How to Break Down a Mattress and Box Spring

mattresses broken down for recycling

Each year, more than 20 million people across the world decide to replace their mattress for a newer model. Unfortunately, most of those people throw their old mattress in the trash without considering the impact their decision has on the environment.

The good news about worn-out mattresses is that they contain several types of material easy to recycle, including cotton, steel, and wood. However, recycling center employees must deconstruct mattresses to get to the materials and separate them. The deconstruction process is time-consuming and labor-intensive, which means consumers can expect to pay a high price for this service.

The desire to avoid the cost while getting rid of a mattress they no longer need causes many people to dump their mattresses illegally. A better solution for mattress consumers and the environment is for people to learn how to break down a mattress and its box spring themselves.

How to Break Down a Mattress and Box Spring at Home

Before gathering tools to deconstruct an unwanted mattress and box spring, it is important for people undertaking this project to ensure they have the proper safety tools. Protective eyewear is essential to avoid small particles or flying debris from getting into the eyes. A pair of protective gloves is also necessary to prevent cuts to the hands while completing the project. If possible, people should take the project outdoors to avoid leaving a big mess behind they will have to clean up later.

Here are the tools needed to tear down a mattress and box spring before sending the contents to a recycling center:

  • Bags and boxes to place pieces of the destroyed mattress and box spring
  • Electric saw to cut the frame of the box spring
  • Heavy-duty pliers to pull out staples from both pieces of bedroom equipment
  • Seam ripper, shop box cutter, or utility knife to cut the fabric of the mattress
  • Wire clippers, bolt cutters, or both to cut the mattress springs

Those wanting to complete this do-it-yourself project are now ready to move on to the first step.

Step-by-Step Guide to Dismantling a Mattress and Box Spring

Here are the six steps involved with transforming an unwanted mattress and box spring from their original form into smaller pieces that are easier to transport and recycle:

  • Cut the cord from the edges of the mattress with a seam ripper or utility knife. To accomplish this, start cutting while pulling and applying tension to the threads where the mattress and its cord intersect.
  • Remove the top layer and fabric sides of the unwanted mattress by pulling and cutting the mattress fabric’s top layer from its side. The removal of these pieces will reveal a layer of padding. If they have staples, the DIYer must remove those with pliers or wire cutters.
  • Remove stuffing from the mattress by pulling on the top padding layer. Then immediately throw all padding materials into a trash bag. However, the trash bag should go to a recycling center if it contains mostly wool. A local waste management company can pick up any padding material made from cotton.
  • Flip the mattress over to remove fabric pieces from the bottom. The DIYer will need a seam cutter or utility knife to complete this task and should also remove any staples that remain on the underside of the mattress. Most recycling centers will accept the removed fabric.
  • Cut the mattress springs into smaller pieces using a bolt cutter and place the cut pieces into a cardboard box. People should avoid using a plastic garbage bag for this step. Discarded mattress springs could poke through the plasticand cause injury. Metal recycling centers are typically open to accepting discarded mattress springs.
  • The last step in the deconstruction process is to break down the box spring. Before starting, the DIYer should remove plastic support pieces located in each of the box spring’s four corners. Next, cut the remaining fabric in half by pulling it away from the underside of the wood frame. The project completes after sawing the wood frame of the box spring in half and breaking it down  into smaller pieces.

Prepare the Separated Materials for Recycling

The old mattress and box spring are now ready to go to a recycling center. However, some of the materials may need to go to separate facilities depending on local company policies. Each material should be in a heavy-duty garbage bag or cardboard box. Some also have the option of placing broken-down materials for curb-side pickup as long as materials are separated.

Other Alternatives to Break Down a Mattress

If the explanation of how to break down a mattress seems like too much, there may be other alternatives. Some municipalities have special mattress recycling centers with special machinery designed to separate and sort the materials. However these facilities are relatively rare.

In other areas, a local junk hauling company may be able to route your old mattress or box spring to a suitable donation center. However COVID-19 has restricted mattress donation availability in many areas for the time being.

Ultimately, mattresses and box springs take up significant space in landfills and don’t exactly bio-degrade quickly. Taking the time to properly de-construct and separate the materials prior to disposal is a great benefit to the environment.