We all love the smell of new things. But the smell from a new mattress isn’t so exciting always. You may have come across a funky pungent smell when you unpacked a new foam product. If you did, it is most probably because of the petroleum-based chemicals and fire-retarding agents inside it.
This odor generally comes from and is known as off-gassing, which is the term that is used to describe the process that happens when VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds are exerted out of the upholstery materials and mattress foams into the air surrounding us. Now, this can be harmful to people who are sensitive to chemicals. Some of the common VOCs include formaldehyde, toluene, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), benzene, trichloroethane, and perfluorocarbons. Even though safe for most people, it is generally advised for babies and small children to breathe in such air.
This problem exists even in organic mattresses and you must look properly into what you expect out of such a mattress. Now, the amount of off-gassing varies from mattress to mattress and depends on what’s inside. Even mattresses as old as 10 years can leave off a smell due to off-gassing.
Now many have the problem to understand whether this is actually harmful to them. There are actually a lot of products around us that give out similar gases at many times like dryer sheets, laser printers, cleaners, etc.
The easiest of all the solutions is that you buy a new organic mattress as soon as possible because there isn’t really a right way to get rid of this smell. Being in such a disturbing smell for a long time can also affect your health and so, a solution is important to be implemented as soon as possible.
What chemicals are present inside the mattress?
The three common chemical products that are present in most mattresses are benzene, naphthalene, and formaldehyde. It might sound complex to many people, but honestly, these are provided in tested amounts that won’t really harm you. Also, these chemicals generally fade away with time.
These substances are common chemical products. Benzene is one of the very widely used chemicals and is used in various materials like dyes, detergents, drugs, pesticides, lubricants. This is formed mainly from natural processes and gets vaporized very fast in the air.
Naphthalene is also a very commonly used product which is formed from coal and crude oil. This is generally available in shops in the form of crystallized balls that can be kept at different places in the house like in wardrobes and storages to avoid any insect or harmful pest.
Formaldehyde is also very common and can be easily recognized. This too, gets vaporized as soon as it comes in contact with air. Although formaldehyde can cause a lot of problems when in the air for a long time like coughing, headache, dizziness, nausea, etc, it is provided in very little quantities in mattresses.
Now to remove these gases, there needs to be a detection procedure of VOCs which is discussed below.
Testing for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
VOCs are generally present in natural and synthetic materials. There are different kinds of certifications that are available to test the amount of substance present as well as how harmful it can be.
The tests are generally conducted by collecting samples and tested in the lab with tests like GC-MS. The main objective of these tests is to ensure that nothing toxic is present in these substances.
While you are buying a mattress, it is better to check for one of the well-known certifications like Oeko-Tex certification, Eco-Institut certification, Greenguard Gold, Cradle to Cradle or the GOLS certification.
What mattresses are the best?
Mattresses vary in their capabilities of getting gassed-off. It depends mostly on what the mattress is made up of.
The very common and also one of the best mattresses for gassing-off are memory foam mattresses. Most of these mattresses have 5-6” of polyurethane foam, which can cause certain reactions in people with chemical sensitivities. The polyurethane layer will most likely be topped with a Visco elastic-layer that will also off-gas.
To ensure that the material of the mattress is good as well as VOC certified, you must look for any of the two certifications, namely, Greenguard certification or a CertiPUR-US certification. These are not hard to find because most of the branded mattresses found in the market today come with either of these certifications.
Polyfoam or Polyurethane mattresses are the best mattresses in terms of how harmful the chemicals inside them can be. Lying on them, you will only smell some odor from the polyurethane. This chemical is only harmful when ingested in large amounts. Smelling them in small amounts is absolutely safe and with time, the smell completely goes away. Also, most of these mattresses come with proper certifications, making them the ideal option when going to buy a mattress.
Latex mattresses are actually safer than Polyfoam mattresses. If they are manufactured naturally, then they are made from the rubber tree materials which make it completely safe. Even if they are synthetic, they only contain some petrochemical substances that are completely fine to use.
Innerspring mattresses depend on what kind of material is used. Most of the new mattresses are being manufactured using Polyfoam layers that protect the springs. There are many manufacturers that are using soy-based products to manufacture them. Although these mattresses can be a bit smelly, they are completely safe and does not cause any harm to your health.
Finally, natural or organic mattresses are completely safe because they do not use any chemicals and they are manufactured completely naturally. They are eco-friendly and hence, no gassing-off is present with them. But these will cost you more. If you are very health conscious and want the best product for you, this is the one to go for.
How to get rid of off-gassing?
If you are buying from a well-maintained and branded store, there is very less chance that you will buy any bad mattress that does not come with a certification and has the problem of off-gassing. But if you have ended up with one of those, here are a few things that you can do to get rid of the smell.
Get rid of the plastic covering immediately
Many people like to keep things lonoking new and don’t take the plastic covering away. This is okay if you had a good certified mattress, but now you will only block those gases from getting out. All the gas that the chemicals released are stuck because of the plastic and the smell is only going to increase further.
Let the gases out in the air
Once the plastic covering is removed, keep the mattress in an open room with circulating air, like from a fan for a about 10 hours for a day or two. Most mattresses that have the problem of off-gassing get clear of the smell in just 24 hours of keeping in the open air. Also, avoid going into the room for this time, because it might not be good for the health if it came with a very harsh smell and no certifications.
Try giving the “White-Shock” treatment
This treatment is nothing but jumping on the mattress. If there are kids in your home, they can come handy for this treatment. Jumping on the mattress helps to release the chemical gases faster. Also, don’t perform this treatment for a long time. You should avoid being in the room for a long time. Plus, it is always better to check the warranty of the mattress, because this process might create a void in it depending on the quality.
You cannot just remove the chemicals to get rid of the smell. All you can do is hope that all the smell that has to come out, does that as fast as possible. Beyond the smell, your priority should be getting a non-toxic mattress.
Most manufacturers these days state this fact that their mattress is free from any harmful smell or off-gassing product. If you already have a mattress that gives out a bad smell, try the above-mentioned remedies which will surely help you to some extent. You can also consider reading tips on How to Clean your Mattress.
It is very difficult to recognize whether a mattress will gas-off or not. One thing you can do to prevent this is going through hundreds of reviews online. But that is not the right process and because a non-toxic mattress is our main objective, it is always preferred to get a mattress with proper certification.