How Long Does Mattress Off Gassing Last

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How Long Does the Smell Last on Memory Foam?

Thoroughly air out your memory-foam mattress before sleeping on it.

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Most memory-foam mattresses include a mixture of chemicals that emit toxic odors when you first take them from their protective packaging. Unless the manufacturer opted to use plant-based oils or latex from naturally occurring rubber sources, many mattresses emit or off-gas moderate to strong odors. Most memory-foam mattresses take up to three days before the off-gassing dissipates. Highly sensitive people or those with chemical allergies should wait even longer than three days before sleeping on the bed.

Off-gassing Memory Foam

In a 2014 survey, Sleep Like the Dead, a private sleep research firm, reported that nearly 2 percent of surveyed owners returned their beds due to the smells of the memory foam. Close to a quarter of the 6,934 memory-foam mattress owners surveyed indicated that it took three to 10 days for the smells to disappear, while a little over half cited up to 20 days for the odors to dissipate. About an eighth of those surveyed indicated more than 20 days for the mattress to quit smelling.

Indoor Air Nerd

Ian Cull’s Indoor Air Quality Blog

How long does it take for VOCs to dissipate?

Contrary to what many may believe, it is quite difficult to predict how long it takes volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to off-gas from new materials in a specific building. Sure, you can do chamber studies under controlled conditions to determine emission or concentration decays, but how the material will behave in the real world can be quite different.

On Friday I was hired to perform a follow-up assessment for a home under construction that is experiencing elevated VOCs from varnishes and paints applied almost 7 months ago. One month ago I was in the home and found some very high levels based on measurements with a photoionization detector (PID). While PIDs are not as accurate or detailed as other methods of measuring VOCs, they can be used as a good screening tool with immediate feedback. I’ll write a blog post on the advantages and disadvantages of PIDs in the near future.

During my follow up visit a month later, I saw a 40% reduction after he followed some of my recommendations listed in this blog post: Reducing VOCs. Unfortunately, this was still 4 times the outdoor levels. We opened up some windows in a room and very quickly we saw a significant reduction. Here are a list of the problems:

  • The home uses 2×6 “advanced framing” making the walls better insulated and tighter. However, the home is not bringing in mechanical ventilation. Many states have laws requiring mechanical ventilation.
  • The owner selected hardwood floor varnish and oil-based paints high in VOC content and emission. He should have used products listed in the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute Product Guide.
  • The owner moved in before the home was complete. It would have been better to wait for the VOCs to dissipate more.

So back to the question at hand… how long does it take? We can find some answers in a recent article in the Indoor Air Jounal titled “Decreasing concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOC) emitted following home renovations”. The authors found a return to “normal” VOC levels after 2-3 months. The research was based on “real life” studies in Germany, not chamber tests.

Use the 2-3 month timeframe only as a guide, as my experience in the tight home with strong sources indicates it can take much longer.

188 thoughts on “ How long does it take for VOCs to dissipate? ”

What a great resource! Tons of great information on your site. I wish I would have stumbled across this months ago. Just so there’s some context, here’s the situation: A single room was repainted with a Dunn Edwards water-based gripper product primer by a painter. All surfaces were painted — walls, ceiling, doors, trim and molding.
Painter sprayed the product and entire house wreaked immediately for over a week. The smoke alarm kept going off as he was painting (weird, never had that). We had to leave the house for the weekend it was so bad.

We’ve painted our home many times and never experienced odor like this. We left a fan exhausting air out, tried washing walls, heating room with space heaters… we even-primed over it with another product.

Fast forward over four months later and the room still STINKS. If the doors and windows are open the smell is not noticeable. But, if we close doors and windows (normal sleeping situation) room WREAKS after an hour or two.

I had an air test done and it showed higher than normal VOC levels (1400 ng/L), but not severe.

