What is Mattress Off-Gassing?

July 16, 2021

Nothing beats that new mattress smell.

But before you jump on top of your new mattress face-first and breathe in deeply, you may want to give your mattress time to complete an essential step: off-gassing.

Off-gassing is a natural part of mattress manufacturing, but knowing what it is (and what gasses are being released into your home) can help you make safer decisions about your next mattress purchase.

In this article, you'll learn everything you need to know about mattress off-gassing and how to make sure you're getting a safe mattress that doesn't give off any harmful VOCs during its lifespan.

What is Mattress Off-Gassing?

Off-gassing is the term to describe when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released from a product. Anytime you put on a fresh coat of wall paint, varnish your used furniture, install certain types of floor coverings, or bring in different types of synthetic materials or household goods, you could be dealing with VOCs in your home.

While there’s no significant evidence to support that these VOCs cause long-term health issues, it’s still a good idea to give off-gassing products time to settle. At the end of the day, you’re likely introducing some of these (potentially harmful) chemicals into the air:

- Benzene
- Toluene
- Methylene chloride
- Benzene Perchloroethylene
- Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
- Formaldehyde

 

Even artificially scented products, dry cleaning solutions, or cleaning products could be the source of the worst off-gassing in your home. This is when chemicals emitted from a product release into the air, lowering air quality and safety.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs):

The process called off-gassing occurs most commonly when it comes to new items that are vacuum-sealed in a box. Some products can even off-gas months after purchasing them, which means they'll release certain chemicals in the air within your home.

In the case of mattresses, the lack of airflow traps the toxic chemicals in the polyurethane foam. Once you open and remove it from the box, a new mattress emits a sharp smell.

How Long Does Off-Gassing Last?

It can take anywhere from a day to a few weeks (or rarely, about a month) before your mattress has completely aired out. It depends on how much time you spend in bed and if you use an air filter or open your windows when sleeping.

Surprisingly, opening your windows is the easiest solution that can help circulate fresh air and off-gas naturally through ventilation. Using air filters or an air purifier can also help boost air quality when you're working through the off-gassing process.

The duration of the mattress's off-gassing process also depends on the thickness of its foam and other chemicals used.  If the mattress has a thick foam, expect it to off-gas much longer than a less-dense mattress.

Another factor affecting the length of off-gassing is the method of packing.

Some companies allow their mattresses to off-gas before they pack them. Doing so won't completely prevent the mattress from releasing more fumes, but it will significantly shorten the release process once you receive your mattress and open it up.

How Dangerous is Off-Gassing?

Exposure to VOCs from products like paint and household cleaners is pretty common. That's why items like air fresheners, glass cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, and nail polish remover come with warnings about experiencing dizziness, throat irritation, headache, nausea, eye and skin irritation, or other symptoms when using them.

Thankfully, the compounds coming from mattresses have a shallow toxicity profile. So while you may experience a few side effects like eye and nose irritation from the fumes for a few weeks, they will go away as soon as the VOCs have been released completely. Again, that's why it's smart to circulate outdoor air or use a purifier in those first weeks . When it comes to organic mattresses you may also notice a smell, as organic latex is close to the source and can still omit gassing, even though it is not toxic.

Is there a way to add a section that when it comes to organic mattresses you may also notice a smell, as organic latex is close to the source and can still omit gassing, even thought it is not toxic? Or an explanation of natural products off gassing or that example that even an apple can off gas once bitten into and exposed to air?

How Do I Get Rid of Volatile Organic Compounds?

For those who want to stay away from the majority of VOCs, try keeping your new mattress in one room while you sleep in another.

In other words, simply keep your old mattress while chemicals off-gas from your new one. Since off-gassing will take a few weeks before you can use it for sleeping, you'll rest easier. Then, safely dispose of your old mattress.

Besides this strategy, here are a few other reliable techniques you can follow to expedite the off-gassing process of your mattress:

Keep it Airing Outside to Boost Indoor Air Quality

One way to get rid of VOCs from your mattress is by unpacking the mattress outside of your home and getting the fumes of the VOCs to escape first.

When it's time to bring it back in, put a fan nearby to let the fresh air circulate and crack a window or two open. The movement will help dissipate the fumes and spread them away from the mattress more efficiently.

Doing the step above should help release most VOCs from the mattress  before carrying it inside your house. It may continue emitting the fumes for the next few days or weeks but at a lower level.

