They serve us dutifully for years on end – but there's no denying that mattresses become a hindrance and a half when it's time to get rid of them. Did you know, though, that you can reuse an old mattress in the garden?
Oh sure, nobody wants to be that neighbour with an old mattress stuck outside their house for weeks and months on end. Once you've learned how to recycle a mattress in your garden, however, you'll find that yours can work wonders in your backyard... and nobody will suspect a thing.
Take a moment, then, to stop fawning over the best mattresses on offer and drag your attention back to the old soldier whose time is nearing its end.
Before you get to work repurposing your mattress make sure you have checked what materials it is made from. If you are planning to deconstruct it to add to your garden ensure the materials are natural and compostable first.
How to reuse an old mattress in the garden
We know, we know: not a single one of your favourite garden ideas features a used mattress, right? Wrong!
In fact, you'll soon discover that – with a little bit of creative thinking – you can reuse an old mattress in the garden.
From helping you grow your own vegetables, to chic upcycling ideas for the garden, here's all the magical things your mattress can do outside (once it's finished supporting you in the bedroom, of course).
1. Use it as soundproofing
If you have a home office or studio in your garden – or want to elevate your summer house ideas – don't throw out your old mattress!
Why? Hana Leonard from Secret of the Garden, who showcased the beauty of recycled materials in her award-winning RHS Hampton Court Show Garden, says it's a brilliant way to add a layer of soundproofing to an outdoor room.
'I've been creating gardens and things for over 15 years, am passionate about recycling and upcycling and wanting-not/wasting-not, and a wannabe eco-warrior,' says Hana.
'Cover it with a waterproof sheet and use it as a layer of soundproofing between two wooden walls of your garden studio or shed,' she says simply.
2. Pad out your tall containers
If you'd like an easy and effective way to reuse an old mattress in your garden, Hana says you can (if it's made of foam) 'cut it up into pieces and use it as padding in tall containers'.
Essentially, rather than using polystyrene, you can use pieces of the foam mattress in the bottom of pots to elevate your displays.
This should also help to improve drainage, without adding too much weight.
3. Transform an old mattress into a raised bed
If you're puzzling over how to reuse an old mattress in the garden, you'll likely be pleasantly surprised to learn that you can use it to help build a raised bed by filling it.
This should only be done if the mattress materials are natural and compostable, for example, a wool-based mattress or cotton one.
'You can utilise a wooden box spring frame and mattress materials to create a layered structure in your garden,' says Steven Bell, the CEO of Paving Shopper, noting that this will look a lot like a hugelkultur mound.
Steven Bell is the managing director of Paving Shopper, known for his expertise in gardening, landscaping and paving. He leads the company with a focus on quality and innovation, ensuring Paving Shopper remains a trusted source for diverse paving needs.'
Derived from the German words 'hugel', meaning mound or hill, and 'kultur', meaning culture, hugelkultur is all about creating raised garden beds from layered materials (think old wood, grass clippings, decaying leaves, and more).
'This mimics natural soil processes, enhancing moisture retention and plant growth,' adds Steven, noting that a hugelkultur mound could help you to save water, improve soil fertility, and extend your growing season
Owner and director of Bella Bathrooms and a DIY enthusiast James Chapman agrees although he cautions people to take care to disinfect their mattress before topping it up with nutrient-rich soil and GYO seeds.
As a City & Guilds qualified plumber since 1998, James Chapman brings over two decades of home improvement experience as the owner and director of Bella Bathrooms. His passion outside work includes outdoor adventures and DIY projects.
'Be sure to use a water and white vinegar solution before use to ensure a chemical-free addition to your ecosystem,' he says.
4. Compost it
Every gardener worth their salt knows how it important it is to learn how to make compost, but did you know that you can compost some mattresses.
Depending on the mattress materials you can use the stuffing as a composting ingredient. Steven cautions you only do so 'after ensuring it's free of contaminants'.
Do note as with the above this is only suitable if your mattress is made from a natural material like cotton or wool.
5. Use an old mattress as a weed barrier
One of the top gardening questions on Google, no matter what time of year it is, is how to kill weeds. It's little wonder, really: these unwanted plants take up valuable space in our garden borders, wreaking havoc on all of our beloved flowers and shrubs.
If you knew you could learn how to reuse an old mattress in the garden to prevent weeds, then, wouldn't you set to work immediately?
'Depending on what it's made from, you can spread the mattress stuffing in thin layers after mulching,' says Steven. 'This will allow it to decompose evenly, improving soil structure and water drainage.'
Again, James advises you first 'treat the stuffing with natural antimicrobial agents to prevent mold, especially in damp conditions'.
