Have a bunch of old bed sheets and feeling guilty about throwing them away? Don’t worry, there are plenty of other options! We have some great suggestions below, whether you want to recycle, donate, or repurpose your old sheets. Read on to learn about where to recycle or donate and to find some fun DIY fabric craft tutorials!
How Often Should You Replace Bed Sheets
If you use standard cotton or cotton blend sheets, you should replace them every 2-3 years. Most likely, pilling, yellowing, thinning, or general wear and tear will indicate that it’s time to get a new sheet set. Keep in mind that this isn’t the case for all sheets. High-quality linen sheets can last you decades, while budget microfiber sheets could wear out after just a year or two. If it is time for new sheets, take a look below to learn how to recycle, reuse, or upcycle your old bedding! And take a look at our best sheets of 2022 article for some help finding a replacement.
RELATED: Cotton vs. Linen Sheets
Repurpose or Recycle Old Bed Sheets
Instead of just throwing away your old bed sheets or pillowcases, consider repurposing or recycling them. It’s more environmentally friendly, and repurposing old bedding can actually save you money in the long run! To help you, we’ve listed some great places to donate and recycle bedding. Plus, we’ve included some great ideas for reusing old bed linens, beyond typical options like turning them into cleaning rags or drop cloths.
Where to Recycle Bed Sheets
If your old sheets are too worn out to donate, you can recycle them to avoid adding to a landfill. Even though you can’t just put old sheets in the recycling bin, almost every type of fabric is recyclable. You can reach out to your local recycling center to find out where to drop off fabric waste. If you live in a big city, there are likely a few different programs with drop-boxes you can bring your old bedding to.
Where to Donate Bed Sheets
If your old sheets are in good condition, consider donating them! Thrift stores and homeless shelters can always make good use of old sheets. If your sheets are stained or very worn out, you can still donate them to an animal shelter as pet bedding. Be sure to wash and fold your bedding before donating it.
11 Creative Ways to Use Old Bed Sheets
Want to give your old sheets new life? Take a look below to find some suggestions and DIY tutorials!
DIY Reusable Bag
If your old sheets are made of a durable fabric like linen, flannel, or cotton, consider turning them into DIY reusable bags. You can use these totes as grocery bags, beach bags, and more. This option is especially nice for people with old patterned sheets or duvet covers (which tend to be a little thicker). But if you have old white sheets in your linen closet, tie-dye them before using the fabric to add some pizzazz to your new tote bags. If you have a thicker outer fabric you’d like to use, you can also use old bed sheets to line a DIY bag. In addition to fabric, you’ll need an iron, needle, thread, ruler, scissors, and a fabric marker. Take a look at the DIY tutorial here.
DIY Reusable Towels or Napkins
Another great option is using your old sheets to make DIY reusable paper towels or napkins. They’re great for cleaning up messes and help reduce your paper waste! This upcycle is particularly well suited to old flannel or cotton sheets, which tend to be most absorbent. In addition to fabric, you’ll need thread, pins, scissors, an iron ruler, and a sewing machine for this DIY project. Or, use hemming tape to make your new napkins without sewing. Check out the tutorial here. Pro tip: this is a great option if you’re looking to upcycle fitted sheets. You only need fabric scraps for this project, so you can cut out the elastic without worrying about losing yardage.
Another great option (especially if you’re upcycling several pairs of sheets) is turning them into DIY curtains. There are tons of different no-sew window treatments you can create, and if you already have a plastic liner you can even turn an old sheet into a shower curtain! Take a look at this article to find some awesome no-sew DIY curtain tutorials.
Another great use for old sheets is as a plant protector. Fabric coverings are a good way to protect plants from frost (they’ll shield your plants from freezing air and trap heat from the ground inside). Large flat sheets are great for covering large plants and shrubs. You can also use old bed sheets to prevent weed growth in your garden. Just put an old sheet down underneath your mulch when planting to make it harder for weeds to grow through your mulch.
