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What is that smell?

December 17, 2020 3 min read

A dog sniffing

The Natural Aroma of Latex Rubber

People are familiar with the fact that rubber products have a particular odour. It doesn't matter if it's a rubber tire, rubber bands, or the latex rubber used in mattresses – there's bound to be an odour. While most people are not bothered by the different rubber smells, nobody wants to have a smelly bed. We will go over what you can expect with your next latex mattress, topper or pillow and what you can do to minimize the initial odour. 


The Smell of Latex


Like most new products, latex mattresses can give off a particular odour. Most people won't notice anything or won't be bothered by the aroma, but any scent can still irritate people with a high level of smell sensitivity. Latex Mattresses have a much different scent than the chemical smell emanating from products made from petrochemicals like high-density or memory foam. But, of course, even without the harsh chemical odour people have come to expect from synthetic materials, any smell can be a nuisance. 


The smell of rubber products emanates from microbial degradation of carbohydrates, proteins, and other non-rubber natural byproducts commonly found in raw liquid latex. Unfortunately, the only way to reduce or eliminate the natural odour is by mixing the rubber with filler materials or chemical agents. The most common filler materials are chalk or clay. Although natural and primarily odourless, fillers remove the natural elasticity that provides latex rubber's robust support and comfort properties. 


Chemical agents can also be used to mask the odour or stop natural degradation. However, even a masking agent won't cover up the odour completely. The only way to eliminate the smell is by mixing the liquid latex in a formaldehyde solution which prevents the odour-causing bacterial degradation from happening. This type of latex is known as Odourless Natural Rubber (ONR). Odourless rubber is never organic and can't be used to manufacture GOLS-certified latex. 


The GOLS latex certification does not guarantee odourless latex. On the contrary, it ensures it will have some level of odour, depending on your sensitivity to smell. Performance-robbing fillers and harsh chemical masking agents are prohibited under the standard. The GOLS standard only guarantees you'll receive a safe latex product made to the highest possible purity standards. 


Tips to Avoid or Minimize Mattress Odours


For individuals with smell sensitivities, the best way to avoid or minimize the smell in a brand-new mattress is by asking the manufacturer to air out the layers for 2-3 weeks before making the mattress. 


Further steps you can take to help with natural latex odours are:

  • Choose a thicker, quilted mattress cover - ideally made from pure cotton and wool.
  • Avoid mattresses with solvent-based adhesives. Solvent-based adhesives are considered toxic and tend to smell a lot. We prefer water-based and hot-melt bonds when required as they are non-toxic to humans, eco-friendly and odourless. 
  • Ask the manufacturer if you can get a sample to see how much (or how little) a latex sample bothers you over several days.
  • Let the mattress breathe for as long as possible in a room with open windows. Airing the bed for two to three weeks should be sufficient for most people. 
  • Wrap your mattress in a mattress protector. People with acute smell sensitivities may need to cover up the smell until it entirely dissipates. 


All latex products have some odour, but most people won't notice it, and fewer will be bothered by it. However, those sensitive to smells will almost certainly notice something. This is especially true with pillows and mattress toppers. Furthermore, shredded latex pillows will have the most noticeable odour due to the increased surface area concentrated in close proximity to your nose.


All our latex is transaction certified GOLS Organic Dunlop latex and tested for VOCs and harmful substances, so you can be sure what you're smelling isn't detrimental to you or your family's health. 


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


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