To make things more interesting, I purchase a new piece of sheet rock from Home Depot and painted the primer (same cans, he left behind) and let it dry. NO ODOR at all. My conclusion is that the painter had something in his sprayer from a prior job or from cleaning it that made its way into the paint. The fact that ALL surfaces smell if you put your nose to them (walls, doors, trim, etc.) leads me to believe that’s common culprit. It could be some weird reaction with the prior paint on these walls, but from a common sense perspective that seems less likely to me.

So, it seems that I have two options based on reading your post: (1) Wait … possibly a long time since it’s already been 4 months or (2) Rip sheetrock out and replace.

My questions to you if you don’t mind are:
1) How can I measure for VOC with spending a fortune? If it’s improving I may be willing to wait it out. I saw you mentioned a photoionization detector (PID). Is that something I could rent or acquire and understand the results to check progress?

2) Any ideas at all on what could be in the paint that would have been used in an airless sprayer that might possibly be the culprit? I’m really just very curious at this point (so I can avoid issues in the future more than anything).

Great site and thanks for keeping the thread going! Certainly sounds like I’m not alone!

You could measure VOCs with a PID that you might rent. I don’t know of companies that rent equipment to the general public. Other VOC sensors that are not using a PID are not reliable, generally speaking. You could do tests at a lab, but those cost $100 a pop (or higher).

Interesting theory about the sprayer. The mock drywall you painted… did you do that in the home or out in the garage? Maybe the way the product cured could explain some of the difference. I like a good mystery, so let me know if you figure anything out.

Before ripping out all the drywall, you might want to consider an ERV to bring in continuous outdoor air ventilation. That will provide you with fresh air for many years to come, even after the paint issue has gone away.

Thanks for the reply Ian. We found a national company that rents commercial grade PID devices. It will give a general reading unless it’s specifically calibrated to detect a particular VOC. Since none of the safety sheets reveal much with all the “low / no VOC” paints we used, we don’t have enough detail to program it for detection.

That’s an interesting thought on the curing. The mock drywall was a fresh, unpainted sheet from home depot that we primed and painted in a different room.

We’ve had a box fan exhausting 24×7 for a few months now and, as soon as the windows are closed… that nasty smell is back.

We did trying repriming and painting and even then… weeks later, that same odor is present on all walls.

I do plan on taking PID readings in all rooms and multiple in the offending room so I have evidence of the issue for reference.

May have to chalk this one up to an expensive loss 🙁

We just installed new engineered hardwood by Johnson Hardwood on our concrete slab. They claim to be Carb II compliant. The floors are only in a week, but I am getting a massive headache whenever I am in the house since the day they went in. It’s about 1100 square feet that covers the whole downstairs. It was a tongue and groove floating installation. Nothing else seems to be causing this. How many weeks are reasonable to expect this to stop. I have heard this can take years in some articles I have read. If that’s true, I couldn’t possibly keep them. We’ve had the windows open for days with the central air fan running to circulate fresh air. But as the winter approaches I can’t keep the windows open. I am growing concerned.

Hi, thank you very much for this helpful article and the info on your site. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition a few years ago and have become much more aware of how the products we use can affect our health. However, I seem to have made a mistake in the last week, as we are furnishing our toddler’s bedroom. I purchased a freshly-painted wood dresser from someone who gives old furniture a new life. When we brought it home, I realized the paint was so new that I scuffed it so I asked for the info on the paint so I could touch up as needed. That’s when I saw that the paint may contain high levels of VOC’s. The primer, purchased at Home Depot, said it contained no VOC’s, but that the added colorants could significantly increase the VOC content. Our dresser is black. And I confirmed with our local Home Depot that the colorants used were not low-VOC. We moved the dresser out of our daughter’s room and into a guest room with the window wide open last night. Given our health concerns, what are your thoughts on best next steps? Keep the dresser in the ventilated guest room and find something else for our daughter’s room? Store the dresser in a garage for 6 months? Really appreciate any insight you may have!

This is where instruments come in handy. It’s highly likely that a few days in a well-ventilated room is enough to eliminate the majority of VOCs. But a measuring device would be able to confirm that. In the absence of being able to measure VOCs, I would keep it in a well-ventilated room for a week and then determine if I could still smell anything.

