How Long Should You Air Out An Off Gassing Mattress?
Getting a new mattress can be an exciting time, after all, you spend about a quarter of your life in bed, and therefore it’s not only an important investment, but it can drastically improve your quality of life. But things aren’t all rosy; there are some health issues that you need to consider when you receive your new purchase, especially when one of those is an off-gassing mattress.
Although there is a serious debate in the healthcare community about the health impacts of off-gassing, what’s not debated is the effect it can have on the environment and your air quality. Mattresses aren’t produced using only natural ingredients, and therefore the manufacturing process uses machinery, chemicals, and human-made products.
Table of Contents
What Is Mattress Off-Gassing?
Mattress off-gassing is the continualrelease of gases from your mattress, not only at night but also throughout the day. Off-gassing occurs as a result of the breakdown in the volatile organic compounds, known as VOCs, which are emitted as gases or vapors from some of the compounds in the product.
VOCs aren’t rare, in fact, they are found in thousands of the products which we use in homesevery dayincluding cleaning products, paints, and air fresheners. Typically, the VOCs which are released from your mattress will come from the adhesives and foams used in the product.
These VOCs Include:
- Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
- Methylene Chloride
These volatile organic compounds break down over time, slowly releasing these gases into our homes. However, studies have shown that a huge percentage of all the gas that will be released is done so in the first two months of the product being used.
This statistic is important because while VOCs could be harmful. In small quantities, it’sunlikely to have any drastic impactwhile at higher concentrations it could be dangerous. In this first two months, the concentration of VOC emissions is likely to be far higher and therefore during this period you must make an effort to reduce the risk to yourself and your family.
Memory Foam Off-Gassing
Memory foam is so called because it adapts to the shape of your body. Once you stand up, you’ll see an imprint of your body before it quickly returns to the standard shape. Memory foam is viscoelastic foam which is what many popular brands use, including some of the Tempur-Pedic mattresses below.
Many believe that memory foam off-gassing is far more prevalent than other materials, because memory foam mattresses have a more pungent smell which tends to last for weeks instead of days.
For this reason, it’s even more important that you allow the product to air out before you start using it. If you can, leaving it upright near a window for two to three days can drastically reduce the smell and allows much of the VOCs to break down and the gases to be released. As usual, removing the sheets and allowing for regular off-gassing can reduce the smell quicker.
Mattress Off-Gassing How Long?
It’s unrealistic for us to allow it to air out for weeks on end. You need the space in your home, and you want to be able to use the new product that you just paid for. As a result, most experts recommend that you air it out for 24 hours, a number which is backed by the Sleep Products Safety Council.
Once this time has passed, you can smell the surface up close and compare it to how visceral the scent was when it first arrived. As long as the smell doesn’t bother you any longer, it’s okay for you to start sleeping on it. If the scent is too strong, you can continue to air it out for longer and rotate it periodically to ensure that the entire bed can air out.
How To Air Out A New Mattress
When you first unbox one, you’ll notice a potent chemical smell which can be overpowering and nauseating. While the jury is still out on whether it’s dangerous for your health in small amounts and for short periods, the smell is unpleasant, and it can make you reluctant to sleep. To prevent this, you need to do whatever you can to air it out. Here are some tips:
Remove Plastic Cover Immediately
All mattresses will come covered with a thin plastic layer which prevents staining and damage during transportation. However, not only does this plastic have a noticeably unpleasant smell, but it also keeps in the VOCs from the foam and adhesives, preventing them from escaping and causing them to seep back into the bed.
Typically to conform to local safety laws, they are doused with chemical flame retardants that help to reduce the spread of fire. However, some believe that these chemicals can cause a variety of severe health problems including developmental brain disorders and cancer. To reduce this risk, you must remove the plastic and let the gas escape, typically for about 24 hours at least.