Create your own Dog Toy
Have old sheets and a dog who loves to play tug-o-war? Make a few braided chew toys out of them! This no-sew project is really quick and easy, plus all you’ll need is your old sheets and a pair of scissors. These toys also make great low-budget stocking stuffers around the holidays. Check out the tutorial here.
Make your own Apron or Art Smock
If you’re a home chef or taking up painting, consider turning your old sheets into an apron or smock. All you’ll need (besides your sheets), is scissors, thread, a pencil, a tape measure, and a sewing machine. In general, you’ll want to stick to thicker fabrics for this project because this easy-to-make apron is only a single layer. Personally, I think old linen sheets work well for this, they drape nicely in apron-form! Learn how to make your own apron here.
If you’re looking to reduce waste on two fronts, consider using your old bedding as gift wrap. The Japanese tradition of Furoshiki involves folding or tying fabric to wrap gifts or transport objects. It’s back in fashion in zero-waste communities, and there are tons of awesome tutorials online. If you want your gifts to look especially cute, consider investing in a pair of zig-zag cutting scissors to make your fabric’s edges more fun.
Make a Quilt
If you have a lot of old sheets, or an assortment of worn-out fabrics, you can use them to make a patchwork quilt. This is an especially nice option if you have a set of pretty vintage sheets that look great, but are a bit too worn-out to use on their own. These quilts look especially nice if you have a variety of different fabrics, so you may want to consider saving up old bed sheets and fabric scraps for a few months before starting on this project. You’ll need thread, scissors, cotton batting, and a sewing machine to make a quilt. If you’re a beginner quilter, take a look at this video for an easy tutorial.
Old bedsheets are also great material for a DIY braided rag rug! These trendy rugs are easy to make, all you’ll need is about ten yards of fabric and a pair of scissors. A lot of crafters use t-shirts to make these rugs, so if you have old jersey sheets they’re a great fit for this project. But old cotton or blend sheets will work just as well! These rugs work really well as entryway or bath mats, and are a lot of fun to make. Learn how to do it here.
Build a Fort
Using old sheets to build a fort can be a lot of fun for kids at playtime or during a sleepover! Save a few old sheets to use at playtime so you don’t need to worry about a ton of post pillow-fort laundry.
Use as a Picnic Blanket
Finally, old sheets work great as picnic or beach blankets. If you’re not a big crafter, this is the reuse project for you. Keep old sheets that are still in pretty good condition around to use when you’re out and about. Old bed sheets also work great as tablecloths if you’re looking to spruce up a picnic table for an outdoor date night. Pro tip: leave an old flat sheet in your car so you always have a picnic blanket when you need one!
How do you dispose of old bed sheets?
We recommend donating your old sheets to a homeless shelter, animal shelter, or thrift store. You can also contact your local recycling center about recycling old sheets. But, if you plan to just throw your old sheets away, you can just put them in your regular trash bin for collection.
Can you donate old bed sheets?
Yes, animal shelters, homeless shelter, and thrift stores all take old sheets. If you’re donating to a thrift store or homeless shelter, be sure your sheets are still in good condition. Regardless of where you’re donating, be sure to wash your sheets before turning them in.
Should you throw sheets away?
At Mattress Clarity, we recommend recycling or donating your old sheets. Throwing them away is not environmentally friendly, and there are a lot of options available for recycling or upcycling old fabric.
Can bedding be recycled?
Yes! You can’t put fabric in with your normal recycling pickup, but if you reach out to your local recycling center (or google fabric recycling near me) you’ll be able to find out how to schedule a special pick up or where to drop off your old bedding. Keep in mind you can do this for any old fabric you have, not just old bedding!
How often should you replace bed sheets?
Experts recommend replacing your bed sheets every 2 to 3 years if you’re using standard cotton or cotton blend fabrics. But you’ll know when it’s time to replace your sheets based on how worn out they look.
Madison is an ex-mattress tester and current law student. When she’s not studying, she puts her accumulated mattress and bedding knowledge to good use writing articles for Mattress Clarity. A few of her favorite non-work activities include trying new restaurants, reading short stories, and watching too much reality TV.