Here’s How Long to Air Out or Off-gas a Mattress

Jo Davies (Mattress Expert)

As we’d all agree, getting a new bed is quite exciting.

You’re likely rearing to go and can’t wait to start using it once it’s arrived, though, sometimes there’s a bit of an issue — and that’s the rather pungent ‘new bed smell.’

If you’re new to ordering mattresses online, or new to memory foam or latex, then this will also be new to you.

Over the past decade, much of the world has moved to ordering and buying their beds online and in boxes. This has meant that there’s a little bit of a different experience here when it comes to getting your hands on a new bed. It will come rolled up in a box and delivered to your door — and likely be made of foam or latex.

Compared to old-school innerspring models, these mattresses are a lot softer and usually more feature-packed too. However, they come with a new sort of smell. This smell comes as a result of the manufacturing process and can be quite strong.

In all, the off-gassing isn’t harmful to us and it’s simply the smell of the chemicals and manufacturing processes used in the factories to create these beds. You’ll just have to sit your mattress down to air out for a few hours to a couple of days before using it, if you can’t handle the smell.

What Exactly is Off-gassing

We know that the experience seems rather suspicious given that this is a surface you’re sleeping on, and it’s creating some rather toxic-smelling odours. However, there’s truly nothing to worry about.

This smell comes from the VOCs or the Volatile Organic Compounds escaping the mattress and dissolving into the air in your bedroom. These are the same sort of compounds that are already in your home, inside the walls and a lot of your furniture, though in your mattress, they’re freshly escaping — so they smell a little more.

To continue, these VOCs are not harmful, nor are they uncommon.

You will find these in just about every part of the home and the products you buy at the supermarket each week. From your air freshers to your cleaning products and more, there are VOCs inside these.

To get technical, a few of these VOCs include:

  • Formaldehyde
  • Methylene Chloride
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • Naphthalene
  • Perfluorocarbons
  • Benzene
  • Toluene
  • Trichloroethane

All of which will slowly escape our products and break down in our homes in a safe and controlled manner.

Of course, in ultra-high quantities these VOCs can and are harmful to us, though, from your mattress and your household cleaning agents, etc, there is no need to worry. You would need hundreds of mattresses to be off-gassing in your bedroom for there to be any cause for concern.

In all, these VOCs and the off-gassing experience will be complete within just a few days and you’ll be free to get a good night’s sleep on your bed without the odour in no time at all.

The Smell of New Memory Foam

As we mentioned above, the newer mattress materials like memory foam are some of the more popular materials you’ll find in mattresses today.

These are famous for their ultimate comfort and ability to conform to the body’s shape and joints, and we highly suggest you invest in this magical visco-elastic material for your sleeping surfaces.

However, memory foam is also the material that is one of the strongest smelling when it comes to off-gassing.

That in mind, if you have ordered a memory foam bed, or it’s just arrived in your home and smells a little strong for your liking, it’s our biggest tip to place it in a spare bedroom and open a window for the off-gassing procedure.

As these foams are a little more dense, and there is a lot of ‘material’ here, you’re going to have a more prolonged off-gassing experience than with a spring and foam model of mattress for example.

If you want to speed up the process further, you can stand the mattress upright and have the ceiling fans running and the windows open. The more airflow you can ensure in the room, the faster the VOCs will dissipate and the smell will go away.

To end, make sure you don’t make the bed or cover it in anything. You want as much ventilation as possible in the mattress.

How Long Can Off-gassing Take

As you’ll agree, it wouldn’t be realistic for mattress manufacturers to expect us to spend a month or two waiting for a mattress to complete air out, and that said, these beds have been designed to air out in around 24 hours.

After this 24 hour period, the majority of the smell should be gone, as should almost all of the VOCs — and this time period is supported by the Sleep Products Safety Council.

Given that you’ve allowed the mattress plenty of ventilation and airflow, you should have a sleep surface that’s well-aired out and able to sleep on safely. You can do a quick nose check if you must, by simply smelling the mattress and comparing it to how it smelled when you first had it delivered.

If you find that the bed’s smell isn’t too bothersome now, you can move it to your bed frame and get it ready for use.

However, if the bed is still a little strong-smelling, you can then work on rotating and changing its direction and the angle its facing in the room and improve airflow and get the rest of those VOCs out of the bed.

In all, you shouldn’t have to wait any longer than 24 hours for a mattress to finish off-gassing.

Here’s How to Air Out a Mattress

For a little more direction when it comes to airing out a new bed and speeding up the off-gassing experience, we have a few pointers for you. You don’t want to be stuck smelling that awful factory smell after all, and even if you can handle it, it’s probably not the best for you.

That in mind, here are some of Sleepify’s tips for off-gassing a new mattress.

1. Get Rid of All the Packaging

The first thing you want to do is take off any and all packaging that is preventing airflow from the mattress. That means all of the plastic wrapping, any stickers and advertising sheets of paper and more.

You want the bed as ‘naked’ as possible to ensure ventilation isn’t restricted.

Once you’ve done this, take a look at where there are any added foams or products stuck to the mattress that might be causing the VOCs. There are sometimes glues and adhesives stuck to the mattress that have their own strange and chemical smell, so you might need to scrape these off the bed too.

In some cases, and in most countries in fact, these mattresses will be sprayed down with fire resistant sprays to ensure there’s a reduced risk of fire during transport. That said, these have not yet been tested for their impact on humans, so either do your best to wipe down the bed with a damp cloth — or just let the bed sit for a day or so for these flame retardant sprays to wear off.

2. Pick and Airing Out Station

Once the coverings are all pulled off the bed, your next step is to find the most ideal space to air the bed out.