Choosing Where To Air It Out
Some bloggers have suggested that airing out your mattress outdoors can speed up the process and allow for greater gas release. However, there seems to be little evidence of this, and it will drastically increase the risk of damage from critters and animals.
Outside it’s likely that bugs will end up on the surface, even if you’re airing it out on a balcony or outside of your condo. Instead, it’s wise to keep it inside at all times to prevent it from becoming tarnished.
The smartest way to air out your mattress is to lean it up against a wall near a range of windows so that only the smallest amount of the surface is touching the floor and wall. This position allows for greater ventilation and ensures that more of the gas is released. If you leave it lying down the gases from the bottom will be unable to escape.
Reducing The Chemical Smell
To reduce the smell which is going to spread through the home, you ideally want to locate the mattress on a wall near to a few windows. By opening these windows, you can create air circulation which will drag out the VOCs and the associated smell, while bringing in fresh air which will allow you to continue to enjoy your home.
It’s also possible to use air freshener to mask the smell but because these release VOCs too it’s not the wisest decision. Instead, lighting a few candles around the home can get rid of much of the scent without putting more dangerous gases into your house.
With an open window and a few candles around the home, not near the mattress, you should notice that the smell dissipates significantly in the first few hours. After 24 hours, almost all of the scent should disappear, allowing you to start using your new bed.
In the first 24 hours, a lot of the VOCs are released, but they will continue to be emitted for the lifetime of the bed. Noticeably, in the first two months much of the lifetime VOCs will be released, and therefore you would expect the continuation of off-gassing for the first two months.
At least once a week it’s wise to peel back the sheets from the mattress and stand it up straight or lean it against a wall while you’re out at work. This period will allow further off-gassing which is nearly impossible with your sheets on the bed. Doing this once a week for the first eight weeks, with the windows open, will get rid of practically all of the smell and can drastically reduce the VOCs emissions in your home.
Mattress Off-Gassing Symptoms
Although the science is debatable, and experts are still figuring out the truth, many believe that the chemicals and products used in mattresses can cause health problems. Some suggest that they could lead to:
- Sleep disturbance
- Neurodevelopment disorders
- Behavioral issues
- Fertility problems
- Skin, eye and lung irritation
- Cancer from chronic toxic exposure
In particular, the pesticides which are found in textiles can influence the nervous system, contribute to cancer and cause skin and eye irritation.
Similarly, the flame-retardant chemicals, phthalates, and benzene have been linked to other issues including cancer, chromosome damage, fertility problems, and behavioral issues.
Using A Mattress Cover To Prevent Off-Gassing
One method that some homeowners and parents swear by is the use of a mattress cover to prevent off-gassing. A mattress wrap made using a polyethylene sheeting, or similar material can prevent gases from permeating through it, forcing off-gassing through the bottom of the mattress which is less likely to be inhaled.
The main problem is that we sleep directly on our mattresses with only thin cotton sheets, allowing the VOCs to be inhaled easily. A non-permeable cover can prevent this while still allowing the surface to breathe through the bottom. These wraps or covers also act as spill protectors, dust mite barriers and will trap bedbugs too.
Tuft and Needle Off-Gassing
Tuft and Needle mattresses are made using polyurethane foam which is incredibly comfortable to sleep on but more importantly, can be manipulated to fit into a box to ship directly to your home. Polyurethane foam is a common emitter of VOCs and is therefore tightly regulated by CertiPUR-US which measures the amount of gas emitted over a 72 hour period.
The mattresses from Tuft and Needle easily passed their safety test which means it gives off no more than 0.16ppm of benzene over 72 hours and 0.13ppm for toluene. The Tuft and Needle is shipped directly from the factory to your home in a box, and therefore it needs to be allowed to air out.
As with other brands, you’re required to remove it from the box and take off any plastic packaging before you let it expand. Once it is fully extended, you can lean it up against a wall with open windows to ensure circulation and leave it there for 24 hours to reduce the unpleasant smell and to allow the VOCs to be emitted. (Read the full Tuft and Needle Review).
