Ever wondered why any new mattress you buy has that same uncomfortable choking and unpleasant smell? We thought as much. Here’s the gist, what you are experiencing is called mattress off-gassing.
Off-gassing, as the name implies, simply means to give off a harmful chemical in the form of gas. Off-gassing can be likened to the smell we associate with new appliances, cars, fresh paint, and in some cases, air fresheners.
Ideally, your mattress comes in an airtight package from the manufacturer. This causes chemicals used in manufacturing the mattresses to be trapped inside. These chemicals, upon unpackaging, are released. The chemicals are called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and they are responsible for off-gassing.
Off-gassing is not just peculiar to new mattresses alone. A handful amount of your new home appliances off-gas from time to time. This means that there is a high probability that you have inhaled these gases. However, the case is slightly different for new mattresses. This is because you are in close contact with that new mattress smell when you lay on your bed.
The amount of VOCs in new mattresses varies from product to product. This means that it depends on the kind of brand you are planning to purchase or have purchased. Fortunately, that new mattress smell only occurs in mattresses made of synthetic foams and a few natural foams. Such mattresses contain petroleum-based chemicals that can trigger allergies if inhaled by someone highly sensitive to chemicals.
As mentioned earlier, the chemicals that cause that off-gassing smell are called Volatile Organic Compounds, VOCs. These chemicals are embedded in new mattresses so as to keep the layers of the foam intact.
Another requirement in mattress production is that they should contain fire retardants. Most of these chemicals are embedded here. There is a wide range of chemicals found in VOCs that are responsible for the smell, but it would be limited to the few major ones:
Benzene, a chemical formed via natural disasters like volcanoes and Forest fires. It is a colorless liquid with a sweet odor that evaporates on exposure to air. It is highly flammable and has many industrial uses.
Formaldehyde, a colorless chemical that becomes gas at room temperature. It is commonly used in many manufacturing processes. However, its content in mattresses is very low. Exposure to this chemical could pose serious health problems for individuals, and its severity depends greatly on the duration of exposure. Symptoms may include:
Naphthalene, unlike formaldehyde, is not so dangerous as it does not pose any risk on individual health when used on mattresses. It is made from crude oil (, or coal tar) and is produced when burning occurs. It is mainly used in the manufacturing of synthetic foams.
For someone who does not know what memory foam is, it allows the mattress to conform to your body shape. It is viscoelastic, which means that it is a combination of viscosity and elasticity.
A viscous material is one that flows slowly when pressure is applied to it, while an elastic material is one that can stretch, change shape, and still return to its normal form.
The combination of these concepts makes the mattress conform to the shape of your body and creates an illusion of you sleeping on a fluffy cloud while returning to its normal for once you’re no longer on it.
Memory foam mattresses are purchased mainly because of their health benefits. However, they are one of the popular mattresses that emit off-gassing odors. This is because they contain polyurethane foam which is responsible for allergic reactions in people sensitive to chemicals.
Worst still, this polyurethane layer is topped with a viscoelastic layer that causes memory foam off-gassing.
Although, one of the ways you can always ensure that the level VOCs in the mattress is low is to check for the GREENGUARD Certification and a CertiPUR-US Certification. These certifications ensure that the materials used to make the mattress is unharmful to your health and the environment as a whole. Other certifications include:
The duration takes for
new mattress off-gassing varies. Although some manufacturers ensure that some of the off-gassing processes happen before packaging and shipping the mattress. However, you should note that no matter how much you try to off-gas outside your house, a tangible amount of off-gassing would still occur in your house.
Also, this amount is dependent on the type of mattress you buy, the density of the foam inside the mattress ( the higher the density, the longer it the off-gassing process), the chemicals used during the manufacturing process, and the packaging of the mattress. It takes between 2 days and 2 weeks for your mattress to off-gas, depending on these factors.
The off-gassing situation with leading brands is better because they contain little to no trace of VOCs in them and takes only hours for the off-gassing process to be completed, unlike memory foam that takes two weeks.