Of course, the outdoors seems like the best, though you don’t want to risk getting bugs in the bed, or have the bed getting wet by an unsuspecting rainstorm. If you can, place the mattress upright on your back patio in an area where there’s plenty of wind and you’ll be doing yourself a big favour.

For keeping the bed indoors, we suggest a spare bedroom or a room in the house that has good ventilation and isn’t used all that much. This way, you can open a window and turn the fans on and just have all the VOCs blow right out of the house.

Always keep the bed as upright or away from a solid surface as possible as you want as much air as possible hitting the mattress. Don’t set it down flat on the floor either, or you’ll have one whole side of the bed that still has the off-gassing smell.

3. Taking Care of the Chemical Smell

As we mentioned above, the smell can be rather toxic and alarming for some people, and you don’t exactly want this blowing through the entire house.

With that in mind, we do suggest that you keep windows open or have an air freshener on hand just for a few days. Of course, the windows are your best bet, though if this isn’t an option you can often counteract this off-gassing smell with air freshener, candles and other nicely scented products.

After around a day though, you’ll notice that the bed has basically finished off-gassing and there’s little to no more smell left to disrupt or bother you. Just be sure to keep the bed well-ventilated and you’re good to go.

4. A Little Extra Off-gassing

Once you have started using the bed, you will notice that there is a small amount of this leftover smell. Don’t be alarmed.

All mattresses that are foam or latex based, and even spring based, will have some sort of mild chemical smell for their lifetime. This is simply down to the fact that this is what those materials smell like.

You can help to off-gas this as you use the bed by stripping your mattress of its sheets when you’re not using it, to give it a chance to slowly emit the final bothersome VOCs while you’re at work.

However, after a few weeks to a month, you won’t be able to notice much of these smells for too long. You’ll just become used to them as you sleep.

What Happens if You Poorly Off-gas

If you can handle the smell of the VOCs, we are still adamant that you shouldn’t sleep on your mattress right away — at least until these chemicals are gone.

A few of the side effects you may experience are listed below.

Not all of these are backed up by science, though experts are working on figuring out what high VOC levels actually do to the body as we sleep on them.

  • Behavioural problems
  • Fertility issue
  • Skin and Airway irritation
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Neurodevelopment issue
  • Potential Cancers from toxin exposure

Although these are quite alarming, your risk and exposure to these issues can be greatly reduced should you work to correctly air out your mattress before use.

Trapping the VOCs

In the opposite direction to off-gassing is simple using a closed-fabric cover to trap these masses into the bed.

A lot of reviewers and manufacturers have touted that with a polyurethane sheet you can simply lock all of these VOCs in your mattress and prevent them from escaping through the top of the bed.

In doing this, you’re forcing all of the VOCs either out the bottom of the mattress or keeping them locked into the bed entirely.

To end, these are also great covers for mattresses when it comes to preventing dust mite and skin cell build up. You can wrap your mattress in these sheets and see the inner core of your mattress stay clear of impurities for years to come.

Off-gassing Specific Mattresses

When it comes to each brand of mattress, there is a slightly different off-gassing experience in that the materials used do differ.

Below we’ll take a quick look at off-gassing one some popular boxed mattresses.

The Purple Mattress Off-Gassing

One of the more popular mattresses this year is the Purple Mattress, and we’re happy to say that this bed is off-gassed quite quickly — though it will still take around 24 to 48 hours.

You’ll be able to follow our steps above, for this mattress, though keep in mind that the initial smell can be very strong. This is down to the bed being wrapped in plastic as it’s transported, which means there’s little to no off-gassing occurring in transport, it all happens in the home.

Strip the bed of the packaging, stand it up in a spare bedroom and ensure it’s ventilated and you’ll be good to use it within around 36 hours.

The Tempur-Pedic Off-Gassing

Another excellent mattress brand is the high-end Tempur-Pedic company, and these mattresses are also foam-based, which means VOC counts can be quite high.

Tempur has outlined a few informative tidbits on their website and in their manuals which states that you should remove all packaging and air out the mattress for at least 24 hours before use.

Once you’ve done this, you can sleep on the bed, however, it is still suggested that you strip the bed of its sheets while you’re away at work each day for around two months to allow the mattress to fully off-gas when you’re not at home.

Tuft and Need Off-Gassing

One of the longer required off-gassing experiences on our list is the one you can expect from Tuft & Needle.

The brand has stated that because the CertiPUR-US foam in here is a little dense and more prone to prolonged off-gassing that you should allow at least 72 hours for this bed to fully off-gas before you sleep on it.

Again, like the Tempur, you should do your best to strip the bed of its sheets when you’re out at work to give the mattress and chance to fully air out when you’re not at home.

The Leesa Off-Gassing

Our final mattress, the Leesa also requires a relatively long off-gassing period.

The mattress is high-quality and wildly popular, though you’ll have to wait a little before you get to experience this.

It’s suggested that you off-gas the VOCs for a few days before using the bed, and then keeping the bed unmade for a few weeks when you’re out of the house. In some cases, the Leesa is known to output a rather strong smell here, so be sure to give this bed a little while before you judge it for its pungent smell.

The Takeaway

All that said, it’s important to give your new mattresses plenty of time to air out before you get your first night’s sleep on them.

Although there isn’t any hard evidence to say that VOCs from mattresses can cause harm, we certainly think it’s best to sleep on a surface that smells nice, over a rather toxic smelling one.

Do your best to stand your new bed up in a spare bedroom and make sure it’s well-ventilated and it won’t take too long for the smell of the bed to dissipate and for it to be ready to give you a good, odour-free sleep.

Behind Sleepify

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My goal with Sleepify is to be the ultimate sleep resource – helping you have a better night’s sleep.

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