Mattress Disposal and Recycling Guide

Ryan the authorRyan Fiorenzi, Certified Sleep Coach
Updated: June 30, 2020

COVID-19 Update

Many facilities have changed their hours and process of recycling mattresses during these times. Disposal and recycling operations are continuing in many areas as they are generally considered essential.

If you plan on recycling your mattress in the coming weeks, we recommend that you visit your local center's website or give them a call to understand their updated policy. A quick search of "your location + mattress recycle" in Google will generally give you the best place to start. An example would be searching Grand Rapids Michigan Mattress Recyling. If you need assistance, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Regarding mattress returns, most mattress manufacturers are using the date of return request rather than the date the product is actually returned when tracking the trial period. This is especially important now with delayed shipping times. Be sure to check with your mattress company in advance.

Mattresses last on average around 7 years, depending on the type of mattress you have. Throwing your used mattress in the garbage means it will end up in a landfill. According to Bed Times, 50,000 mattresses are discarded each day in the United States. This is a problem because many mattresses have flame retardants and other toxic chemicals in them that can end up in the groundwater supply. Innerspring mattresses have coils inside that can cause problems for machines at landfills as well. Mattresses in landfills can interact with other chemicals and microbes let off methane and carbon dioxide, resulting in greenhouse gases that negatively affect the planet.

Because of these reasons and more, we are often asked about how to dispose of a mattress the right way. There are many great options for donating, reusing, recycling, or properly disposing of mattresses that we will highlight below.

Summary of Mattress Disposal Options

Disposal Option Pros and/or Cons
Donate You're helping others (if your mattress is in good shape)
Sell You can make a little money (if your mattress is in good shape and local laws allow it)
Recycle Helps the environment
Break it down yourself Time-consuming; need to be a little handy, will benefit the environment and you can sell or upcycle parts
Curbside collection Convenient if it's available; may involve a fee
Mattress retailer Convenient and often free if your mattress retailer offers this service
Upcycle Good for creative people who like to create items for their home that are unique
Junk removal service The most expensive option with the least amount of work

Assessing Your Mattress

There are several factors that may influence how you'll be able to dispose of your mattress.

  1. Bed bugs: visible to the naked eye, bed bugs are red, brown, or white, and have 6 legs. They will cause your skin to be irritated and itchy. If you have bed bugs, don't donate your mattress to a charity organization. If you call a junk removal service, tell them that the mattress has bed bugs. They will ask you to have a pest removal company treat and wrap the mattress.
  2. Mold & bacteria: look for discoloring on your mattress, and notice if there's a smell. If your mattress has mold or bacteria, don't donate it to charity.
  3. Wear and tear: it's recommended to replace your mattress every 7-15 years (depending on many factors), depending on the type of mattress you have. Some people replace their mattress sooner for several reasons, one of the main ones being that their mattress no longer gives the support it used to. Check your mattress for sagging and uneven spots. If you find that you sink into your mattress, or have a hard time getting up out of your mattress, it's probably time to replace it.

We have found that different types of mattresses have different lifespans:

Mattress Type Average Lifespan
Innerspring 8 years (if flipped)
Memory Foam 8-10 years (if rotated)
Latex Foam 15 years
Gel Foam 10-15 years
Hybrid (Innerspring with Foam) 10 years
Waterbed 12-15 years

If your mattress isn't in that bad of a condition, there are several things you may be able to do that will give you more time with your current mattress.

  • Replace your wooden slats. Not all bed frames have these, but if yours does, the wood can become bent over time and even broken.
  • Put a piece of plywood under your mattress. Sometimes a simple and cheap fix like this will give you more support and prevent your mattress from sagging.
  • Use mattress covers. These are covers that completely surround your mattress and are usually zipped up on one side. They'll often be made out of a material that will reduce your allergen exposure. Mattress covers can help keep your mattress from flattening out, giving you better support.
  • Mattress pads. These come in a few different materials such as gel, foam, and memory foam. Beware that these products are often used to make your mattress softer. Foam tends to make you sleep warmer. Gel mattress pads will take much longer to heat up.

Sell Your Mattress

How you cared for your mattress is important. Mattresses that were encased in a mattress protector or other waterproof encasement last much longer. Depending on the construction of your mattress, the foundation or frame can be important as well.

Research Local Laws First

Be sure to read up on the laws for where you live. We also have to mention that you should ask an actual lawyer. The FTC's stance on selling mattresses is:

"Yes, in most parts of the country, used mattresses can be resold as long as they meet certain labeling and processing requirements."

Many states have specific laws that need to be considered so be sure to take a few minutes to look. Some communities within a state may also have ordinances.

Craigslist and Other Online Marketplaces

Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and other community-based websites can be a great option. You take pictures of your mattress, write a description, and for no fee you can post your listing to a local listing and interested parties will contact you to come to see it and possibly buy it. Keep in mind that sellers are not typically obligated to deliver the mattress.

Recycle

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The Mattress Recycling Council estimates that more than 80% of mattresses can be recycled. Mattresses can be broken down into many parts. They will go on to serve many other purposes besides sitting in a dump. Once they are cleaned and processed, they can be broken down into things like wood for mulch, melted metal for many uses, fabrics for textiles, foams for carpet padding, and plastics for recycled applications.

You may be able to take your mattress to a nearby recycling center, where most of the mattress can be reused to create new products. You will usually have to pay a fee which is often $10 to $20. You can find recycling centers at Earth911.com.

California, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have drop-off sites through bye bye mattress for mattress owners and retailers. These states have enacted mattress recycling legislation to help consumers recycle their mattress and box spring at no cost.

All major cities in North America have mattress recycling programs. You'll need a large enough vehicle to bring the mattress to the recycling center, although some centers will pick it up.

Potentially contaminated products are examined and disposed of if they risk contaminating the facility or its workers. These are some items that recycling centers often refuse to pick up:

  • Mattresses that are wet, moldy, or dirty
  • Used mattress toppers
  • Collapsible roll-away beds
  • Pillows and sleeping bags
  • Camping beds
  • Air mattresses
  • Mattresses with bed bugs

Break Down the Mattress Yourself

If you're handy and have an innerspring mattress you can take it apart yourself in the following steps:

  1. Remove the cord that runs around the edge of the mattress on the top and bottom side with a razor, pliers, or you may be able to pull it off by hand after cutting a section off so you have something to grab onto.
  2. Pull the sides off.
  3. Pull the top layer off fabric off, being careful with staples. Use pliers to remove the staples.
  4. Use gloves to collect the foam layer or layers and/or cotton that sits on top of the metal box spring.
  5. Use a bolt cutter or wire cutter to break the innerspring into smaller sections.

The steel inner springs can be sold at a scrap metal yard. You can then take the foam and fabric to a recycling center or find another purpose for it.

Next, you may want to take apart the box spring:

  1. Remove the dust cover if there is one, and use pliers or a screwdriver to remove the plastic guards on the bottom corners.
  2. Use needle-nose pliers to remove the staples that connect the fabric to the wood.
  3. Get rid of the foam and/or cotton lining.
  4. Break down the wood frame using a saw.

Call Your Curbside Recycle Collector

Find out if your curbside collection service will recycle your mattress. Your recycle collector may be willing to pick up your mattress for a small fee or for free. There may be certain times of the year that they offer this service, and there may be specific instructions you have to follow.

Ask Your Mattress Retailer

Sometimes the company you're buying your new mattress from will pick up your old mattress for a small fee or even for free. Be sure to do your research as many of the online brands will have a third party pick the bed up for donation or recycling depending on the type of bed and its condition.

Upcycle Your Mattress

You can turn parts of your mattress into another product. Bob Vila has seven projects for your old bedsprings, such as using box springs to create a wine rack or a table. Most of these lead to a very industrial look.

There are hundreds of other creative DIY ideas on Pinterest; there are even items tagged as mattress upcycle. Some of our favorites include outdoor zen daybeds, industrial couches, heavy duty shelving, and even a garden trellis.

Junk Removal Services

If that's not an option, and you don't have any charities nearby where you can donate your mattress, or any recycling services or centers, there are several services that will pick up your mattress for a fee. Be sure to shop in your area because prices can vary significantly. Some of the most popular options are 1-800-GOT-JUNK, or 1-888-Trash-it.

1-800-GOT-JUNK will take all kinds of items, including appliances, televisions, refrigerators, carpeting, hot tubs, furniture, electronics, bicycles, printer, monitors, computers, as well as yard waste, garbage, tires, and scrap metal. You schedule your mattress removal online or by calling. They give you a 2-hour window, and they'll call you 15-30 minutes before they arrive. When they arrive, they'll tell you the cost, then take it away. They will recycle and donate the mattress whenever possible. If your mattress has bed bugs, so not every location will accept the mattress (it depends on the rules of the city). When you call, let them know that your mattress has bed bugs and if they can accept it, they ask that you have a pest control company treat and wrap your mattress before they arrive.

1-888-Trash-it calculates a price based on how much space your mattress and other stuff takes up in their truck.

There has been a significant emphasis on landfill conservation over recent years so you may find that these companies will recycle or donate your mattress rather than simply dispose of it. This option will be one of the most expensive ways to get rid of your mattress, often costing between $100 to $150 (depending on the size of the mattress).

Other Bedroom Products That Can Be Recycled

Mattresses aren't the only item in your bedroom that you can reuse, sell, or recycle. With limited effort and creativity, there are many other common products that can live a second life.

Blankets and Sheets - One of the most frequently requested items at homeless shelters and donation centers is blankets. There are also many DIY options for blankets, throws, and sheets to choose from online.

Pillows - While mattresses typically need to be replaced every 10 years, pillows typically should be replaced every 2 or 3 years. Here are some great alternatives to throwing them away:

    1. Use them for filler in boxes to protect items when you are moving. Some foam pillows can be cut to an appropriate size.
    2. You can DIY throw pillows, travel pillows, or bolster pillows for a bench.
    3. Draft stoppers can be easily made with old pillow stuffing to insulate doors or old windows.
    4. Create a pet bed or donate to an animal shelter.
    5. Make large floor cushions from many old pillows through pre-made cushion covers (or sew your own).
    6. Gardening can really beat up your knees, so creating a DIY kneeling pad can really pay off. Just be sure to use a sturdy pillowcase that is outdoors safe.

Dressers and Bookshelves - Solid wood furniture can be repaired and refinished for lifetimes. Cheaper furniture like those made out of particle board can also be given new life as well with a little effort.

Bedframes - Metal furniture is tough to refinish, but it can be done. Many people choose to sell or donate this type of furniture through places like their local salvation army, craigslist, Facebook marketplace, and freecycle. You can also locate your local scrap metal recycling center to see if they will accept it.