What to Do with Old Stuffed Animals: Recycling and Repurposing Tips

Last updated on April 7, 2024

This guide reveals practical steps on how to breath new life into your old stuffed animals through innovative recycling and repurposing techniques.

Key takeaways:

  • Donate to local charities, shelters, schools, thrift stores, and non-profit organizations.
  • Repurpose as pet toys, pillow covers, door draft stoppers, clothing embellishments, and themed wreaths.
  • Ensure toys are clean and in good condition before donating.
  • Follow dos: wash and dry, inspect for damage, include all parts, choose appropriate charities, consider educational value.
  • Follow don’ts: avoid recalled toys, skip battery-operated if dead, don’t donate dirty or moldy toys, refrain from overly used toys.
1of 7

Where to Donate Old Stuffed Animals

Identifying local charities such as homeless shelters, children’s hospitals, and police departments can provide new homes for gently loved stuffed animals, where they often help comfort individuals facing challenging situations. Animal shelters sometimes accept these donations as well to offer a sense of companionship and calm for pets awaiting adoption.

Schools and daycares are frequently in need of toys, and stuffed animals can prove particularly useful for creating inviting and nurturing environments for young learners. Reach out to teachers and childcare providers who might welcome additions to their classrooms.

Thrift stores like Goodwill or the Salvation Army generally welcome donations of stuffed animals. These establishments resell items at a lower cost, helping raise funds for their programs while extending your stuffed companion’s lifecycle.

Non-profit organizations, such as Stuffed Animals for Emergencies (SAFE), specialize in collecting and donating stuffed toys to children in crisis situations, ensuring your beloved playthings serve a purpose even after you’ve outgrown them.

Before donating, it’s vital to ensure the items are clean and in good condition to pass the joy along with respect and dignity. Check for organizations’ specific donation guidelines to comply with safety and hygiene standards.

2of 7

Creative Ways to Repurpose Old Stuffed Animals

Transforming cherished but worn plush toys into new items gives them a second life while adding a touch of whimsy to your home decor or personal items. Consider these ideas:

1. Pet Toys: Remove any hazardous small parts and give a gentle wash before passing down to your furry friends.

2. Pillow Covers: For larger stuffed animals, remove the stuffing and stitch the remaining fabric into unique pillow covers.

3. Door Draft Stopper: Line up several stuffed animals, sew them together, and fill with sand or beans to block cold air from seeping under doors.

4. Children’s Clothing Embellishments: Cut out parts of the fabric to sew onto kids’ clothing, creating cute, personalized patches.

5. Themed Wreaths: Use them for festive decorations by attaching to wreaths or garlands during the holiday season.

6. Nursery Mobiles: Disassemble animals to create charming mobiles for baby rooms.

7. Sensory Tools: For children with sensory processing needs, repurpose soft fabrics and textures from stuffed animals into comforting sensory blankets or mats.

8. Ornaments: Smaller plushies can be adorned with a loop and hung as a whimsical touch on Christmas trees or car mirrors.

9. Art Supplies Pouch: Craft a zipper into one side to magically turn it into a handy pouch for pens, markers, or craft supplies.

10. Memory Keepsakes: Convert them into memory boxes or photo frames by adding compartments or slots to hold special items or pictures.

Remember, even when altering toys, ensure that any repurposed item is safe and appropriate for its new use, especially when they’re intended for pets, children, or as gifts.

3of 7

Dos and Don’ts for Donating Used Toys

When considering the donation of used toys, especially stuffed animals, it’s essential to keep in mind the condition, cleanliness, and suitability for the next recipient. Here are some pointed tips to guide you through the process:

4of 7


  • Wash and Dry: Ensure the toys are clean. Machine washables should be laundered, following the care instructions on the label; for non-washable items, use a damp cloth to wipe the surface clean.
  • Inspect for Damage: Check for any rips, missing eyes, or loose parts that could be hazardous to young children. Repair minor damages if possible.
  • Include All Parts: If the toy is part of a set or requires additional components to function, ensure all pieces are intact and included.
  • Choose Appropriate Charities: Research local shelters, hospitals, and charities that are currently accepting toy donations. Some may have specific needs or restrictions.
  • Consider Educational Value: Favor donating toys that offer educational or developmental benefits to children.
5of 7


  • Avoid Recalled Toys: Do not donate toys that have been recalled due to safety issues. Check recall lists to confirm their status.
  • Skip the Battery-Operated If Dead: If you can’t test it, or it’s not working, avoid donating battery-operated toys unless they only need a battery replacement.
  • Don’t Donate Dirty or Moldy Toys: Stuffed animals in poor condition may cause more harm than good, spreading germs or allergens.
  • Refrain From Overly Used Toys: Toys that show significant wear and tear are likely not suitable for donation.

Following these simple guidelines can ensure that your well-loved items bring joy to another child rather than ending up in a landfill.

6of 7

Letting Go of Sentimental Items: Stuffed Animals and Emotional Attachment

Understanding the challenge of parting with cherished plush toys is essential. These soft companions often hold a myriad of memories and emotions, making detachment difficult. To ease this process, consider the following points:

  • Reflect on the Joy: Remember that the primary purpose of these toys was to bring happiness. By passing them on, you’re extending this joy to others.
  • Photograph: Taking pictures allows you to preserve the memory without physically keeping the item.
  • Keep a Token: If a collection is too large, select one or two special animals to hold onto.
  • Craft a Story: Write a brief narrative of the adventures you had with your stuffed animals. This storybook can be a precious keepsake.
  • Honor with Display: Create a small space, like a shadow box, to display a piece of the toy, whether that’s a patch of fabric or an accessory.

Addressing emotional ties with respect and care will help in making a thoughtful decision about the next chapter for your old stuffed animals.

7of 7


Should you throw out old stuffed animals?

Given their unsuitability for textile donation bins, old stuffed animals should either be donated to animal shelters or neighbors with dogs or responsibly disposed of in the trash.

What to do with stuffed animals you don’t want anymore?

Consider donating your unwanted stuffed animals to local charities or organizations that support families in need, as this can either directly help the less fortunate or contribute to fundraising for community programs.

Where can I donate used stuffed animals in my area?

You can donate used stuffed animals to your local Salvation Army or Goodwill, but ensure to call before dropping them off to confirm that they currently accept toy donations.

Are there eco-friendly ways to dispose of old stuffed animals?

Yes, donate old stuffed animals to charities, repurpose them for craft projects, or recycle them via specialized recycling facilities.

What social initiatives could benefit from gently-used stuffed toys?

Gently-used stuffed toys could benefit social initiatives like orphanages, hospitals, disaster relief programs, and shelters for families in need.

How can old stuffed animals be repurposed for creative uses?

Old stuffed animals can be repurposed for creative uses by turning them into playful puppets, attractive door stoppers, or even cozy pillows.

Related reading:

Read more

Read more

Read more

Read more

Read more

Read more

Table of Contents