- Your first thoughts when coming across a candidate for a new mattress? We bet you’re already daydreaming of how comfy it will be to spend nights cuddled into its soft exterior!
- A new mattress promises a fantastic sleep, but the new mattress smell, the pungent smell of chemicals noticeable before off-gassing occurs, is quite a pain. Is there anything we can do to deal with the off-gassing odor?
- Fortunately, there are ways to get rid of an off-gassing smell. Get to know expert opinions on the subject in the article below, from the soda and “white sock” method to the pros of a well-ventilated room. Also, find out how long it should take to achieve a good night’s sleep without nasty off-gassing odors using the new mattress.
What is mattress off-gassing?
What bothers us most about the mattress off-gassing is the smell of chemicals.
According to the Sleep Products Safety Council and Sleep Foundation, there is no need to worry that the off-gassing smell is in any way harmful to people.
If you’re wondering if there are any health risks associated with mattress off-gassing, you’ll be relieved to hear that the VOCs emitted during off-gassing are generally harmless for most sleepers.
VOCs associated with synthetic foam don’t pose significant known health risks.
Important: Mind that the VOCs may irritate sleepers with chemical sensitivities or respiratory conditions.
What are the chemicals in a mattress related to the foam mattresses’ off-gassing?
Here’s a thing: Mattresses must be fire retardant. Therefore, the fabrics and materials we make them of often contain a coat made of VOCs.
Most mattresses come with chemical flame retardants to conform to local safety laws. It’s not a bad thing at its core—these substances help reduce the spread of potential fire. However, some people believe that these chemicals can cause various health problems, up to developmental brain disorders and cancer.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a large group of chemicals found in many products we use to build and maintain our homes. VOCs can be found in thousands of manufactured household products. You can also come across it in a cleaner, air freshener, or paint.
Once these chemicals are in our homes, they are released or “off-gas” into the indoor air we breathe. (read more on Heath State)
We may not always be able to recognize their presence by simply smelling them out, so even if your mattress is odorless after a week or so from staying at your house, off-gassing may still be ongoing.
Important: Smelling is not a good indicator of health risk when it comes to VOCs.
Common VOCs in our daily lives are benzene, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, methylene chloride, tetrachloroethylene, toluene, xylene, and 1,3-butadiene.
Some Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in mattresses contain bromine. They’re often also called brominated fire retardants. Other times mattresses contain chlorine instead of bromine.
Mattress off-gassing process happens after you take your mattress out of a plastic wrap you bought it in, when all these chemical substances get into the air you’re breathing and smelling.
Tip: We bet you already guessed that one way for the off-gassing mattress is opening a few windows and providing the room it stays in with excellent air circulation!
The good news is most foam mattress models will go through the off-gassing process within the first week at most after you bring it home, usually in three to five days.
Important: The problem is that the residual VOCs will continue to off-gas for years, even if the chemical smell isn’t perceptible anymore. Some experts say that this off-gassing process can have a cumulative effect on your health over long-term exposure.
One solution providing us with extreme tranquility and keeping us away from VOCs is investing in organic mattresses. Yet, organic mattresses are expensive as hell, and, naturally, only some of us can afford them.
The memory foam mattress differs slightly from a “regular” spring mattress.
Higher-density memory foams often feel very supportive and last for years.
The structure of these mattresses generally reduces motion transfer better than low-density foam, but it’s also responsible for that awkward “stuck in the bed” feeling.
When it comes to health, many memory foam mattresses contain additives designed to slow or prevent the spread of flames (flame retardants).
Although they are meant to quell the danger of a fire, they can cause unwanted side effects and health issues.
The memory foam mattress is made with polyurethane, a substance mildly toxic to people’s health.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are a byproduct of the memory foam mattresses manufacturing process. Unfortunately, CFCs’ toxic gasses negatively affect the environment.
When it comes to latex materials, the natural latex is free from synthetic components, so it shouldn’t let off odors associated with VOCs.
Yet, there is some pungent smell of chemical odor onboard as well.
It may emit a slight natural or rubbery smell.
Synthetic latex is more likely to have distinct VOC-related off-gassing odors.
With little evidence that VOCs mattresses pose a severe danger to humans, you should still get as much of the VOCs out as possible after it arrives in your house.
For example, a simple baking soda contains powerful properties that can remove VOCs emitted by mattresses such as Formaldehyde, Benzene, and Naphthalene.
We’ll go through the list of reliable methods below!
The risk of health effects from inhaling chemicals depends on
- how much is in the air,
- for how long, and
- how often a person breathes it in;
For example, while inhaling VOCs from your mattress for a short time is harmless, breathing in low levels of VOCs for a long time poses a risk of increasing health problems in some people.
Studies suggest that VOCs exposure may worsen symptoms for people with asthma or those particularly sensitive to chemicals.
Each chemical from the VOCs group of chemicals has its toxicity, so it has the potential for causing different health effects.
Common symptoms of exposure to high levels of VOCs include
- eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, and worsening of asthma symptoms in short term exposures, i.e., hours to days, as well as
- cancer, liver and kidney damage, and central nervous system damage in chronic exposures, such as years to a lifetime. (read more on Health State)
Choose your new bed mattress model with a CertiPUR US certification. It guarantees a mattress comprises foams of the highest quality. CertiPUR-US certified polyurethane foam mattresses contain little or no pungent smells at all. In addition, they ensure fast mattress off-gassing compared to rivals.
