting it get sunlight and air for a few hours. This will keep the mattress fresher for longer, and will increase ventilation.
- Be careful when moving the mattress. If you need to move your mattress, take precautions against damaging it by encasing it in plastic or a specially designed mattress bag. This can prevent water and dirt damage, as well as damage from scuffs, scratches, and tears. You should also try to avoid bending or folding the mattress, and keep it upright or on its side so it doesn’t get damaged in transit.
Q) Will charities pick up my mattress?
A) Sometimes. This depends entirely on the charity and on the specific location closest to you. Some charities do offer pick-up, though many do not. Usually, if a charity does offer pick-up, it will be cost-free. Make sure to call your chosen charity to find out if they offer pick-up.
Q) Is donating a mattress tax deductible?
A) Yes, if you donate it to an IRS-qualified organization. The IRS only allows you to claim tax deductions on donations made to organizations that are registered with them. You can find a list of IRS-qualified organizations here.
If you plan on claiming a deduction, you should get a receipt that names the charity, describes the mattress, and states the time, date, and location of your donation.
Q) I’m having a hard time finding a charity or organization to donate my mattress to. Are there any other ways to give away my mattress?
A) Yes, several. If you’re having a hard time donating your mattress, you can always try giving it away to someone directly.
Start by using your social media networks to see if anyone you know needs a mattress. This might catch the eye of a friend, or a friend of a friend. You can also use localized platforms like Facebook Marketplace, NextDoor, and Freecycle to offer your mattress to local people who might want it. Make sure to specify that the mattress is free. You should also be clear about exactly what size it is, and what state it is in. Provide dimensions and pictures, if possible. In addition, it’s important to let people know upfront whether you need them to pick the mattress up, or if you can bring it to them.
You also might want to post flyers on message boards at local schools, universities, coffee shops, houses of worship, and community centers. Again, make sure to specify the size, state, and dimensions of the mattress, and whether or not it needs to be picked up at your home.
Recycling Your Mattress
If you can’t find a place to donate your mattress, the next best thing is recycling. Close to 20 million mattresses wind up in landfills every year, with each mattress taking up lots of space (up to 40 cubic feet!). This contributes to serious ecological and environmental problems, and creates dangerous conditions for workers around the world. If you can find a way to recycle your mattress, you can do your part to help reduce waste and landfill mass.
Around 80 to 90 percent of the materials in most mattresses can be broken down and recycled. However, recycling laws, regulations, and standards vary significantly by state, county, and even individual city and town ordinances.
Q) How do I find a recycling center in my area?
A) There are a few ways to go about looking for your local recycling center. Though not every area has a local recycling center, many do, and they are becoming increasingly popular as state and local governments ramp up their focus on eco-friendliness.
Your first best bet is to do a quick Google search. You’ll want to use terms like “recycling near me,” or, if you have Google’s location tracking on, just search “recycling,” “recycling center,” or “mattress recycling”. If you have a local recycling center, this will often direct you to it. If you come up empty, there are a few additional options.
- Earth 911: This organization’s website hosts one of North America’s most extensive recycling databases, with over 100,000 facility listings across the U.S. and Canada. You can search specifically for recycling facilities that accept mattresses closest to your zip code, and can filter by factors like whether or not they charge a fee, or whether or not they offer pick-up. You can also access the database through their hotline, 1-800-CLEANUP.
- Municipal Offices: Sometimes, the information for local recycling centers may not be online, or may not be easily accessible online. This is especially true in small towns and/or in rural areas. In general, though, almost all cities, towns, and counties have municipal offices that deal on a local level with trash and recycling. Search for your specific city, town, or county (or by your zip code) to see which municipal department is in charge of your local trash disposal. If possible, try to find a phone number as well as an email address. If you have the time and are nearby, you can also arrive in person during office hours. In any case, contact your local municipal office and ask them who to contact about mattress recycling, or where to go to recycle a mattress. It is possible that your specific town may not have a recycling program. In that case, neighboring towns or counties may have recycling centers, even if yours doesn’t.
- Local Residential Facilities: Another helpful hack for finding the right place to recycle your mattress is to reach out to local places that regularly house people overnight. This includes hotels, hospitals, and universities, among others (depending on where you live). Because these establishments have a higher-than-average need for mattress disposal, many have relationships in place with local mattress disposal facilities. Therefore, they may be able to lead you in the right direction when it comes to finding a recycling center that accepts mattresses.
Q) Does every recycling center accept whole mattresses?
A) No. Though some recycling centers will accept whole mattresses, some of them will not. This is true for a variety of reasons, including space and transport issues, as well as regulatory issues and processing ability. Once you find your local recycling facility, check beforehand to make sure that they actually accept whole mattresses.
You should also remember that even if a recycling center accepts whole mattresses, they may not accept a mattress if it is wet, heavily stained, or infested with bed bugs.
Q) My recycling center doesn’t accept whole mattresses, but does accept mattress parts. Can I break my mattress down myself?
A) If you have enough space and a few basic tools, yes.
Some recycling facilities won’t accept whole mattresses, but will accept recyclable parts within the mattress. As mentioned above, around 80 to 90 percent of the materials within most mattresses are recyclable, which means it’s only a matter of breaking them down and bringing the parts to the recycling center.
You can find an easy, reliable DIY guide to breaking down any innerspring mattress, as well as most innerspring-hybrid mattresses, here. If your mattress has springs, you can also go to a local scrap metal dealership; many will actually pay you to take metal springs off your hands.
It should be noted that this does not apply to mattresses that are all-foam. If you have a hybrid mattress, you can use the same directions as described in the DIY guide above, and remove the foam layers instead of the cotton.
