What to do with kids' mattresses when your kids grow up − expert tips for empty nesters

Don't let a good mattress gather dust. You can reuse, recycle, or repurpose your kid's old mattress to gain a whole new bed

Kid's mattress on the Avocado Kids' Bed Frame against a white wall.
(Image credit: Avocado)

As a recent college graduate, I've just moved into my own place. Although I love the independence, I couldn't wait to come home for the holidays. Everything feels better at home – apart from my twin-sized bed, which is a bit of a squeeze.

Since I moved out, my kid's mattress has been gathering dust. My parents are keen to swap it out for something bigger or donate it to a local shelter, but they just aren't sure where to start. 

That's why I asked the experts. I've consulted mattress makers and professional movers, each of whom knows how to give your kid's mattress a new lease of life. If you follow their advice, you'll learn how to recycle and repurpose an old sleep surface and replace it with the best mattress to suit your sleep needs.

Should you replace your kid's mattress?

Avocado Kids Trundle Bed Frame against a white wall.

(Image credit: Avocado)

Opinions differ as to how often you should change a mattress, but most experts estimate somewhere around the seven-year mark. That's about how long it takes for the springs to sag and the foam to fall. 

When you're shopping for a kid's mattress, it's a slightly different story. Kids grow so fast that they can easily move from a crib to their first big bed to a brand new twin in the space of seven years. As their beds get bigger, so should their mattresses.

Your kids might not have grown up and left home just yet, but they could still need a bigger bed and a better mattress. If your little one is going through a growth spurt, they'll appreciate the spare leg and headroom you get from a Twin XL. Teenagers might sleep more comfortably in a full or queen-sized bed.

Not all of the best sleep stores stock mattresses in Twin and Twin XL sizes. I've done some digging to bring you the best kid's mattresses for older tweens and teens. 

How could you repurpose your kid's mattress?

Kids Bed Frame against a white wall.

(Image credit: West Elm)

Tweens and teens should sleep more comfortably on bigger mattresses. Now, you're the one spending sleepless nights, wondering what to do with that old kid's mattress. 

Nick Valentino has a few ideas. As VP of Market Operations at Bellhop, Atlanta Movers, Nick has helped hundreds of families restore and repurpose old mattresses. 'If your kid no longer needs their Twin or Twin XL mattress, consider repurposing it as an extra bed for guests,' says Nick. 'This is especially useful if you don't have a full-sized designated guest room since twin beds take up far less space than larger beds'. 

Sleeping in a twin-sized bed might not be ideal, but it is doable. Trust me, I'm a sleep expert: shorter adults should be able to sleep comfortably in a Twin XL for an extended stay, while most sleepers could spend a night or two in a twin bed.  

Headshot of Nick Valentino.
Nick Valentino

Nick oversees one of the best teams of movers in the Atlanta metro area. Bellhop has completed over 300,000 moves across America and boasts thousands of five-star reviews online. It should come as no surprise that Nick knows a thing or two about moving, storing, and repurposing mattresses. 

If you have two kid's mattresses gathering dust, and you want to create more comfortable sleeping quarters, you could set two twins beside each other to make a Split King mattress. 

A Split King bed might just be the perfect solution for couples who share a bed, but not a sleep style. You could combine a firmer mattress with a plusher surface to suit front, back, and side sleepers alike. 

Once you've made your Split King mattress, you should be able to place each piece on top of a standard king-sized bed frame. These are a few of the best bed frames to suit every style of room and size of budget.

How should you store your kid's mattress?

Kids Bedroom Collection from Pottery Barn.

(Image credit: Pottery Barn)

If you want to keep your kid's old mattress, but already have a spare bed, you might be wondering how and where to store it. Although Twin and Twin XL are the smallest mattress sizes, they're still big bits of foam, weighted down with steel and springs. You shouldn't just shove the mattress uncovered into your closet and hope for the best. 

