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Mattress Buyers’ Guide to Off-Gassing

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By now we’ve all heard about ‘off-gassing,’ but what is it really, and how do you know if your mattress is off-gassing?

We’re here to alleviate your OGA, or Off-Gassing Anxiety. The struggle is real. Off-gassing is a legitimate concern and you deserve to know what’s happening so you can choose what to do about it. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself, your family, and your household.

One trip to your local Big Name mattress dealer and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by options: so many different makers and models, all of them with different features and benefits promised. Take a spin around the store and you’re likely to see latex mattresses, Memory Foam mattresses, air mattresses (i.e. Select Comfort calling itself the Sleep Number bed), innerspring coil mattresses (what you probably slept on as a kid), and futon mattresses. Your mind might be whirling after just 30 minutes.

These days, there are numerous types of foam and batting materials being used in mattresses. And many of those materials have mystery or chemical components.

So which types of mattress materials are safest and least likely to be chemical-laden and prone to off-gassing? Where should a shopper start researching?

First of all, let’s get clear on the basics.

What is Off-Gassing?

Synthetic mattress foams are made with chemicals — mostly petroleum-based chemicals, but also some fire-retarding agents. YES, these chemicals emit fumes and can cause potentially adverse reactions in people with chemical sensitivities. Some chemicals used in mattresses have NOT been tested on young children or in the amount people are exposed to when sleeping on a mattress for 8 hours a day (which is, uh, kind of the point of having a mattress).

If you have concerns about off-gassing, do your research and know exactly what chemicals are used in your mattress and how they’re likely to affect a person’s system over time.

What Types of Mattresses Off-Gas?

How would you know if your mattress is off-gassing? Start by identifying which type of mattress you have.

1. Memory Foam Mattress

A memory foam mattress is likely made of 5-6″ of standard polyurethane foam topped with a visco-elastic layer (an open-celled poly foam that recovers slowly from compression, hence the effect that it ‘conforms to your body’). Both the polyurethane foam and the cisco-elastic layer will off-gas.

Smelling an odor from your memory foam mattress? This odor is from chemicals used in the manufacturing process. These mattress chemicals are potentially harmful to small children and people sensitive to chemical emissions.

2. Coil/Innerspring Mattress

Your coil mattress may be made with pocketed coil, a continuous coil system, or another type of coil. There will be an insulator pad between the coils and the comfort layers above. The insulator pad may be made from a high-density polyurethane foam or from recycled fabric layers (similar to a carpet pad). Comfort layers are attached on top of the insulator to add plushness. These comfort layers are mostly what differentiates one coil mattress’s feel from another.

Some manufacturers, in an effort to be more ‘green,’ are using some soy or non-soy vegetable-based mattress foams. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, because soy foams use only 20% soy oil and the rest is petroleum-based, the use of soy does not eliminate the off-gassing.

Finally, the mattress is wrapped with a quilting layer to give it a ‘finished’ look. The puff in the quilt is usually made from polyurethane foam — even in mattresses labeled as ‘natural.’ An innerspring mattress can be made ‘natural’ and non-off-gassing with the use of a natural insulator such as latex or wool, and/or with cotton comfort layers, and/or a quilt layer containing one of the same fillers.

Note that some mainstream manufacturers will label their mattresses ‘natural’ or ‘eco’ even with only ONE natural fiber component to it, never mind the chemical compounds in the other layers. Does this sound natural to you?

3. Latex Mattress

A latex mattress should start with a solid latex core, like our signature Botanicore™. Some other manufacturers will mix layers of latex with other, less expensive layers. A solid latex core like Botanicore™ ensures a consistent feel to your sleep surface and maximum durability over time. It’s also available in different densities for a feel that matches your comfort preferences.

There are different processes for creating latex (Dunlop, Talalay, and Continuous Pour). By definition, latex is sap from the rubber tree, however, synthetic latex can be created in a lab using building blocks. Although synthetic latex may contain polymers, there’s little off-gassing and it’s likely to be a better choice than polyurethane.

Pure, natural rubber latex comes from rubber trees grown within 10 degrees of the equator (tropical and sub-tropical regions). The extraction process is similar to tapping maple trees for syrup. (Anyone else visualizing pancakes right now?)

The latex trees we harvest from for Botanicore™ grow in some of the best-managed forest systems in the world. First, we thoroughly and scrupulously wash out potentially allergenic proteins. Then we mold our latex foam cores with no added chemicals. With NO added chemicals to off-gas, all-botanical latex foam mattresses are the best choice for healthy sleep.