Thanks so much for your kind reply, Ian. We were able to move it outdoors to the deck, which hopefully helps with dissipation as we’ve had some 80-degree days.

Foam mattress off-gassing: how long?

I bought an IKEA mattress almost 6 weeks ago, the Sultan Favang. It’s listed as containing "High-resilience polyurethane foam (cold foam) 2.2 lb/cu.ft."

I took the foam out of the cover, and left it in a small room with a cracked window. It still smells horrible, and gives me irritation in the back of my throat and sinuses if I stay in the room for more than a few minutes.

How long can I expect this off-gassing to last? It would be great to use this new mattress sometime soon.

Try sealing the exterior with a creme brulee torch. That should stop it.

It has a "25-year Limited Warranty," so taking any measures to slow, degrade, contain, alter or prevent the off-gassing would void the warranty. You don’t want to do that. The off-gassing will, therefore, continue for 24 years, 10 months, and 2 weeks. Give or take.

Mattress warrantees aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

My wife and I bought a Bed In A Box foam + gel mattress a year ago. It smelled a little weird for a few days, but since then it’s been perfect for us.

Normally it’s a week, maybe two. 6 weeks seems like a long time.

Think you can get some additional air circulation in that room?

Normally it’s a week, maybe two. 6 weeks seems like a long time.

Think you can get some additional air circulation in that room?

Small rooms with only cracked windows might retain the smelly gases longer and make it hard to tell if it was still off-gassing.

I left mine unrolled, exposed in a room with a window opened most hours for 2 weeks and I could still smell a kind of petroleum smell on it. Though barely noticeable now, it’s still there a year later.

My foam mattress offgassed for a week or so. I left the window open in the room with the fan on, and I can’t smell it anymore. Of course, I don’t really have a good sense of smell, but I can’t smell it, and that is what matters

Also, wow, I wish I had switched to foam sooner. I really prefer it to springs now.

Normally it’s a week, maybe two. 6 weeks seems like a long time.

Think you can get some additional air circulation in that room?

Small rooms with only cracked windows might retain the smelly gases longer and make it hard to tell if it was still off-gassing.

Perchance do you own a dog? You might be a bit off on the source.

Have you been eating lots of beans and cabbage recently?

What the hell kind of mattress smells? Return that shit and buy a proper one.

Any of the memory foam mattresses. Mine outgassed pretty bad for about 2 weeks, with a residual smell that was noticeable when it was compressed lasting about another month.

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New Mattress Off-Gassing: How Long Will the Smell Last?

Are you growing tired of your old coil spring mattress? If you are thinking about making the switch to memory foam, you are not alone. A growing number of people are turning to online “bed-in-a-box” retailers that offer the chance to get a new mattress quickly and easily delivered right to your front door. All that you have to do is open the box, sit back and watch your mattress expand to full size. Before you do, learn more about the “new mattress smell” that you can expect when you lay out your new bed, and whether you should be concerned about its effects on your home’s indoor air quality.

What is causing my new mattress to smell?

Most new mattresses will have a certain chemical odor when they are first delivered. This is especially true for those that come in a box, rolled up and vacuum-sealed, because the lack of airflow through the package can cause the “new mattress smell” to become concentrated. When you open your mattress, you will probably notice an odor coming from the foam, caused by a process called off-gassing.

Off-gassing is that “new” smell that we associate with new cars, a fresh coat of paint and, yes, new mattresses. When your mattress comes in an airtight package, the volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) used in the manufacturing process remain trapped in the mattress with nowhere to go. After you open the box and lay out your mattress, the foam starts to expand and some components used to make the mattress will start to break down. These VOCs are then released as a gas, causing the distinct off-gassing smell.

What chemicals do mattress release during off-gassing?

The off-gassing smell usually comes mainly from the foam and adhesive elements of the mattress. The exact chemical makeup of the VOCs that off-gas from a mattress varies from mattress to mattress, but independent tests have shown that they can include benzene, toluene chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and formaldehyde.

