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What is that smell?

December 17, 2020 5 min read

Latex Mattress Odour

Does your latex mattress have an odour?

People are familiar with the fact that rubber products have a certain odour. It doesn’t matter if it’s a rubber tire, rubber bands, or the latex rubber that’s used in mattress manufacturing – there's bound to be a certain smell.

The strong smell of rubber products emanates from compounds produced when certain enzymes and bacteria are present in the latex. When the latex is exposed to heat during processing, it also emits certain odours. The industry term for this process is "thermal degradation."

While people are not bothered by the different types of rubber smells in certain products in general, the issue concerning it is certainly stronger when it comes to the mattress manufacturing industry.

For years, mattress manufacturers have been trying to find more effective ways of either masking or getting rid of the smell altogether. And while nobody wants to have a smelly mattress, even the latex mattresses can have a certain odour ranging from mild to overpowering. This usually depends on the purity of the latex, as well as the materials and processes used in mattress-making.

The Smell of Latex

Just like most brand new products, latex mattresses can give off a certain type of odour. Latex mattresses made from organic latex rubber typically have a fainter smell compared to the chemical smell emanating from ones made from poly-foam and memory foam.

The smell of natural latex is usually likened to sweet-smelling vanilla. Of course, even without the harsh chemical odour people have come to expect from rubber products, this so-called vanilla smell can still irritate people with a high level of sensitivity to certain scents. And, although extremely rare, there are also people who could be allergic to latex.

Of course, as mentioned earlier, the quality of the latex materials used and the processes the latex undergoes during manufacture can all impact the smell of a latex mattress.

Lower-quality latex products that contain high levels of fillers and chemical masking agents that reduce odour might not smell as much either. This makes it impossible to determine the quality or natural content of a latex mattress from smell alone. Although it may be counterintuitive, organic latex typically has a stronger natural rubber odour in the initial stage because additives are restricted.

Natural and organic latex mattresses comprise mainly of the Hevea brasiliensis (rubber tree) milk, water, and naturally occurring fats. Since different latex mixes can look and smell the same it’s important to confirm 3rd party content certifications like the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) that set stringent composition standards for latex rubber.

For latex rubber to be GOLS-certified, it must comprise more than 95% certified organic latex raw material. It should also meet the set permissible limits for harmful substances, polymer and filler content, and emission test standards. Some manufacturers of natural latex mattresses will air layers upon to reduce the initial odour intensity, although the natural smell is known to dissipate over time.

If you’re wondering about other latex rubber products like gloves and tires, these products are manufactured using totally different processes and additives. This is why they emit stronger smells.

Synthetic and hybrid latex

Aside from natural and organic latex mattresses, more affordable ones made from synthetic or hybrid latex are also available.

Just like polyurethane foam, synthetic latex is a petroleum-based material made from styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR). Unlike natural latex, synthetic latex tends to be less elastic and less durable. It usually goes through a period of off-gassing (the process of releasing chemicals into the air), but it definitely costs less.

Hybrid or blended latex mattresses are manufactured in a variety of ways using a mixture of natural and synthetic latex components so the odour and the intensity of the odour can vary quite a bit from model to model.

Tips to Avoid or Minimize Mattress Odours

For particularly sensitive individuals, the best way to avoid or minimize the smell in brand new mattresses is by opting for one made from 100% natural latex. By avoiding poly-foam mattresses, you’re already reducing the chance of being bothered by off-gassing and chemical smells.

However, even with natural latex mattresses, there are further steps you can take to ensure you ultimately end up with the least-smelling mattress there is:

  • Purchase only GOLS-certified 100% latex mattresses. This assures you of the absence of any synthetic or chemical ingredients and that you have not only a 100% natural latex mattress but also one that’s more than 95% organic.
  • Choose a 100% cotton mattress cover. When looking at mattress covers, go for ones that are Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified. Be aware that 100% Cotton covers must be combined with Wool or another fire barrier to pass Canadian Mattress Flammability Standards. Statements like “no fire retardants”, “all-natural (or organic) vegan mattresses”, or “cotton covers without wool” are all major clues of hidden components and sleight of hand marketing tactics.
  • Avoid mattresses with chemical adhesives. Solvent-based adhesives are considered toxic and tend to smell a lot. Water-based and hot-melt types of adhesives are non-toxic to humans and eco-friendly. The adhesive we use when applicable can be found here: Simalfa 321
  • If the latex mattress you want gives off a smell that’s bothering, ask the store if you can get a sample. Carry it around with you and see how much (or how little) it bothers you over a certain number of days.
  • Be on the lookout for certification from GOLS and GOTS. For you to avoid purchasing a mattress that has toxic ingredients, look for other certifications, such as OEKO-TEX (concerning harmful content and emissions and not natural or organic content), Eco-Institut (natural content and VOC testing for latex), and Greenguard (similar to OEKO-TEX). These certifications ensure there are minimal or no toxic ingredients and harmful emissions (like VOCs) – that are also likely to smell – in your latex mattress.
  • Air the mattress immediately after unboxing. Leave the mattress out to breathe for the longest time possible in a room with open windows. This means not putting any bed sheet or pillows on top of it. Airing the mattress out for two to three weeks should be sufficient for those with acute smell sensitivities. We can also air out the components in our factory for 2-3 to greatly reduce / eliminate the initial order.
  • If you happen to purchase a hybrid or synthetic mattress, exerting pressure on the mattress will facilitate the rapid release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. But be careful not to break your bed.
  • Wrap your mattress in a waterproof mattress protector. If the smell of your mattress is unbearable and you need to use it right away, you can use a waterproof mattress protector to trap the compounds causing the smell so they don’t reach you. However, this is only a temporary solution and they can alter the feel of the mattress.

Remember, all latex products have some odour but you probably won’t notice it unless you’re particularly sensitive to smells. Latex Pillows and Latex Mattress Toppers tend to have a more noticeable smell due to their proximity to your face and lighter coverings. All our latex, in all our products, is GOLS Organic certified and tested by the Eco-Institut for smell and VOCs, so you can be sure what you’re smelling isn’t harmful to you or your family’s health.  

Call us at 1-844-853-5983, or email, if you have any questions about latex odour anything else latex related.

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