I bought a foam/ innerspring mattress two weeks ago. I have left it uncovered during the day with a fan blowing across it. This mattress was supposed to be certipure. I am still smelling a terrible chemical odor. I wake up with a headache every morning.
Is is possible to find out what the chemicals are? Sleepy said they will charge me $125 to return the mattress. I bought a twin because I am moving soon and may end up using it in a guest room. Ideas welcomed

Hi jlucas,

The specific chemicals that are used in each manufacturers foam formulations are proprietary information and aren’t available to the public but you can see a list of the harmful substances and the limit values of what CertiPUR tests for here*.

ADMIN NOTE:*Always check CertiPur site for the latest guidelines available

Unfortunately there are still some people that are unusually sensitive to certain smells (the odor isn’t an indication of toxicity because safe substances can have a smell and unsafe substances can be odor free) or to some versions of materials that are made by a particular manufacturer or in some cases even to specific batches of a material that are made by the same manufacturer (see post #2 here which also includes my own similar experience).

The smell will normally be reduced to levels that most people don’t notice within a few days to a few weeks but there are some suggestions in post #3 here that may help speed up the process. If you are one of the small minority that is still sensitive to the materials in a mattress after a few weeks then the only remaining options would be to either enclose it with a material that will block any VOC’s or replace it.


thank you for the nice reply. i have continued to try to let the mattress “air” out. the official reply i got from sleepys was that there is no such thing as outgassing. interestingly , i have eaten a very clean diet and been in the organic business for 40 years. i have not used deodorant for that time : my sweat has no odor. since getting this mattress, i notice my armpits give off a terrible chemical smell! it just doesnt go away. my sinuses are hurting. have headache.
i guess my investment will just go down the tubes. sleepys had said they will not take it back without a $125 penalty.
i will let you know what i decide to do.
i followed a link from your reply and found a place that sold the mattresses by the layer… cant seem to find it? can you let me know it?
permission granted to say: “i told you so”. i tried to be an optimist… oh well. now to get these toxins out of my body. and figure out what im going to sleep on. im sorry for the lousy typing. my laptop keyboard has lost it.

have you any suggestions for what kind of mattress i might actually be able to buy? i hadn’t bought one in many years. never expected such a nightmare.

Hi jlucas,

I’m not sure which link you mean but the tutorial post includes this link to a list of the members here that sell mattresses online and there are a number of them that sell component latex mattresses with individual layers that can be rearranged or exchanged.

Unfortunately there is nobody else can feel what you feel on a mattress and there are too many unknowns, variables, and personal preferences involved for anyone to make a specific suggestion about which mattress would be the best “match” for you in terms of PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences) based on specs (either yours or a mattress) or “theory at a distance” (see mattress firmness/comfort levels in post #2 here) but the first place to start your research is the mattress shopping tutorial here which has all the basic information, steps, and guidelines that can help you with how to make the best possible choice … and know how and why to avoid the worst ones.


I can relate to the issue you described. We got a synthetic innerspring mattress recently that had some initial smell. My mother tried it after a week but could not tolerate it. What I’ve done is I had it airing out in living room, applied vinegar, vacuumed it, put baking soda, etc to speed up out-gassing it. Now after 3 moths, got rid of 95%of orig smell and my mom can sleep on it ok now. Getting a carbon blanket will farther help as well. You really don’t want to sleep on a brand new mattress as those chemicals/fire retardants are too fresh & toxic! (unless you get a natural/organic one)
Btw, what brand/model of mattress did you get?

Hi Intltraveler,

I think this would depend on the type of materials in the mattress, the type of fire barrier it used (many mattresses don’t use chemical fire barriers at all), and on the sensitivities of the individual person but there are many mattresses that don’t use natural or organic materials that for most people would be fine to sleep on right away.


Thanks very much for the replies. I’m grateful for the informative site. I was about to order the layered mattress. Was exhausted from no sleep. I was doing some errands and went into a store named after sleep (not sure if this site names by name. I had been into the same chain in a nearby town, seen and tried a mattress but was put off by the sales person. I figured I would try the mattress again…much more friendly salesman. I went out the door with it…the prospect of just getting some rest…was too enticing.
That said…and all the airing out, the mattress seems better.when I remake the bed, and go to sleep, I can only faintly catch a whiff of the offending odor. Several hours later it seems to return. It is as if the fumes build up under the covers.
Back wise…I like the support of the dual foam and innerspring. My budget is tight…the natural mattresses are out of reach for now.
The suggestion of a charcoal filter might be a solution. It is hard to get well aired out when the weather is hovering in the low 20s and we are doing everything we can to stay warm. Open windows are not an option.
Here’s a new question : this mattress has a zip cover that fits tightly. Is this where the fire retardant is located? If I could get the cover off , what would be the best procedures to get the retardant out of the cover. Getting it back on the mattress could be interesting. I will explore this . Thanks !

Hi Phoenix:
I came across abundance of info of dozens of synthetic/chemical staff that are found in traditional mattresses. Breathing that nightly can not be healthy for anyone, regardless of sensitivities.(speaking from personal background/research ) Innerspring type should definitely be a better choice and air out more quickly than all-foam ones but I am not aware of ones that are completely non-toxic right out of the box/store…(pls let me know which)
jlucas: washing a zip cover may help a bit.(the foam & innerspring pockets would still smell though) If your mattress is open-design, it may help airing it out disassembled.