On the websites of many leading mattress brands, such as Purple, Casper and Tuft & Needle, you can find information on the different VOC certifications and standards that they adhere to. Common certifications to look for are CertiPUR-US, GREENGUARD Gold and STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX.

Is off-gassing harmful to your health?

VOCs are emitted by a wide range of household products, including furniture, paint and cleaning supplies. Exposure to VOCs can cause nausea, headaches, dizziness, loss of coordination and eye, nose and throat irritation, though, in the case of mattress off-gassing, many consumers report that these symptoms go away once the mattress has been aired out. Some of the more severe health effects caused by VOC exposure can include damage to the kidneys, liver or central nervous system. Additionally, some VOCs that off-gas are suspected or known carcinogens, such as formaldehyde.

One thing to remember, however, is that you are exposed to relatively low levels of VOCs while your mattress is off-gassing, and studies have yet to show whether exposure to low levels of VOCs during mattress off-gassing will cause increased health effects over time. Even so, the cumulative off-gassing of items in your home can contribute to adverse health effects, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Long-term exposure to VOCs in the air can increase cancer risks, as well as cause damage to the kidneys, liver and central nervous system. For this reason, both mattress manufacturers and indoor air quality experts recommend letting your mattress off-gas in a well-ventilated area, preferably one outside of your home.

How long will my mattress off-gas?

Some mattress manufacturers may take steps to make sure that some of the off-gassing processes happens before the mattress is packaged and shipped. However, it should be noted that even if the bulk of the off-gassing occurs outside of your home, your mattress will still off-gas in some capacity throughout the time that you have it in your home.

The amount of off-gassing that you can expect depends on the type of mattress that you buy, the density of the foam inside the mattress, the chemicals used in the manufacturing process and the way that your mattress is packaged. The strongest off-gassing smell will fade within a few days to a couple of weeks, according to most major mattress manufacturers, though you may notice a faint smell for longer.

How much do leading brand mattress off-gas?

Tuft & Needleoffers two different polyfoam mattress options: the Original and the Mint. Both hold CentriPUR-US, GreenGuard Gold and STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX certifications. Buyers of Tuft & Needle mattresses can expect mild off-gassing that dissipates within a few days.

Leesamattress is a CertiPUR-US certified multilayer foam mattress made from a combination of memory foam and polyurethane. After opening, buyers will notice a strong off-gassing smell that should fade within a few days.

Casperoffers three different mattresses: the Caper, the Wave and the Essential. All three are made with layers of memory foam and polyurethane, but the Wave also includes a layer of natural latex. All Casper mattresses are CentriPUR-US certified. You can expect some off-gassing from Casper mattresses, but the odor typically dissipates within 24 hours.

Purplemattresses consist of an elastic polymer grid layered over CertiPUR-US certified polyurethane foam. New Purple mattresses may have a very faint off-gassing smell that fades quickly. However, many consumers report no off-gassing smell at all.

Tempur-Pedicoffers a wide range of memory foam mattresses. The off-gassing odor strength varies among models, but consumers can expect it to dissipate within the first two weeks.

Tips for off-gassing a new mattress

Some manufacturers recommend airing out a new mattress for three to seven days in a garage or well-ventilated room before sleeping on it, while others claim that you can start using your mattress within the first few hours after opening it. Use your nose as your judge. Avoid sleeping on your new mattress while you can still smell a strong off-gassing odor. If the strong smell persists after a week or two, consider returning your mattress and searching for a more air-quality-friendly alternative.

How can I speed up the off-gassing process of my new mattress?

When searching for a new mattress, pay attention to the VOCs used in the manufacturing process. If you cannot easily find the chemical compounds present in the mattress, and you cannot get a straight answer from the manufacturer, consider exploring other brands. You have a right to know which potential chemical emissions you may be bringing into your bedroom.

Your mattress manufacturer will list recommendations for the off-gassing of your particular mattress, but listed below are some helpful tips to speed up the off-gassing process.

