If you want to know how to get rid of unwanted furniture for free, you’re in luck – there are lots of options available to you. But how do you know which are the best ones from an environmental perspective? Should you recycle furniture? Should you donate furniture? Should you leave it outside and hope for the best?
To stop you doing that last one (it’s illegal!), we’ve got tons of eco-friendly ideas to help you get rid of your unwanted furniture – and they won’t cost you a penny.
Why be eco friendly when getting rid of furniture?
Reducing waste is a vital step towards protecting our planet and the environment. It preserves finite natural resources, it reduces carbon emissions, it protects ecosystems and wildlife, and it saves energy.
Yet in the UK, we’ve been throwing away more than 300,000 tonnes of reusable furniture per year according to waste think-tank RSA. Even recycling (while better than not recycling) still uses energy, water and other resources. Not to mention furniture can be tricky (though not impossible) to recycle.
So how can we do better? The fact of the matter is that if we want to protect our planet we all need to be a lot more careful about how we get rid of unwanted furniture and other common household waste. And we can do this by following the core principles of reducing waste (the 3 Rs) – reduce, reuse and recycle (in that order).
Do you really need to get rid of your furniture?
Before we get into our tips for ridding yourself of genuinely unwanted furniture, it’s worth asking yourself – do you really need to get rid of it at all?
The first ‘R’ (reduce) is all about reducing the volume of natural resources you consume. So if you’re thinking of getting rid of furniture in order to replace it like-for-like, is that really necessary?
You only need a brief browse on Pinterest or Instagram to see there are literally hundreds of ways to breathe new life into any type of furniture, from chests of drawers to sofas. Here are a few ideas...
Upcycle wooden furniture
If you’ve got an old piece of wooden furniture that isn’t quite to your taste anymore, then why not turn it into something new with our easy upcycling ideas? It’s amazing what a fresh lick of paint can do.
Refinish wood furniture
If your furniture’s simply looking a bit rough and worn, it’s actually surprisingly straightforward to give it a little TLC and a new finish. Just follow our guide for refinishing wood furniture.
Reupholster your sofas or chairs
A good upholsterer should be able to help you completely transform old sofas and chairs. Given how much these can cost to buy new, this could also be a more pocket-friendly approach. Plus you’ll get a completely unique finished piece.
See if it can be repaired
If you think your furniture is broken, make sure you check whether it can be repaired before you decide to get rid of it. A good joiner should be able to help with wooden furniture repairs, while an upholsterer may be able to advise you about who could repair a sagging sofa or chair.
6 ways to make sure unwanted furniture is reused
If you’re absolutely sure you have no more use for your furniture, then it’s time to think about how you can make sure it’s reused – as this is the next best option from an eco-friendly perspective.
Here are our top ideas for reusing unwanted furniture:
1. Pass your furniture on to friends and family
Always ask around to see whether anyone you know would like the furniture you no longer want. You might be surprised. Even if you think your furniture is past it or totally out of date, your friends or family may not agree.
In particular, if you know anyone buying their first home, or renting their first flat, they could well be desperate for freebies and more than happy to take it off your hands.
2. Donate your furniture to charity
Donating furniture to charity isn’t just eco friendly, it helps others. Most charity shops will accept furniture donations – although it’s always worth checking their websites for items they don’t accept (various children’s items like cots and mattresses are usually on the no-go list, along with anything that’s heavily soiled).
But if your furniture isn’t going to fit in your car, can you still donate it? Happily, yes. In fact, an increasing number of charities offer collection services, either nationally or on a shop by shop basis. For example:
Reuse Network accepts, and in some places collects, used furniture to hand on to people in crisis.
British Heart Foundation provides a collection service you can book online via their website, with furniture usually going to one of their specialist furniture and electrical shops.
British Red Cross offers collections via some of its high street shops. You’ll need to contact your nearest shop to find out if they do.
Sue Ryder makes collections available to book online via their website.