Hi jlucas,

This would depend on the mattress. The two most common fire retardant methods for mattresses are either an inherently fire resistant non woven fabric that is quilted into the cover which you would need to rip off the cover or an inherently fire resistant “sock” that surrounds the materials and components inside the mattress which you would need to remove.

The odds are very high that what you are smelling is coming from the foam in your mattress (which don’t normally contain fire retardants) not from the fire retardant fabrics that they use.


The internet is filled with misinformation that either exaggerates or minimizes these types of issues and with any complex subject such as this, overly broad generalizations are very rarely accurate and the truth depends on the specifics of a mattress and is usually in between these types of more extreme positions. If you were to believe everything you read about these issues on the internet then it would be easy to come to the conclusion that every synthetic material is toxic (which of course is nonsense), all fire retardant methods depend on dangerous chemicals (which also isn’t accurate), or that if you don’t have an organic mattress that you are sleeping on a mattress that has either been dipped in a vat of dangerous chemicals or on a mattress that was sprayed with the same chemicals (and of course neither one of these are true either).

Post #2 here and the more detailed posts and information it links to have more information about safe, natural, organic, “chemical free”, and green mattresses and mattress materials that can help you sort through some of the marketing information and terminology that you will encounter in the industry and can help you differentiate between them and decide on the types of materials you are most comfortable having in your mattress and help you answer “how safe is safe enough for me”. These types of issues are complex and are generally specific to each person and their individual sensitivities, circumstances, criteria, and lifestyle choices.


I offer this reference - #7 specifically. Private Site
<There are many in use on the market today that are not tested in the Certipur program and for which we have concerns about health effects (e.g., Firemaster 550, V6, triarylphosphates, etc.). If the product has a Certipur Label AND a label indicating that it meets CA TB 117, it still has a flame retardant in it, then that Certipur label only means that it does not have PBDEs (which were phased out in 2005 anyway) or Chlorinated Tris.>

The foam is merely one part of the mattress - there is fabric and other components that can contain or have been treated by many things. Many people are sensitive to smells and others don’t smell things, but feel effects. Fabric is usually treated at manufacture - threads are made of many things - the dacron or polyfiber fill are also suspect, but foam is a petroleum product and they have to do something to it.

Yes, it’s something we all have to weigh our options with - however, I do not believe the ‘hype’ is overstated at all. Frankly I think it’s all very late to the game.
Thank you Phoenix for such a great site.

Hi SallyS,

The article you linked is mostly about furniture that tends to use fire retardant foams while mattresses tend to use inherent fire barriers and not fire retardant foams.

I know that this is a very controversial subject and brings up strong emotions but I have seen a great deal of information on both sides of the argument that has been greatly exaggerated or inaccurate from “fear mongering” on the one side to “everything is fine” on the other.


While I don’t consider it particularly ‘controversial’, the facts are in and information is what a consumer needs in order to be satisfied and properly served. Choice is personal, but since the OP asked about this in particular - this link may be more direct.

It may not be the foam that you smell.

Hi Sally,

Unfortunately the facts are anything but in which is the reason for most of the controversy, exaggerations, and misleading information on so many of the websites that you will read. The industry is anything but transparent about the specifics of most of the materials in their mattresses.

There is also no such thing as “no VOC’s” in any material since all materials will emit more than background levels of VOC’s which is the criteria that the FTC uses for claims of “no VOC’s”. Some of the more toxic VOC’s also have no odor and some that have a stronger smell (which are VOC’s) aren’t harmful at all (such as natural rubber or natural wool).

You are correct that it may not be the foam that someone smells but it’s by far the most likely source of odor issues in a mattress.

Overly broad statements such as this …

…just aren’t “factual” because VOC’s aren’t all “toxic” and don’t all have an odor and it only serves to confuse the issue because of the lack of specifics.


Not trying to stir up things, agree much more transparency needed.

Some of us can’t tolerate the smell of organic cotton batting :slight_smile:

To the OP - if you can’t return the mattress, you can speed up the outgassing process by heating up the room - then air it out, just don’t be in there. Set your thermostat high, leave for several hours - then air out well. Just moving the air with a fan won’t accomplish much without the windows open.

You can look for a barrier cloth cover, some are heavy woven cotton and others are made of polyethelene - again personal circumstances and choice. Just trying to help - but the bottom line is if it bothers you then take steps to change that.

Check the tag on the mattress to see if it meets CA standards -

Hi Sally,

I also think that transparency is the key so that consumers can make more informed choices and regulations such as California Prop 65 is a big step in the right direction. There is a great deal of resistance in the chemical industry to complete transparency because there are so many potential liability issues involved. There are many synthetic materials that are completely safe but there are also many others that are questionable at best but most people tend to confuse “chemical” with “toxic” and paint with a very broad brush.

Barrier cloths can be effective for allergens and small particulates but they aren’t an effective barrier for VOC’s which will go right through the cloth.

To “block” VOC’s you would either need clear polyethylene plastic that is about 5 - 6 mils thick (which is synthetic but is a very “safe” material) or an activated carbon blanket such as these.