  • Open your mattress outside of your house and let it off-gas for at least two days in a well-ventilated area with a cross breeze.
  • If you cannot avoid off-gassing your mattress inside of your home, you should open your windows and increase air circulation where possible. Fans and air filtration systems can also help improve the ventilation in your house.
  • If you have a spare room, try leaving your mattress in there to off-gas for the first few days before bringing it into your bedroom.
  • Some manufacturers recommend pouring baking soda on the mattress while you air it out to speed up the off-gassing process.
  • If you would like to use the new mattress but the off-gassing smell persists, you can add a mattress cover to help contain the chemical smell to the bed. When you remove the cover to wash it, you will likely smell the off-gassing odor again, though it should dissipate over time.

While the health effects of mattress off-gassing are still being studied, it is always a good idea to protect yourself from VOC exposure whenever possible. It may be hard to avoid off-gassing altogether when you buy a new mattress, but by following the simple steps above, you can enjoy a good night’s sleep knowing that you are actively protecting your indoor air quality.

The facts on memory foam smell and mattress off-gassing

Memory foam mattresses usually have the highest ratings for comfort, durability, and customer satisfaction. One of the only complaints owners have is about memory foam smell. This unpleasant odor is caused by the materials used to make the mattress and lasts up to 4 weeks.

The good news is that some mattress brands make their foam from better components that reduce or eliminate memory foam smell. This article explains how, and tells you what to look for to make sure your mattress comes odor-free.

What causes memory foam smell?

Memory foam smell comes from a reaction called “off-gassing.” If you’ve ever smelled fresh paint, dry cleaning, or the inside of a new car, that’s off-gassing.

New foams and many other manufactured products experience off-gassing. It happens when “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs) break down. As opposed to being stable, these “volatile” (or unstable) compounds break apart, most commonly forming gasses — hence the term off-gassing.

In mattresses, the most common place to find VOCs is in the foam and adhesives. They can include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), formaldehyde, benzene, methylene chloride, toluene, trichloroethane, naphthalene, perfluorocarbons.

These "volatile" (or unstable) compounds break apart, mostly forming gasses.

The short answer is no. While the odor from mattress off-gassing is unpleasant,for most people it’s not harmful. A small percentage of owners report difficulty breathing, headaches, nausea, eye and throat irritation, and asthma. The symptoms stop when the person is no longer near the mattress though, and go away once it airs out.

Also, despite the fact that some of the chemicals that cause mattress off-gassing odors are classified as carcinogens or potential carcinogens, no studies have shown memory foam is toxic or causes cancer. Still, many people choose to reduce their chemical exposure as a lifestyle choice, and want to sleep on a mattress as chemical-free as possible.

No studies have shown memory foam is toxic or causes cancer.

While a completely chemical-free mattress doesn’t exist, you can limit your exposure by finding one containing foam certified by CertiPUR-US®. CertiPUR-US® independently tests and verifies which foams are made without harmful VOCs, phthalates, CFCs, heavy metals, formaldehyde and PBDEs.

Also, plan to let the bed air out for 3-7 days in a well-ventilated room or garage before use.

Not only does the foam in Amerisleep mattresses meet the Certi-PUR® standards, but we also use plant-based materials instead of petroleum to make our foam. On top of that, our patented manufacturing process is the only one that meets the standards of the Clean Air Act. No other mattress brand is more sustainable or eco-friendly than Amerisleep.

CertiPUR-US® standards for content, emissions and durability, and are analyzed by independent, accredited testing laboratories.

Mattress off-gassing refers specifically to odors from the breakdown of VOCs. A new mattress can also have other smells unrelated to memory foam off-gassing though. Even products like plant oils and natural fabrics can produce some smell.

If you buy a mattress low in VOCs (like from Amerisleep) and it still has a slight scent, don’t worry. It’s probably not memory foam off-gassing, and will often quickly go away.

Learn how Amerisleep memory foam compares to other memory foam.

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