Q) Can foam mattresses be recycled?
A) In very specific circumstances, yes, but the vast majority of recycling centers will not take them.
Memory foam is primarily made from a type of polyurethane, which is a polymer of plastic. Recycling involves breaking products down into basic materials to be reused. While other plastic-derived products can be broken down into basic raw materials, memory foam cannot be “de-foamed.” While memory foam can technically be shredded and reused to make a few types of new products (such as new memory foam or car seat padding), the process is very labor intensive, and the market for re-usable memory foam is very small.
Unless you live in an EPR state (as will be discussed below), you will probably have a hard time finding a recycling facility that will take an all-foam mattress.
Q) What are EPR states?
A) EPR stands for Extended Producer Responsibility. EPR programs extend the manufacturer’s responsibility for reducing the environmental impact of their product all the way to disposal and re-use.
There are three US states — Connecticut, Rhode Island, and California — that have EPR laws regarding mattresses. In those states, retailers are required to collect a recycling fee each time they sell a mattress. The money they collect pays for mattress pick-up and recycling programs in each of the three states. This means that every time you buy a mattress in CA, RI, or CT, you are effectively putting a downpayment on the eventual recycling of that mattress.
When it comes time to say goodbye to your mattress, these three states have many more resources for recycling mattress of any type (including foam), often with low or no fee pick-up and processing. This applies whether or not you bought the mattress in-state.
If you live in one of those three states, you can search the EPR database at Bye Bye Mattress, which will show you the mattress recycling options available in your area
Q) Does recycling mattresses cost money?
A) Sometimes, but typically not much.
A few recycling centers operate on a sliding scale, and may offer cost-free services. In general, though, you should expect to pay around $10 to $20 per mattress if you bring the mattress (or mattresses) to the recycling center yourself.
In EPR states (California, Rhode Island, and Connecticut), there are many more recycling centers that will recycle your mattress cost-free.
Q) Do recycling centers offer mattress pick-up?
A) Some recycling centers do offer pick-up. Like free recycling, this is much more common in EPR states, but is not guaranteed anywhere.
If a recycling center does offer pick-up, you should expect to be charged around $20 to$40 per mattress for both pick-up and recycling.
Q) Can mattresses be repurposed outside of a recycling facility?
A) Yes! If you decide not to go the traditional recycling route, you can keep your mattress from becoming landfill by making new use of it yourself, also referred to as “upcycling.”
There are many things you can do with an old mattress or its materials, whether you’re a novice DIY-er or an expert craftsman. Here are a few suggestions:
- Garden and Outdoors: If you’ve got a green thumb, you can use the wood from a box spring as a raised planting bed, or break it down to add to compost or mulch. A metal mattress frame can be used as a garden wall, especially if you have creeping plants and ivys.
- Home Repair and Furniture: Around the house, mattress foam and padding can be used as insulation, stuffing for reupholstering couches, and/or as protective covering for furniture during a move. Mattress frames can be used as an extra kitchen rack or a closet space extender, and a slab of memory foam can make a super-comfy dog bed. You can also put an old mattress in a kid’s playroom, to be used as a play surface.
- Art projects and decor: There are many, many types of art and decor that can be made from parts of a broken down mattress. From a wine rack or hanging light fixture made from repurposed steel springs to wind chimes, picture frames, and candle holders, mattresses have a lot of potential in the art and design department.
Throwing Out Your Mattress
You may be unable to donate, give away, recycle, or upcycle your mattress. If that’s the case, there’s always the option to throw it out.
However, it’s usually not as simple as just tossing the mattress out on the curb.
Q) Can I throw my mattress out with the rest of the trash?
A) Sometimes, but not always.
Many states, cities, and towns have specific ordinances and rules about throwing away mattresses, some of which prohibit putting a whole mattress in the trash. In those places, a curbed mattress may not be picked up on garbage day, and may actually land you a ticket or a fine.
Where can I find out about my area’s mattress disposal rules?
A) The rules about garbage disposal vary by area. You can find the rules for your state and city with a quick Google search.
If you live in an area where you are allowed to throw out a mattress with your regular trash, make sure to carefully read any additional rules. In most places, you will be required to wrap your mattress in plastic, and in some places, you will be required to wrap the mattress in a specially made plastic mattress bag. To be safe, cover your mattress in plastic (or a plastic mattress bag) and seal it shut with packing tape.
Municipalities also have additional rules and regulations when it comes to throwing out a mattress. In some places, there is a monthly or bi-weekly “heavy trash day” specifically designated for the disposal of large items like mattresses. Some waste management departments also have rules against throwing out multiple bulk items at a time.
Reading up on these rules will help you avoid a fine and/or pick-up refusal.
Are there services that will throw away my mattress?
If your area does not allow you to throw out mattresses with the rest of your trash, you have other options. One of those options is hiring a waste removal service.
Waste removal services are private companies that specialize in disposing of garbage that people may not be able to throw away themselves. Many professional waste removal companies provide mattress hauling as one of their services. Prices vary significantly, so it’s worth it to do some quote shopping and to read reviews.
If I buy a new mattress, will the mattress company throw away my old mattress?
A) Often, yes.
Some mattress companies offer mattress hauling as part of their delivery services. When shopping for a new mattress, ask if this service is offered. A company may offer mattress hauling for free as an incentive to buy. If you live in California (one of the EPR states), the mattress retailer dropping off your new mattress is actually obligated to take your old mattress at no cost.
In most cases, though, companies that will take your old mattress when delivering your new one will request a small fee, usually not over $50 to $100.