According to some experts, Leesa is one of the most superior online mattress companies which also delivers in a box. With layers of supportive foam, it can help to give you a better night sleep and prevent aches and pains.
As with the Tuft and Needle mattresses, polyurethane foam is used because it’s incredibly effective, cheap and durable. However, it produces lots of VOCs and therefore airing out the bed to allow for off-gassing in the first few weeks is essential. While many would argue that the health impacts are negligible, the smell can be unpleasant and the effort required is minimal. (Read the full Leesa Mattress Review).
Tempur-Pedic is the manufacturer of possibly the most famous mattress of all time, which uses viscoelastic foam that allows for pressure reduction and adaptive temperature contouring. Traditional polyurethane foam which is used by Leesa and Tuft and Needle is excellent, but it compresses under your weight rather than contouring and adjusting.
These Tempur-Pedic mattresses can give you greater support where you need it with little to no counter pressure. However, many would argue that this type of viscoelastic foam, otherwise known as memory foam, has high levels of off-gassing.
To prevent against any increased risk, it’s wise to let your Tempur-Pedic air out for at least 24 hours. Also, ensure that you remove the sheets and stand it up to air out at least once per week for the first two months. After four weeks you will notice that practically all of the scent has disappeared.
Purple Mattress Off-Gassing
Purple is one of the fastest-growing companies of all time, originally started through a crowdfunding campaign. They use a variety of different materials in their mattresses, but for those worried about VOCs and off-gassing, it’s important to note that it uses polyurethane foam just like the Leesa.
Polyurethane foam off gasses quite heavily and because the Purple is transported in a box and plastic wrap, it might need slightly longer to off-gas than a mattress shipped whole in a container without any compressed wrapping. For this reason, make sure to remove the plastic wrapping quickly, let it expand and then lean it up against a wall to off-gas for 24 hours before use. (Read the full Purple Mattress Review).
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.
How Long for Mattress VOCs to Offgas?
In a previous blog post, I established that foam mattresses from Casper and Tuft & Needle had high VOCs in the packaging and that they should be opened outdoors. For good measure, I tested yet another manufacturer’s product… Nest Bedding’s Love Bed. I got the same results as with the other manufacturers:
What do all these videos prove? They demonstrate that foam mattresses shipped straight to your home should be opened outdoors and allowed to air out. But that begs the question,“For how long should they air out?”
To test that question, I did a “backyard” experiment after testing the Nest Bedding mattress. I pressed my VOC measuring device (ppbRAE 3000 photoionization detector) right up against the mattress. The video below shows what happened over the next 24 hours:
So as you can see in the video above, it’s important to not onlyopenyour mattress outdoors, but let it air out also. The vast majority of VOC emission occurs in the first hour, and drops considerably after a day. The mattress will continue to off gas at a much lower rate for an unknown amount of time, which is true of all furniture, finishes and building materials.
For a frame of reference, I let my foam mattresses air out for 2 days before bringing them indoors. Once inside, I kept the windows open in the bedroom for a week as weather allowed. If you are chemically sensitive, consider letting your foam mattress air out for even longer (or skip foam altogether).
These backyard experiments have lots of limitations. Nevertheless, they demonstrate that independent tests should be carried out in the mattress industry. I hope this message doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Share this blog post and pass on the message!
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.
How long mattress off gas
by Angela Cummings and Sophia Ruan Gushée
It’s not every day that people replace their mattress. In fact, not even every five years. It’s every seven years, if you follow the suggestions of the Better Sleep Council. (1)
How much time do you spend sleeping on that mattress?
The average adult American spends between nine and eleven hours per day on personal care activities, including sleep. (2) That’s an average of 3,650 hours per year. A quick calculation of 3,650 per year over seven years gives you an average of 25,550 hours on that mattress.
That’s no small number.
And sleep is no small matter.