Casper foam offers three different types of mattresses: the Caper, the Wave, and the Essential. These three mattresses consist of layers of memory foam, polyurethane, and a layer of natural latex. All three mattresses are CertiPUR-US certified. Casper mattress off-gassing takes 24 hours or less for the odor to dissipate. This makes it an advantage over other brands.
Purple mattresses, on the other hand, consists of an elastic polymer grid placed over the CertiPUR-US certified polyurethane foam. Purple mattress odor fades very quickly and, in some cases, has no report of off-gassing.
If you are, however planning to purchase a new mattress or are still in a dilemma of what mattress to pick over a wide range of choices, you should consider opting for latex mattresses. Most latex mattresses do not smell, especially latex mattresses like Sunrising Bedding. You should put these in mind when planning to purchase a mattress.
Dealing with a new mattress off-gassing is not an easy feat, but here are a few tips to speed off the gassing process and get rid of that harmful and unpleasant odor. Here is how to speed up a mattress off-gassing.
One costly mistake you would make is to keep the plastic wraps of your mattress intact for a long time. Not removing the plastic wrap is dangerous as it poses a significant risk of fermenting the gases and causing the gases to be deeply embedded in the mattress. Ensure you take off the plastic wrap in a ventilated room and discard the plastic wrap away from your home.
After discarding the plastic wrap, it is expedient that you expose your new mattress to air. Ensure that the mattress is in a well-ventilated room and, if possible, leave it for days before using it, or you can wait till the new mattress off-gassing is completely over. One of the ways to ensure that the mattress is in a well-ventilated room is to keep windows open and also to allow a fan to circulate the air in the room.
Also, if you do not have an empty room, you can consider leaving the mattress in the basement or in the garage to off-gas, provided that these places would not encourage the growth of molds due to moisture.
However, if the room cannot be avoided for a few hours, for instance, when you want to lay on the mattress, it is advisable to use a mattress off gassing cover. When the off-gassing cover is not in use, ensure to wash them before using them again. The off-gassing process for some new products only takes up to 24 hours, so getting a mattress off gassing cover might not be necessary, but if it is impossible to leave your mattress for 24 hours or more to off-gas, then you can consider using a cover from Sleep Innovations to contain the odor.
It is called the white sock treatment because it entails jumping on the mattress to release gases. This is an efficient and faster way to release gases. However, you should ensure that you do not stay in the room for long so that you do not inhale these harmful gases. Also, you should ensure that this treatment can be given to your mattress.
Some manufacturers recommend the use of baking soda to speed up the off-gassing process. This tip works hand in hand with aerating your mattress. Applying baking soda helps to speed up the aeration process. Baking soda is commonly used as a deodorizer, and it is proven to be efficient with removing the odor that comes with new mattresses.
For a faint smell, sprinkle the baking soda on the entire surface of your mattress and let it sit for about an hour or two. Leave overnight for a stronger scent. Then, you can also check the mattress periodically to see if the baking soda has done an excellent job. To remove the baking soda from your mattress, use a vacuum cleaner.
Using a room refresher helps to off-gas a new mattress. To achieve this, place a bowl of white vinegar in the room to remove the new mattress smell from the air as it off-gases.
If you are not someone so particular about the odor of vinegar, place it in the room and leave it for 24 hours. After 24 hours, the airborne odors would have been absorbed. Once this is done, you can safely discard the vinegar.
Mattress off-gassing occurs when the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in new mattresses like memory foam break down. It causes an unpleasant and disturbing smell that can be harmful if inhaled in large quantities. New mattress off-gassing can be a serious feat of not properly managed as it poses health risks on individuals who are very sensitive to chemicals and individuals who have respiratory problems like asthma.
Fortunately, there are many manufactured mattresses that contain little to no VOCs in them. These mattresses are very easy to spot as they have certifications from CertiPUR-US, which indicates the level of VCOs in them. Also, there are a handful of tips you can employ to ensure safe off-gassing of your mattress without putting yourself at risk of exposure. These tips are proven, tested, and trusted. Hence you don’t need to worry about these gases.
All you need to do is to ensure that your mattress is adequately aired. If you do not have all the time in the world to sufficiently air your mattress, using mattress covers works too.