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1 October 2021

How to dispose of a mattress

Knowing when to get rid of a mattress can be as difficult as knowing how. Our guide to disposing of mattresses explains all you need to know.
Lisa Galliers

Buying a new mattress will set you back anywhere between a few hundred and a few thousand pounds, so parting with even more cash to dispose of your old mattress is probably the last thing you want.

But finding a way to dispose of a mattress free of charge is no mean feat, especially if you want to get rid of it in a responsible way. According to a 2019 report by the National Bed Federation (NBF), 7.26m replacement mattresses were sold in 2017, while only 1.363m were recycled. That’s a recycling rate of 19%. While this doesn't seem much, the rate has crept up each year since 2016 - which is good news.

Far too many mattresses end up in landfill sites. Not only is this bad for the environment but, given the bulky nature of mattresses, it’s also unsustainable. Many of the mattresses in landfill could have been recycled or reused. Keep reading for expert advice on how long a mattress should last, and how to get rid of it once it’s past its best.

In the market for a new bed? Take a look at our Best Buy mattresses.

How often should you change your mattress?

If you can’t remember how many years you’ve had your mattress, the chances are it’s time for a new one. It’s all too easy to lose track of how long you’ve been sleeping on it and, even if it still feels comfortable, it’s likely to be less supportive and less hygienic than when it was new.

The Sleep Council recommends replacing your mattress as often as every seven years, because after that time it will have been subjected to more than 20,000 hours of use. That’s the equivalent of 2,555 nights - which is a lot when you consider that adults lose an average of half a pint of fluid each night, and shed a pound of dead skin cells each year.

But our own durability tests reveal that the best mattresses can last up to a decade without softening, sagging or becoming less supportive. So, as long as you buy a good mattress and clean it regularly, you might only have to change it every 10 years.

Find out how long different types of mattress should last below, or go to our guide on how to clean a mattress.

carrying a mattress up the stairs

How long should a mattress last?

Nearly a quarter of Which? members expect a new mattress to last more than a decade, according to a survey of 1,098 members in March 2021. We reckon that’s pretty optimistic, not least because there are some common misconceptions about the lifespan of a mattress. A third of members expect a mattress to last around 8-10 years, which is about right.

You might think that a mattress will last longer if it’s bought as part of a set with a new bed base. But while buying a new bed frame is no guarantee your new mattress will last, using an old or incorrect bed frame with your new mattress certainly isn’t going to lengthen its lifespan, and it may well also invalidate your warranty. Take a look at our top 10 bed shopping tips.

If you think spending more on a mattress means it's likely to last longer, think again. While investing in an expensive mattress will likely mean you get better-quality fabrics and fillings, it's no guarantee of a longer lifespan. We’ve tested £200 Best Buy mattresses that perform better in our durability tests than mattresses costing more than 10 times as much.

How long does a pocket sprung mattress last?

A good pocket sprung mattress should comfortably last between eight and 10 years. Of the 81 spring mattress we’ve tested, more than half of them earn four stars or more in our tough durability tests.

After measuring the height, firmness and supportiveness of every mattress we test, we then simulate up to a decade of use by rolling a heavy barrel over the mattress 30,000 times. To do well in our durability tests, a mattress must maintain its supportiveness, firmness and height.

Our pick of the best pocket sprung mattresses will help you pick out a long-lasting option, but you have to do your bit, too. To maximise the life of your pocket sprung mattress, it’s essential that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for rotating or turning the mattress.

Find out how to take care of your mattress.

How long does a memory foam mattress last?

Memory foam mattresses tend to perform well in our durability tests. Of the 52 memory foam, foam and latex mattresses we’ve reviewed, over 90% of them earned four or five stars in our lifespan (durability) test. The remaining mattresses got three stars, which is average or acceptable. 

However, in the past we have uncovered memory foam mattresses that failed our durability test completely.

And just because you buy a memory foam mattress, it doesn’t mean you don’t still need to rotate it regularly, so there's no less maintenance than with a pocket sprung option.

All in all, we wouldn’t recommend buying a memory foam mattress solely for the durability, unless it provides the support and comfort you’re looking for as well.

Find out more about how to buy the best memory foam mattress.

How to get rid of a mattress

You might be surprised by how many different ways you can dispose of your mattress. There are at least 10 different options, but some of them are expensive, environmentally damaging and even illegal, so picking the best way to get rid of your mattress can be difficult.

Method
% of members who used this disposal method
Collected by company delivering the replacement
45%
Collected by the council
12%
Don't know/can't remember
7%
Recycling centre
5%
Given away to a family/friend
4%
Given to charity
3%
Collected by a specialist disposal company
2%
Left it in a skip
1%
Sold
1%
Cut up and placed in household bin
1%
Other (took to the tip, used in a different room, still have it)
2%

Based on a survey of 1,098 Which? members conducted in March 2021.

Will the council collect my mattress?

Most, if not all, local councils offer a collection and disposal service for bulky waste, which includes beds and mattresses. But it can be surprisingly expensive, and there’s often no guarantee that your mattress won’t end up in landfill – many local authorities simply say that they will recycle some or all of the waste where possible.