4. Air Bed or Air Mattress

Air beds use vinyl or polyurethane bladders in place of innersprings or foam cores. The air chambers are protected by polyurethane foam and are often topped with it for comfort. It would be possible to make an airbed with comfort layers of wool, latex, or cotton — as that would eliminate much off-gassing potential — but we’re unaware of any company producing such a mattress.

5. Futon Mattress

Most futon mattresses these days contain synthetic foam plus a synthetic fire barrier. But it’s possible to make a non-off-gassing futon. Such a futon would be free of polyurethane foam layers and would have wool as the inherent fire barrier. It’s also possible to layer latex with other batting materials to add durability.

As a rule, futon mattresses tend to ‘mat’ and harden up over time. Cotton, a popular filling for futon mattresses, is a cheap non-toxic batting material, but it’s not ideal for a sleep surface.

Good choices for non-off-gassing mattresses

Yes, there are mattresses that are far less likely to off-gas than others, or won’t off-gas at all. It’s important for you, as a consumer, to know your stuff because you can’t always trust some retailers and salespeople to have or share correct information. A little time spent researching construction materials can pay dividends when searching for the lowest chemical emission mattresses.

The following non-off-gassing mattresses are comparable to other better quality mattresses. Plus, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you and your family aren’t being exposed daily to potentially unhealthy fumes.

Let’s talk. We’re listening.

Have you experienced off-gassing from a Memory Foam or another type of mattress? Tell us what you noticed and what you decided to do about it.


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10 Comments on "Mattress Buyers’ Guide to Off-Gassing"

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1 year 8 months ago

I really could not afford a $4000 organic mattress but I think made a good choice with a high quality model Simmons Beautyrest made with materials manufactured in the USA. My mattress just arrived and I plan on protecting it with a Permafresh encasing to help prevent off gassing and an organic mattress pad/cover (worth the $$$). Right now the mattress is “gassing off” overnight in my bedroom with door closed and all windows open.

2 years 7 months ago

We have a wonderful Select Comfort 5000 mattress but found mold within the components. Select Comfort graciously replaced all the affected areas for free, for which we are grateful. The most recent replacement however, the black foam egg crate, seems to be off-gassing and causing us problems. My wife wakes each morning with a swollen face and botox-like lips. Her lips are so dry, chapped and peeling, always trying to recover from the damage done overnight. We have both had sore throats lately with some sneezing and coughing that never develop into a… Read more »

2 years 9 months ago

Hi B&MS,
First, please let me say, “Thank You” for the great info and comment section as I find it very helpful in locating safe products for our home environment
After all, we can only do our part for the outside environment and the air we breathe!
Thanks to sites like B&MS we can use your products as a safe and effective adjuncts to our home’s environment!
Thanks again and enjoy life’s moments as they are gifts,

paula gagnon
3 years 1 month ago

I need input with a bob o pedic memory foam mattress I purchased 10 days ago..have been sleeping on and have smelt for the past week, what I know have learned, is off gassing. I really like the bed but need a way to remain the stench.
Can you help me with some direction and guidance?
Me and my kitties would greatly appreciate your input.

3 years 1 month ago


I am very sensitive to off gassing. Do the latex mattresses need to be off gassed as well? If so how long?

Is there a way to off gas one of your mattresses before it is shipped? What mattresses would you recommend from your list?


3 years 1 month ago


Botanical latex foam rubber will not have any chemical off gassing. However, it will have an odor when it is new; though the smell will dissipate quickly. The smell is totally non-toxic. That is not the case with blended latex. There are petrochemicals that can off gas from blended latex, including 1,3 butadiene.
Botanical latex will not have any chemical off gassing that can harm you, and the smell of the new rubber is subtle; but if you need us to open the bag for a while to reduce the odor before shipping that is… Read more »

Ronnie Greenberg
5 years 11 months ago

Can you tell me which Englander models are the 6 recommended?

Or the Natura?



5 years 11 months ago

Hi Ronnie,

We recommend all the Englander Latex Mattress Models we carry. Our Englander models are made a little different than most of the other dealers out there carrying Englander. All of our latex mattresses have no cushioning of poly foams other than latex, except for 2 models. These 2 models however are 2 sided and flippable along with all the other models we carry. Most of our models have only natural wool or a thin layer of Dacron and Rayon for quilting. Which in turn means now flame retardants and little, to no break… Read more »

6 years 19 days ago

How long should I leave the mattress “air out” before sleeping on it? I just purchased a pillow top matterss, probably filled with polyurethean. I have it in the bedroom with the door closed, fan on and windows open. thank you, Ivy.

5 years 11 months ago

Hi Ivy,

From our experience if you are really sensitive to the off gassing you may want to leave it out for about a week or so to let the new smell of foams dissipate.