It’s also very likely you’ll have local charities nearby that accept furniture donations, so it’s worth taking a bit of time to do your research.
3. Sell your furniture online
If you think you could make some money from your unwanted furniture then selling it is definitely the way to go. Here are our key selling tips:
Do your research
It’s worth researching items like the ones you’re trying to sell. This will give you an idea of how much they’re listed for and what you’re up against.
Choose the best place to sell
Sites like Gumtree, Preloved, Nextdoor and Facebook Marketplace allow you to list your items for free and there aren’t any selling fees (unlike eBay). You can also specify that the item is pick-up only if you’re not going to be able to transport it.
All four sites do broadly the same thing, so it comes down to personal preference when choosing which site to list on. If you choose Facebook, it’s also worth checking whether there are any local groups for selling particular items, as these can help get your listings in front of more people.
If there are lots of similar items selling in your area on one of the sites but not on the other, it might be worth choosing the one with less competition.
Be realistic about price
It’s unlikely you’ll make anywhere near the amount you paid for the item you’re selling. As a rule, people aren’t willing to pay nearly as much for second-hand items, particularly soft furnishings, unless they’re legit antiques.
Take your time on the post
Lots of clear pictures and a simple, honest description will be the making of your ad. So it’s worth taking your time over the listing. It’s a good idea to include details like basic measurements, as you may well get asked about this if you don’t. And always mention any imperfections, so you don’t end up with a disappointed customer at your door.
While buying and selling online is now commonplace, it’s still worth exercising some caution – after all, you’re essentially allowing a stranger to come into your home to collect something. Gumtree has some helpful safety tips that are well worth a read.
4. Give away your furniture online
Giving away your furniture online is a great option if you’re not fussed about making some cash, don’t think your item is worth anything, or need to get it shifted fast.
5. Take your furniture to a car boot sale
If your furniture can squeeze into your car, then why not go old school and visit a local car boot sale? (Just search for ‘car boot sales near me’ and you’ll be up and running.)
You may have to pay a small fee for a pitch, in which case it’s better to make sure you have a few good quality used items that you want to sell to ensure you get return on investment.
6. Give your furniture to a local theatre company
This is a slightly left of field idea, but many theatres (particularly small local ones) often have need of furniture for their sets. So it’s worth doing a little research to see whether any near you are on the lookout for donations.
How to recycle furniture
If the furniture you want to get rid of is completely unsuitable to being reused, then the next best option is recycling. Furniture at the end of its useful life can often be recycled, especially items made from wood and metal.
Some items can be more tricky though. For example, according to the National Bed Federation (NBF), only about 19 per cent of mattresses are recycled. This is because the springs in most mattresses can seriously damage machines (another reason to get yours cleaned up and reused instead).
If you want to recycle furniture the best place to start is your local recycling centre.
Other ways to get rid of unwanted furniture
If all else fails then there are a number of other ways to rid yourself of your unwanted furniture. Although it’s worth remembering that some of these will result in it going to landfill.
If you’re buying a replacement, ask the company you’re buying it from
Many furniture and mattress manufacturers now offer a collection service where they’ll take away your old furniture when they deliver the new item(s). This is sometimes – but not always – free.
While some of these services may recycle the items they collect, it’s certainly not true of all of them. So it’s worth checking their policy on how they dispose of the furniture once it’s with them.
Book a bulky waste collection from your council
Take a look at your local authority’s website, as many now provide ‘bulky waste’ collection services. While these services will generally try to recycle items where possible, they don’t usually guarantee it won’t end up in landfill.
Take it to the tip
This is hopefully your very last resort. Your local tip will be free to use – and they usually accept pretty much everything (although it’s worth checking before you turn up). You may have to shell out for a van though if you’re not able to transport the furniture yourself.
Find out what else you can recycle
Take a look at our ultimate recycling guide to discover what else you can recycle, from household waste to clothing and electricals.