Some councils, such as Liverpool City Council and a number of London boroughs, offer free bulky-waste collection, but they’re very much in the minority. Most councils charge a fee to collect bulky waste, and it can be expensive – Argyll and Bute Council and Wealden District Council charge more than £50 for the service, the London Borough of Richmond charges £62 per collection, for example.

If you live in England or Wales, you can find out how much your council will charge for bulky-waste disposal by typing your postcode into the gov.uk website. If you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland, go to your council’s website and search for bulky-waste disposal.

Having the council collect your mattress from your home can be convenient, but make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully. Many councils charge a different price depending on the number of bulky items they’ll be collecting, but bear in mind that a bed frame and a mattress will likely count as at least two items. And items will often only be collected if they’re left in a designated spot outside the house.

Will the local tip take a mattress?

Your local tip will take old mattresses, but to get it there you’ll need a vehicle big enough to fit it in. If the boot of your car isn’t big enough to fit the mattress when flat, you might find that it fits if you roll the mattress up as best as possible and fasten it using some rope.

But that's a lot of effort to go to when the mattress might well just end up in landfill anyway. You might decide you’d rather go to the extra effort of taking it to a dedicated recycling facility, or pay for the convenience of the council or a specialist disposal company to collect it from your house.

Can you recycle a mattress?

At the very least, some parts of your mattress will be recyclable, and it’s possible that all of it will be. And yet, according to The Furniture Recycling Group, Wembley Stadium could be filled five times with the 7.5m mattresses that are discarded in the UK every year.

While mattress recycling is relatively labour-intensive, more and more facilities capable of doing so are springing up around the UK. These facilities will break down your mattress into its recyclable components – springs can then be melted down and remade into new metal products, while synthetic layers such as foam can either be used to make carpet underlay, or else can be sent to a plant where the waste can at least be converted into energy.

Aside from taking your old mattress to your nearest recycling centre yourself, the best way to ensure your mattress is recycled is to pay for it to be collected. But whether you use the local council, the company delivering your new mattress or a specialist mattress removal company, make sure it is clearly stated that the mattress will be recycled. Otherwise, it’s probably best to assume that it won’t be.

Can you pay a company to pick up a mattress?

Nearly half of Which? members disposed of their last mattress by having it collected by the company delivering their replacement mattress, according to 1,098 respondents of our survey in March 2021.

That’s perhaps not surprising given the number of major high street retailers now offering this service. Argos, for example, offers to collect and recycle your old mattress for a fee of £20 when you buy a new mattress. Ikea remove-and-recycle service is still suspended. John Lewis offers a similar service, charging new mattress customers a fee of £29.95 to responsibly dispose of their old mattress.

Bed-in-a-box mattress brands such as Emma and Eve also offer an old-mattress collection service for customers.

But getting the retailer to collect your old mattress when it delivers the new one is only convenient if you’re sure that the new mattress is the one for you. Otherwise you’ll be left without a bed at all if you later decide to return it. If you’re in any doubt, specialist mattress companies such as Collect Your Old Bed can pick up and dispose of your old mattress at a time of your choosing. 

Whatever method you choose, it’s always worth making sure the company you use actually recycles the mattress. 

We’d also recommend checking how much your local council charges before paying for one of these services, or else you risk paying over the odds.

See our list of the best mattress retailers for more information.

Can you donate a mattress?

If your mattress is still in good condition, consider donating it to charity or giving it away free. That way you can help someone in need, as well as ensuring that it doesn't end up in landfill.

Organisations such as British Heart Foundation, British Red Cross and Emmaus will resell your mattress and put the proceeds towards a good cause. Several other charities also accept mattress donations, so if there's a cause you particularly want to support, it’s worth contacting the charity directly.

As a general rule, these organisations will collect your mattress free of charge, but they might request that you send images first to prove that it's of acceptable quality. Any organisation accepting a mattress donation will expect it to be fit for use, clean and have a fire label intact.

Another way to ensure your mattress stays out of landfill sites is to use a non-profit initiative such as Freecycle, or your local equivalent group, which can put you in touch with someone in the local area looking for a free second-hand mattress.

Other ways to dispose of a mattress

Logs on fire in a wood burning stove 470227

We wouldn’t recommend these ways, as not only are some of these damaging to the environment, some are antisocial and illegal. 

Although a couple of Which? members said they disposed of their last mattress by burning it, we don’t advise it. Not only is a mattress fire hard to control, but the fumes released by the fire could also be damaging to both you and the environment.

If you happen to be renting a skip and don’t mind your mattress contributing to a worsening landfill problem, then you can get rid of your old mattress using a skip.

But you should never dispose of your mattress by putting it in someone else’s skip or, worse yet, simply abandoning it at the side of the road. As well as being antisocial and environmentally harmful, fly tipping is illegal and can result in a large fine.

Now that you know how to dispose of your old mattress, find out how to buy the best new mattress to replace it with.