Although it can be hard to find room for a spare mattress, expert mover Manny Sahmbi has a few space-saving tips. 'If you want to store the mattress for a later time, vacuum storage is the best way,' says Manny, 'as it will keep out mites and dust. Make sure that you have a vacuum storage bag in an appropriate size so that you can shrink-wrap your mattress effectively. Storage bags don't have to be expensive: you can pick up a twin-sized mattress bag for less than $30 when you shop at Walmart.

If you'd prefer to keep your mattress flat, Manny reckons 'under the bed is another great spot, where you can store your mattress trundle-style if you need to. Just make sure it's covered to keep dust and other objects away from it'. That way, your kid's mattress should stay looking good as new until you're ready to use it again.

Headshot of Manny Sahmbi.
Manny Sahmbi

DIY and property expert Manny is the director of the innovative moving company, Happy 2 Move Ltd. Manny is a highly knowledgeable expert in cleaning, home organization and improvement, as well as storage and interior design, backed by more than 10 years of experience in the removals industry. 

How could you recycle your kid's mattress?

Kids Bed Frame in a bedroom.

(Image credit: Crate & Barrel)

Maybe, now your kids have flown the nest, you're downsizing to a smaller home, and you really can't be bothered to cart their old mattresses around with you. If you don't want to reuse or repurpose your kid's mattress, it might be a good idea to recycle it. 

Angelo Albertini is the founder and CEO of My Bespoke Mattress, so he knows a thing or two about making and breaking down mattresses. Angelo recommends that you 'look for local recycling programs that can break down and repurpose the materials in the mattress, preventing it from ending up in a landfill'. 

If you've got a bit of time on your hands, and you like to get crafty, you could 'consider creative ways to repurpose the mattress'. Alberto suggests that 'the foam from your kid's mattress could be used for pet beds, in cushions for seating, or as part of a DIY home project'. 

Headshot of Angelo Albertini.
Angelo Albertini

Angelo specializes in crafting custom mattresses, including varieties such as memory foam, hybrid, and innerspring. As a seasoned expert in bespoke bedding solutions, his knowledge extends into the realm of fabrics and mattress technologies. 

There's so much you can do with your kid's mattress, which means that there's no excuse for fly-tipping. If you dump an old mattress by the side of the road or a field, you risk spoiling our urban and rural areas and disrupting local ecosystems.

Kids' mattress FAQs

Why can't you throw away a mattress?

While you could drive your kid's old mattress down to the dump, I'd urge you to reconsider. Out of the millions of mattresses that end up in landfills each year, the vast majority are made with non-biodegradable foams and fibers. Mattresses resist compression and take up space in landfills, where they emit toxic chemicals back into the atmosphere. Where possible, you should seek out a specialist mattress recycling plant, or donate your kid's mattress to a local shelter.

Where can I buy the best kid's mattress?

As H&G's resident sleep writer, I've written a whole article locating the best places to buy a mattress. Since not every sleep store stocks Twin and Twin XL sizes, you might have to search to find the mattress that suits your tween or teen's sleep needs.

If you want to take stock of all your options, I'd recommend shopping at Mattress Firm, where you'll find innerspring, memory foam, and hybrid mattresses in every size. Since Saatva makes the world's best mattress, it stands to reason that their youth mattress provides a great balance of comfort and support. Buyers on a budget might be better off with a mattress from Leesa, which offers a premium feel at a more affordable price point.

Final thoughts

It feels good to declutter. Once you've started clearing out your kids' old bedrooms, you might not want to stop. With that said some things hold too much sentimental value to be thrown in the trash. If you're keen to keep old toys, clothes, and books, but you want to store them out of sight, then you should try out our kids' bedroom storage ideas. When you follow our top tips, you can get rid of clutter and keep hold of the good stuff.

Emilia Hitching
eCommerce Editor

Before she joined Homes & Gardens, Emilia studied English at the University of Oxford, where she sharpened her critical writing skills. She also worked on the other side of the aisle writing press releases for regional newspapers and crafting copy for Sky. Emilia combines her business savvy with her creative flair as our eCommerce Editor, connecting you with the products you’ll love. When she’s not in the office, Emilia is happiest when entertaining friends al fresco or out in the country.