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Preventing the New Mattress Smell

Sitting at home wondering how on earth to get rid of that awful chemical smell coming from your shiny new mattress? We’ve all been there.

If your mattress won’t stop giving off that chemical smell – even if it has been more than 72 hours since you opened the packaging – then read on, as I have some tips on how to remove this ghastly smell from your home once and for all.

Why does my new mattress smell?

This smell – which depending on the person describing it can smell somewhere between new carpet and a kind of eggy gas – comes from some of the materials that make up the mattress, and it will go away by itself over time. Fortunately, some manufacturers have taken these complaints to heart and have constructed their mattresses to they are less likely to smell at all. But of course, their promises aren’t as accurate as they make out.

It took me over a week to get rid of my new mattress smell for my Emma mattress. Indeed, sleeping on it was a nightmare because of the smell; the room stank, and as soon as I woke up I could smell it filling the air.

Anyway, back to the point: New mattresses smell because of a process that the industry calls off-gassing.

This is because certain chemicals inside the mattress foam – called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs – are now reacting with the air. Remember, they have been vacuum-packed and have had all the air effectively ‘sucked out’ at the factory.

VOCs are not “stable” (there’s an explanation here of what that actually means) and so these VOCs tend to break down rapidly under certain conditions (i.e. in your home). When they do this, they form gases that must then escape. These gases are what you smell when something smells new, and are particularly prominent if the product contains memory foam, acrylics or some plastics.

 

How long will the mattress smell last?

This is unfortunately a bit of a “how long is a piece of string” question, but having tested loads of mattresses personally, I can probably give you a reasonably accurate answer here. Speaking from experience, most memory foam type mattress smells start to subside after 2 days, and the smell should reduce by about 25% every day from there on. After 5-6 days you probably won’t be able to smell it at all, even when you lay down on your mattress.

 

How do I get rid of this smell?

Here are my tips to getting rid of the smell of that new mattress you’ve bought. Some of these will start to work straight away.

  1. Firstly, ventilate your home. That means opening the windows and keeping the doors open to create airflow! Note that allowing the smell to dissipate around your home won’t mean that every room will smell. Why? Because the gases will be less pungent if they are less concentrated.
  2. Optionally, use a fan or a dehumidifier to hurry this process along from step 1.
  3. If it’s not too late, open your mattress in a garage or even in the garden. If you’ve not opened it fully yet out the packaging then stick the mattress in your garage for a few days to get rid of the smell there.
  4. Spray the mattress with an enzyme spray. While these sprays were originally designed to remove body odours, like that of urine from a mattress, they can also help with “off-gassing” odours, too. They also have a load of hidden uses, as this article mentions. Simply spray the mattress surface directly according to the manufacturer instructions, but I would strongly recommend a “test” run first to make sure that the enzyme spray doesn’t stain.
  5. Use baking soda (bicarbonate of soda). Placing a few bowls of water + baking soda around your room where the mattress is will quickly neutralise the stink. Try to aim for a mix of 5 parts water to 1 part baking soda, and mix well. Then leave the bowl(s) out and these will catch the smells and neutralise them quicker.
  6. Use activated charcoal to absorb the smell. You can buy this in bulk and place it in bowls, like the baking soda, or you can even use charcoal briquettes in a pinch. You can even place your bowls of charcoal under the bed, so you don’t risk spilling your charcoal everywhere. Be aware that it may stain your carpet if you spill it, though — eek!
  7. Lastly, consider a mattress wrap (like this on Amazon). They’re not too expensive and will also be ideal if you ever move home and take your mattress with you. At the very least, they’ll contain the smell somewhat inside the wrap.

 

Are these new mattress smells dangerous? Should I be worried?

No.

The vast majority of people will not have any side-effects from this smell, but it’s a good idea to follow the tips above to remove the smell as quickly as possible. After all, even if there are no side-effects, it’s still a rather stuffy overpowering smell at times.

 

Do all mattresses smell nowadays?

Pocket-sprung mattresses won’t smell much because the main source of that famous stink is the memory foam inside. Obviously, a pure pocket spring will not have any memory foam. But the latex and/or fabric covering may still create a bit of a smell. If you’re interested in a pocket spring then make sure to read my guide here to the best ones available right now.

If you want to limit your chemical exposure or you just don’t want to have to bother with getting rid of the smell, start by looking for a mattress with a Certipur certification. This organisation is US-based but many British mattress sellers and manufacturers are using it now. In a nutshell, they test mattresses for various health & safety preparations, and their seal means that an approved Centipur mattress uses very little or no VOCs. Their testing also includes CFCs, phthalates, heavy metals, formaldehyde, and PBDEs, so your Centipur-approved mattress should be free from those, as well.

CertiPUR is a voluntary testing, analysis and certification programme for the environment, health and safety properties of polyurethane foam used in bedding and upholstered furniture applications. It identifies substances that may not be used in the production of polyurethane foams and sets stringent maximum limits for some components.

The mattress industry likes to downplay the famous smell but – take it from me – I know how unpleasant it can be at times. Waking up in the middle of the night with that smell lingering in the air is not pleasant. I can still smell most of the mattresses I have tested out to create this website, in fact I can almost taste them some days 🙁

The problem is particularly bad for memory foam; indeed even the best hybrid mattresses may still smell, but hopefully after a few days, if you follow the above tips, then the smell will subside and you will be happy with your new mattress for at least another 10 years.

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