As we all know, sleep is very important to our overall health, brain function, and overall well being. (3) Many of us have experienced feeling groggy, irritated, or unfocused after a sleepless night. This can disturb learning and problem-solving, among other things. (4)
Sleep Disrupters in Mattresses
Chemicals such as pesticides, polyurethane foam, and phthalates have been found to affect the brain, including the part that influences our sleep quality. (5) Below are a few of the health effects that may be associated with these chemicals:
- Pesticides (6): can influence the nervous system, hormones, skin, eye and lung irritation; and can contribute to cancer. Found in textiles.
- Phthalates (7): are linked to behavioral issues, fertility problems, and neurodevelopmental delays (8) Found in vinyl.
- Flame retardant (9): may contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders. Found in textiles and polyurethane foam.
- Benzene: is linked to several types of cancer, may damage chromosomes (10) Found in polyurethane foam.
Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs) can undermine sleep quality, and may contribute to various health issues. Products that may contribute to your bedroom’s EMFs include computers, phones, and, perhaps, the innersprings in mattresses. (11)
There are several nontoxic mattress options available to consumers today. As detailed inA to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Our Toxic Exposures, mattresses have five main components to them. When shopping for a nontoxic mattress, consider the following components:
- Fabric Covering– Choose organic natural fibers, such as organic cotton or wool, instead of synthetic fibers, like nylon and polyester.
- Padding– Padding can be made from natural fibers or synthetics. Typical mattresses contain petroleum-based foam and synthetic fibers. Choose natural fiber padding, like cotton or wool when possible.
- Supporting Core– Bed support can make or break a bed’s comfort. Bed support can be created by both the mattress and bed frame. Conventional mattresses have polyurethane foam as the supporting core, which is made from many different chemicals. (12) There are several healthier mattresses on the market that use natural materials in the supporting core, such as organic rubber, natural latex, and some types of innerspring mattress padding. Organic rubber and natural latex mattresses typically do not contain innersprings and may be a better option if you’re concerned about EMFs.
- Adhesives– During mattress production, adhesives are used to hold together mattress parts. Healthier alternatives such as no- or low-VOC adhesives are used by some manufacturing companies. Ask retailers about adhesives used, or contact the manufacturer to find out.
- Chemical Treatments– As mentioned earlier, mattresses may contain chemicals that are found to affect the brain, nervous system, and cause other health conditions. (13)
Don’t be shy in asking retailers what mattresses are made of.
Fabric covering, padding and supporting core materials may be listed on the mattress tag. If it isn’t, ask the retailer. Request that a list of adhesives and chemical treatments be provided so that you know what types of chemicals have been added to the mattress during production. If the retailer doesn’t know, they should be able to ask the manufacturer to find out.
The Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR ) is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and available to all consumers. The ATSDR is a register of chemicals with information about how those chemicals may be affecting health. It’s a free resource that can be found at www.atsdr.cdc.gov.
Benefits of Airing Out Your Mattress
Airing out your new mattress allows the mattress to breathe and allows Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) (14) , even minor amounts, to off-gas. Initially, set up the mattress outside of the bedroom, in a room that is not the primary sleeping area and that can be aired out. This will help to keep bedroom a healthier space for sleeping while the mattress is off-gassing more significantly.
How long should you air out a new mattress?
For as long as possible.
While VOC’s off-gas throughout the life of the product, the most emissions occur in the first 60 days. (15)
There are a number of factors to consider when buying a new mattress. Identifying which mattresses are healthier and how to care for those mattresses could make a difference in how you sleep and your overall well-being. Buy wisely. After all, it’s a purchase you’ll spend 25,550 hours on for seven years. Make it count.
The D-Tox Academy will give subscribers access to specific brands of products, and tips for how to use and maintain products. The academy includes short videos and check lists that are helpful when making healthier changes. Subscribe below to stay tuned.
(15) Bader 2009, according to A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Our Toxic Exposures.