Last Updated: June 04, 2018.
When you first unpackage your mattress or pillow, to your surprise you might find an overwhelmingly unpleasant chemical odor. The bad news is the smell may be with you for some time and can irritate some sleepers. The good news is the smell is harmless and eventually goes away. In this article, we will look at what causes that smell and how to get rid of it.
The Chemicals of New Mattresses
The smell is coming from something called “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs) that can also be identified from the smell of new paint, new furniture, new clothes, and new cars. Humans and plants also release VOCs as part of biological processes. Of course, ours is natural and not from chemical processes.
Most mattresses are culprits to the new mattress chemical smell. However, there is one biggest offender of them all: Memory foam.
Is memory foam toxic?
Memory foam is notorious for their odor. Mattresses and pillows alike will need time to be aired out. If you can leave a window and room door open, the airflow can help the mattress air out quicker.
The individual chemical components can have higher VOC hazard as raw materials. However, when combined into more stable products like foam it becomes safe. Still, we do need our mattresses, pillows, and other household products used on a daily basis to be safe. Third-party certification companies such as CertiPUR-US and Oeko-tex enforce a hazard-free level of VOCs and product safety. Mattresses manufactured in the USA also follow strict regulations and can be an added layer for ensuring product safety.
As long as the mattress is purchased from a reputable vendor and comes with a stamp of approval from a reputable third-party certification company, the mattress is non-toxic and the smell harmless.
The smell is from a chemical process known as “off-gassing”, which unlike stable chemicals, can happen to many “volatile” chemicals. The chemical smell can be alarming because of how strong it is to our senses.
Health risks: What’s the worse that can happen?
Although the odor eventually goes away, the fumes at worse can cause some problems for a few sleepers:
- Headaches and dizziness
- Throat irritation
- Respiratory irritation
- Allergic reaction
Headaches and dizziness is the most common mainly due to our overwhelmed smell sense and annoyance of said smell. Throat and respiratory irritation can also occur because of the smell. Allergic reactions is typically associated with workplace exposure and is unlikely, but can still happen.
5 Ways To Get Rid Of Memory Foam Odor
Off-gassing is a process that demands time and airflow. Your new memory foam mattress or pillow can be causing a lot of night time grief. There are several things you can do to speed up the process.
- Improve airflow: Aside from getting the smell to air out sooner, improving the airflow of the room where the new mattress is placed ensures the chemical smell does not linger or stick around after the mattress is good for sleep. You can open the window, place an electric fan nearby, and open the bedroom door to provide maximum airflow. You may also want to leave the covers, pillows, and bedsheets off until much of the VOCs have been emitted, usually within the first three days.
- Scenting: Essential oils and placing air fresheners nearby can help mask the odor coming from the mattress. The aroma of essential oils can be applied by mixing some water in a spray bottle and spraying your bed (or just the pillow) or applied to bedding laundry during washing. If you can’t stand the new smell, changing your bedsheets might be time consuming and take effort, but can help keep your bed smelling fresh for the night. Air fresheners placed nearby or at air vents can help mask the overall odor coming off the bed.
- New bedsheets: If you intend to sleep on the mattress on the first night and onwards, then switching out the bedsheets frequently can help reduce the odor levels. The emission of odor will continue to need airing out, and your bedsheets may catch most of the odor itself. Although it is time consuming, it can be hard to argue against freshly washed and dried bedsheets when the alternative is new mattress smell.
- Baking soda and vinegar: Baking soda is often used for deodorizing a refrigerator. You can sprinkle the powder directly on top of the memory foam, then let it sit for a few hours. Afterwards, a vacuum cleaner can suck up the powder. Be patient as this might take some time or repeated use. Vinegar is another idea where you place a small bowl of it in your room for absorbing the odor in the air. Not a common practice, but the bowl of vinegar can help with preventing nearby furniture and personal belongings from catching some odor.
- Replacing the mattress with a more organic choice. More on this below.
If you have tried all of the above, and the smell is too much to handle, then it’s time to find a new mattress with little to no smell.
Most mattress companies worth the money will have trial periods available of 30 to 90 days minimum. Amazon-bought mattresses will be backed by a 30-day return policy by Amazon while most independent mattress companies offer 90 days and up.
Finding A Mattress or Pillow With No Odor
All mattresses and pillows tend to have an odor when they first arrive. We mentioned memory foam being the most notorious type. In general, any foam will have a smell so you will do well to avoid that material.
If you rather not deal with the smell, the best way to go would be to choose products made with natural materials. We wrote a buyer’s guide on the best organic mattress that consist of natural latex, wool, and cotton. Natural latex, according to SleepJunkie website, have had consumers report odor of 1-2%, but latex blend foam or latex-over-foam mattresses have a report of 9-12%. This makes natural latex a better choice if you absolutely need a foam-based mattress without the odor.
Non-foam based pillows can be washed several times for removing any odor trapped. Be sure to check the cleaning label for instructions first as to not ruin the pillow.
- How To Pick The Right Pillow
- How To Pick The Right Mattress
- The Top 10 Best Memory Foam Pillows for 2018
- The Top 8 Best Memory Foam Mattresses for 2018
Our Final Thoughts
We hope this guide finds you well. Memory foam can be tricky because of how its made with chemicals. However, through regulations, industry standards, and third-party certification to keep the industry in check, mattresses are made safe for use and especially for sleep. We list five ways to get rid of the odor from memory foam pillows and mattresses, and suggest looking for all natural pillows and all natural mattresses for the least amount of odor.