What does high-quality mean in the mattress department?
It boils down to:
- low Volatile Organic Compound emissions,
- no ozone depleters,
- no heavy metals (such as mercury and lead),
- no phthalates,
- no formaldehyde,
- no PVC and plastic,
- no flame retardants (this is a trade-off if there is a fire in your house!)
On the other hand, features to look for in a high-quality mattress are natural latex and Proposition 65 warnings (California now requires manufacturers to disclose dangerous chemicals in their products once they pass a certain threshold level. When shopping online, look for any Proposition 65 warning labels).
You can check Tuft and Needle or Leesa mattress models to avoid problems with the off-gas processes.
Ways to off-gas mattress quickly
Generally, two factors effectively reduce off-gassing odor: ventilation and time.
All mattresses will come covered with a thin plastic layer. It prevents staining and damage during transportation.
First, you want to give your mattress plenty of time to air out in a well-ventilated room after taking it out from the plastic cover.
Thanks to this little action, your new bed will release most of its off-gassing odor before you sleep on it for the first time.
Then, take your new mattress smell out by using the tips we share below!
If your mattress is already home and it stayed for some time to “calm down,” let’s see what we can do to improve indoor air quality and speed up off-gassing.
“White sock” method
This adorable technique refers to an entertaining way of dealing with new mattress chemical smell. Jump and bounce across every inch of your brand-new mattress!
You can do it with your partner and kids; the more of you, the better (and more fun!).
It will speed up the off-gassing process—locked-in gasses will dissipate quicker.
Tip: Since the mattress will off-gas excessively when you jump on it, take care of your health by wearing a face mask, It will help you avoid inhaling the strong fumes. Also, leave the room after around 10 minutes of jumping and look for quality indoor air elsewhere until the VOCs go away for good.
Another method that is also quite entertaining.
Light a few candles around the home, but remember not to place them near the mattress, especially if your mattress has no chemical flame retardants.
Open a few windows, and after a couple of hours, the smell will dissipate significantly. It’s much better than waiting for a week, isn’t it?
After 24 hours, most pungent smells should disappear, so you can start using your new bed for good!
At the end of the process, there will be only minimal pungent smells remaining.
Leave your mattress outside
We know, we know. You’ve just got yourself a brand-new mattress, and you want to use it!
But wait a second.
Let the pungent smell make itself comfortable at your place as well (in other words, let it go out of your mattress and go away).
Find a ventilated room and leave your mattress there.
You’ll need some time to get rid of all the VOCs, polyurethane, and the smell of chemicals.
Yet, after some time outside the bedroom, a new mattress off-gas condition will ensure your sleep quality is just perfect.
It’s not a bad idea to air the mattress out as well.
Remove the mattress cover and if it smells gasses, let it air out of the house.
In beds with memory foam and polyurethane, it typically takes about 24 hours for the mattress off-gassing process after taking the cover off.
After all, there is no point in bringing this smelly odor into indoor air.
Yet, you can do it efficiently only on a sunny day. Remember that you have to take your mattress out of the plastic cover to create air circulation.
Important: Leaving the new mattress rolled up in plastic will enhance fermenting! If this happens, the gasses will become embedded in it more deeply.
If you don’t feel like experimenting with the outdoors is a good idea, invest in air filters.
No device can completely get rid of air pollutants, but it can try!
The best air purifiers will filter out many airborne particles and may improve respiratory health.
How to pick the best air filter to catch the VOCs?
Look for original air filters HEPA or “HEPA-like” as they trap the most airborne particles.
Most homes have an inexpensive fiberglass furnace filter about 1 inch thick. If possible, upgrade your air filters at least until most of the VOCs in your new mattress off-gasses.
Regular fiberglass filters constantly cycle the air in your home, trapping only large particles.
Upgrade them to a few pleated filters, such as a MERV rating of 11, instead of the usual fiberglass or washable filters with an MERV rating of 1 to 4.
Open the windows
If it’s not summer and you can’t air your smelly mattress out directly outside, open the windows of your house or apartment.
You can also power up the fan to circulate fresh air in the room.
Do it for about ten hours, and the smell will be gone for good.
Sprinkle baking soda
Another way to improve indoor air quality and get rid of the pungent odor is by sprinkling a bit of baking soda on it.
Baking soda is a deodorizer known for its ability to eliminate the most pungent smells, not only mattresses.
Particles of this substance will go deep down into the mattress to absorb and neutralize off-gassing odor.
Leave the baking soda on the mattress for an hour or so to let it absorb all the off-gassing fumes. Then, use a vacuum cleaner.
Add mattress cover
Some homeowners use a mattress cover to prevent off-gassing from its upper part so that no one gets in touch with VOCs and other potentially harmful substances. It’s a method to improve air quality in your house.
A mattress wrap made with polyethylene sheeting can prevent gasses from permeating through it.
If off-gassing takes the road through the bottom of the mattress, it’s less likely to be inhaled by people sleeping on it.
Many of us sleep directly on our mattresses with only thin cotton sheets, allowing the VOCs to be inhaled easily.
The non-permeable cover can prevent this, while still, the off-gassing can happen through the bottom of the mattresses.
These wraps or covers also act against bedbugs, as spill protectors and dust mite barriers.