Mattress degassing refers to a specific process that takes place when a bed in a box is unpacked. That telltale new mattress smell might surprise you if you’re not prepared for it, and some mattresses stink more than others.
If you’re particularly sensitive to mattress gas, you may find that you don’t sleep as well the night you open your new bed, as pong can be overwhelming. The good news is that many of this year’s best mattresses use a variety of materials to reduce bad smells.
Memory foam mattresses are more likely to release gas than other types, for reasons we’ll explain below. We’ll also cover whether mattress gassing is dangerous to your health, why it happens, and how you can speed it up.
What is mattress degassing?
Many new mattresses sometimes emit an odor when they are first unwrapped and this is a result of mattress manufacturing by-products known as VOCs (volatile organic compounds). This is known as degassing.
Mattress fumes occur when you first remove a mattress from its packaging, and is particularly noticeable with beds in a box. These mattresses are compressed to a heavy weight, then vacuum-sealed to be packaged in a box, which retains the chemical by-products.
What does VOC mean? Volatile means a substance that can easily become a gas, and organic means the substance is carbon-based. VOCs come in many forms such as benzene, acetone, formaldehyde and ethanol. Why are they present in mattresses? Because most of them are indispensable to the manufacturing process.
Is mattress degassing dangerous?
Search conducted by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, and the Israel Institute of Technology, shows that the estimated exposure to VOCs from mattress gases remains well below the ‘No Significant Risk Level (NSRL)’ established by law. California environment.
However, Dr. Kenneth Spaeth, chief of occupational and environmental medicine at Northwell Health in Great Neck, NY, points out that there are more concerns about children’s exposure to volatile organic compounds.
“By virtue of their age and size, they have increased vulnerability to potential toxic effects,” he points out. However, “getting fresh air can really help reduce these exposures.”
The most common side effects of gassing are headaches and minor allergic reactions such as eczema and hay fever-like symptoms. However, you can greatly reduce your risks by purchasing a mattress from a reputable brand that guarantees the use of safe materials, such as CertiPUR-US foam.
Premium and inexpensive mattresses are prone to outgassing, as are mattresses made from memory foam or a blend of foams.
Degassing by mattress type
Gas-free memory foam mattress
Originally developed by NASA, memory foam is memory foam that molds to the body, responding to weight, body shape and heat. It is well known for its excellent pressure relieving qualities, with the foam contouring to the body and cushioning it overnight.
Memory foam mattresses have a polyfoam support core, combined with comfort materials such as memory foam, polyfoam or a combination of foams. Since all-foam beds use a combination of synthetic foam, they have the greatest potential for gas release.
As a synthetic material, memory foam tends to emit the most noticeable gassy odors. If you opt for memory foam, look for beds with GREENGUARD Gold, OEKO-TEX, CertiPUR-US or eco-INSTITUT certifications as they are tested to emission standards, which should reduce the potential for severe gas emissions.
Latex mattress degassing
Latex mattresses use support cores and comfort materials made from latex. If it’s natural latex, you shouldn’t have any outgassing. However, synthetic or blended latex can emit almost as much gas as memory foam.
Natural latex is made from the sap of rubber trees, while synthetic latex uses petrochemicals. Latex is produced by the Dunlop or Talalay process, which gives the mattress a different feel and performance. Latex is extremely responsive and bouncy, but also provides moderate contouring and pressure relief.
Natural latex has no synthetic components, which means you won’t have any gas. Synthetic latex likely emits gassy odors.
Hybrid mattress degassing
These have a supporting core made of metal springs and comfort materials like memory foam, latex, microcoils, polyfoam and other materials. Degassing depends on materials and construction.
Layers of memory foam and polyfoam will emit more off-gas odors, while natural latex will have no odor at all. There will be less fumes with a foam mattress due to improved airflow and less use of synthetic materials.
Degassing the polyfoam mattress
Polyfoam is an umbrella word to refer to any polyurethane-based foam formulation. It is often used as a mattress support.
This largely depends on the specific polyfoam formulation, but generally falls somewhere between memory foam and latex in terms of contour and responsiveness. As polyfoam is a synthetic material, there is a high probability of outgassing.
Microcoils and mattress degassing
Microcoils are a thin layer of small springs a few centimeters thick, in contrast to the more substantial coil layers found in support cores. Microcoils are designed to increase responsiveness while maintaining airflow.
Innerspring mattresses have a bouncy core of metal springs combined with comfortable padding. These mattresses are not prone to outgassing because they contain very little or no synthetic foam and the coils promote better airflow to dissipate odors.
Metal coils do not emit odors and, even when individually wrapped in fabric, still produce only minimal or no gas emissions.
How long does that new mattress smell last?
While there is no hard and fast rule for this, you can take a guess based on the mattress composition. Foam will smell more than other materials and memory foam mattresses will take longer for odors to dissipate than hybrid mattresses. Some new beds lose their smell in a matter of hours, while others take a few days.
How to speed up mattress degassing
Open all windows in the room where you are assembling your new mattress and make sure the room is dry and free of moisture. Remove all plastic packaging from your new bed immediately and unroll the mattress completely so it is no longer squashed. Take all packaging out.
You might also consider using fans to help circulate the air. If the outgassing is particularly bad, try airing the mattress outside on a dry day for a few hours to help the smell dissipate faster.
The 3 best mattresses for little or no gas emissions
Mattress degassing: summary
Mattress fumes aren’t dangerous to your health, but they can trigger your allergies or give you a headache, depending on the severity of the fumes smell.
To speed up the elimination of gases from the mattress, always open the bedroom windows before unpacking the bed. Take all the packaging out as soon as possible and unfold the mattress so it is no longer compressed.
The longer you leave a boxed mattress compressed inside a cardboard box, the stronger the off-gas odor will be.
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