Use Neutralization Methods

There's only so much that ventilating your mattress while it's off-gassing will do. Instead, you can rely on a few other methods, which complement the use of fan and ventilation for off-gassing.

For instance, some manufacturers swear by using baking soda on your mattress to help it off-gas faster. Before doing this, you must confirm with your manufacturer first. It may work on certain mattresses but not on all types, so double-check before trying this method.

As previously mentioned, air purifiers are another great way to eliminate odor and harmful pollutants trapped in indoor air. While there are many air purifiers, the best ones for VOC removal are HEPA filters with activated carbon, which remove particles and gases from indoor air. Combine a high-quality air filter with an ionizer to maximize efficiency in removing pollutants.

Finally, if you wish to sleep on your new mattress right away but it's still off-gassing, you can use a mattress cover to mask the smell. You will have to clean the cover to get rid of the scent regularly, but by this time, it shouldn't be as strong as before.

Are There Non-Toxic Memory Foams?

If you don't want the inconvenience of off-gassing from your mattress, settle for a non-toxic memory foam instead.

Aside from using organic materials, this foam type is also eco-friendly. That means your mattress doesn't contain chemical contaminants and is created using methods that produce less waste.

Essentia provides a variety of non-toxic memory foam mattresses to choose from, but we want to help educate you on how non-toxic memory foam is different from traditional foams that off-gas.

The difference in traditional foams that off-gas and our natural foam boils down to 3 key differences: the materials we use, our approach to flammability, and the third-party certifications we use to give piece of mind to our customers. Let’s look closer at each!

Materials

Not all foams are equal. Some are better than others when it comes to off-gassing due to their building materials, and below are the best types of foams that don't off-gas:

- Plant-based — Compared to traditional memory foams, plant-based ones are more breathable, thus providing you with a more convenient sleeping environment. They are also more durable than standard foam and more affordable than latex.
- Organic cotton — Just as organic cotton foams are breathable, they are soft and hypoallergenic, making them perfect for sleeping. However, make sure that the foam is made with organic cotton as some are loaded with pesticides.
- Organic wool — Using organic wool as part of a mattress helps moderate body heat and moisture. This type of mattress material could be ideal for sleepers in cold temperatures.
- Natural latex — Varieties like Talalay and Dunlop are options for those who want natural latex. Essentia mattresses use natural latex formulated from hevea milk or rubber tree sap. These options are antimicrobial, biodegradable, and produce durable, mold-resistant foam.
- Coils — Metal coils, like those in hybrid beds, pose no health risk and are safe for sleeping. Hybrid mattresses are a unique solution that brings the cooling benefits of traditional innerspring mattresses, with the comfort and allergen-resisting properties of natural latex mattresses.

 

Flammability

The flammability standards created by the Consumer Product Safety Commission require that all mattresses sold in the US are fire-resistant.

To meet this threshold, manufacturers turned to flame-retardant chemicals, which can pose serious health risks to consumers. There may still be harmful fire-resistant chemicals like TDCPP (Chlorinated Tris), antimony, and PBDEs (among others) used in your mattress.

To avoid these chemicals, look for non-toxic foams made from kevlar and silica, as well as other flame-resistant material alternatives.

Scientific Certification Systems

It's always best to research reviews for mattresses online before buying them to see what others say about their experiences with them.

However, some brands offer certifications that will guarantee they're non-toxic or safe. The brand should also have information posted on its website detailing whether the mattress from organic materials contains no toxic chemicals.

Below is a shortlist of third-party certifications that help you identify non-toxic foams from toxic ones:

- GreenGuard - Mattresses that are GreenGuard certified mean that they have little to no VOC emissions. A Gold rating could apply for products used in healthcare facilities or for children or older people who are especially vulnerable.
- OEKO-TEX Standard 100 - OEKO-TEX 100 certification ensures that the mattress is free of harmful chemicals or additives. Manufacturers take this issue seriously because it means their product will be comfortable for you to sleep on and safe too!

 

Conclusion

While brand new mattresses are generally safe, they do emit VOCs that could cause allergic reactions if they don't undergo the off-gassing process until the end.

Fortunately for us all, it’s easy enough to get rid of these VOCs if you follow the steps above.

Of course, you can entirely forgo the off-gassing process by choosing natural, non-toxic memory foams, such as those used in all Essentia mattresses. This way, you can immediately  unpack your new mattress and get the good night's sleep you deserve.