6. Use an old mattress to create garden comfort enhancers
Plenty of us have idly considered buying a kneeling pad at some point in our gardening lives, but our experts say you can save money and reuse an old mattress to boost your comfort levels when you're out doing jobs in the garden.
'You can actually repurpose mattress foam into ergonomically shaped knee pads or seats, adding handles for easy movement,' says Steven.
James adds that you should take care to 'cover the foam with waterproof, UV-resistant fabric to ensure longevity and hygiene in outdoor conditions'.
7. Use an old mattress as garden furniture
If you've been busily scouting this month's top garden furniture deals, why not take a moment and consider a cost-saving alternative. Because, yes, you guessed it: you can absolutely reuse an old mattress in the garden to create a sofa or day bed.
'Repurposing a mattress? You can put a plastic cover on it and make it into a garden day bed,' says Hana.
'If it's a single mattress, it can become a nice and comfy new bench cushion.'
8. Make your trampoline safer
Lastly, but by no means least, Hana suggests a simple way to reuse an old mattress in the garden: as extra padding for your braver trampoline users.
'Use it as a surface around a sunken trampoline, so the kids land on something soft if they happen to jump out of the designated space!' she suggests.
How do you safely cut up a mattress?
A task best undertaken outside, it's important to make sure you're being safe and careful when chopping up a mattress for reuse.
First things first, James and Steven stress once again that you must 'ensure all mattress materials are safely reusable and consider their long-term effects on the garden's (and the surrounding environment's) health'. Look for words like 'non-toxic' and 'biodegradable' to help you out.
Next, remove the piping thread or binding cords on the edges of a mattress with a seam ripper: this will allow the mattress sides to be easily pulled away. Discard any buttons or zippers along the sides before you set to work pulling and cutting away the top layer of the mattress fabric from the side.
Trim away any extra cotton cushioning and, if there are any staples, cut them with heavy-duty pliers or wire cutters. This should allow you to set to work removing the stuffing (wool and cotton are both recyclable) with ease.
You'll then want to flip the mattress and repeat the process on the other side. When you get to the interior springs, you can carefully use a bolt cutter to cut them down into smaller pieces if you feel confident doing so (remember: these can be very sharp).
Finally, if you have a box spring frame you can break this down too. If it's made of wood, this should be easy enough: just remove any plastic fittings, fabrics, and staples before you set to work with your saw.
Once disassembled, up to 85% of mattress components can be recycled – either in your garden or at your local recycling facility (and, yes, it's much easier to transport it there in pieces!).
Can you put a regular mattress outside?
You will need to treat or cover an old mattress if you plan to repurpose it as a piece of outdoor furniture – or you can recycle it in your garden via one of the methods listed above.
'Just be sure to take the time to assess the environmental impact before repurposing any part of an old mattress,' advise Steven and James.
'Ensure materials are safely reusable and consider their long-term effects on the garden's and the surrounding environment's health.'
How can I reuse an old mattress?
As well as the methods already listed above, you can reuse an old mattress to grow vegetables using a form of hydroponic gardening.
'Imagine growing plants without any soil at all,' says Steven. 'That's hydroponic gardening!'
'Instead of using soil, plants are grown in water mixed with special plant food, called nutrients. It's like giving plants a tailored diet that meets all their needs, allowing them to grow faster and healthier. You can think of it as setting up a plant spa where they get everything they need directly from the water they're in, without having to search through soil for their food.'
Noting that this method is 'great for places where good soil is hard to find or for growing food right in your home without any mess', Steven adds that 'mattress foam, usually thrown away, can be cleverly repurposed as the base for plants in hydroponic systems'.
'It supports the plants and helps their roots access nutrients directly from the water.'
'By understanding the basics of hydroponic gardening and following these expert tips, you can start your own soilless garden adventure, turning waste into wonder and growing healthy plants in an innovative, sustainable way,' adds James.
Why should we recycle an old mattress?
'The challenge in encouraging people to recycle lies in the fundamental nature of humans and our inherited laziness,' says Hana, who says there are plenty of ways to reuse an old mattress.
'We will always pick up the easier option and that is, in this day and time, to buy a new product, because it is available and cheaply produced in Asia. When things weren’t readily available people recycled.'
She adds that 'some of us creatives play with the ideas, but until a celebrity or a sought-after brand introduces recycling as The Thing and A Cool Thing To Do and comes up with recycled products that look contemporary or cool, people won’t bother much. We can’t help ourselves!'
So, will you be using your old mattress in the garden this summer? We'll be keeping our beady eyes out for hugelkultur mounds and stylishly upcycled garden furniture henceforth...
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Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.
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