swap latex for memory foam in serta icomfort genius

I’m not sure if this is a good idea or not. I bought a serta icomfort genius because I loved how it felt. I still love the feel but the memory foam smell is driving me crazy. I have a few options: I can exchange it (comfort guarantee), I can hope the smell goes away and it actually is non toxic, or I can modify it.

I’m not to excited about exchanging it because the store I got it from doesn’t have any latex mattresses, and pretty much all of their inner spring mattresses have memory foam too. The only viable option I can see is exchange it for an aireloom but these seem way over priced and even though the foam is “soy based” I have no idea what chemicals were used or what sort of off gassing it may have. From my understanding it’s not the actual memory foam that you can smell but the solvents used. Also, I didn’t think these mattresses were as comfortable as the icomfort genius.

As far as waiting for the smell to go away I’ve seen time ranges all over the map. The store told me a couple weeks but it’s been a couple weeks and it still smells the same to me. Some people say a few months but some people say it never goes away completely.

Anyway, I took the cover off (it’s zippered on) it seems that the smell is only coming from the 2.75" memory foam top. I was thinking of taking this off and replacing it with a comparable (as far as firmness) 3" latex topper- then putting the mattress cover back on. The problem is most of these toppers are not returnable and I don’t know what firmness would be comparable to what I have. According to US mattress the rating of the genius is 4.5…

Has anyone else done anything like this? were you happy with the results? I’m leaning toward this rather than returning it because like I said I really like the feel of the mattress and I’m worried if I exchange it for a spring mattress I’ll run into the same problem with smell and it will be harder to get rid of the memory foam on those.

Hi rallit,

The good news is that the foam that Serta uses is Certi-Pur certified so even though there is a smell it has been tested for the use of harmful materials and VOC’s. The not so good news is that some people are still sensitive to the smell of polyfoam and particularly memory foam even if it has been Certi-Pur certified.

Other potential sources of smell or VOC’s in a mattress (besides the memory foam or polyfoam which is certainly one of the sources) includes the fire barrier used or any glues that are used (especially if the glues are solvent based instead of water based).

For most people the smell goes away to levels that are minimal in a few days or sometimes a few weeks but some people continue to smell it for much longer. This can be because of differences in how the foam is made from batch to batch or in whether it was allowed to ventilate before being used or in how it was stored. It can also be because of a wide range of differences in sensitivity between people. I agree that different people’s experience can be all over the map even with the same mattress and there is no consistent time frame that seems to apply to all people or circumstances (although in most cases a few weeks would cover the majority of people’s experiences). It can sometimes help to walk on the surface of the mattress to break open any thin windows inside and speed the process up. It may also help to leave your bed unmade to ventilate better or to put it on its edge for a while in a well ventilated room.

I completely agree with you that these are overpriced and worse yet they don’t disclose the quality of the foam materials they use in their mattresses. Soy foam (or other “plant based foams”) are just polyfoam that have replaced a small percentage of one of the chemicals used to make the foam with a chemical derived from plant oils. You can read a bit more about them here. In some cases they have a worse odor than foam made from petrochemicals.

Memory foam and latex really can’t be compared because it really is an apples to oranges comparison. You can read more about this here. Because memory foam reacts differently and can change its softness and feel in different circumstances and environments and with different people, and because the “feel” of different materials and how they compare is very subjective … only your own personal experience is a reliable “latex / memory foam” comparison. The only thing that would be fair to say is that “soft” latex in the range of 14 ILD to about 24 ILD would be most comparable to different types of memory foam for most people in terms of most people’s perception of “softness” but this is very subjective. Higher density memory foam that stays firmer in the environment it is used may even feel more comparable to higher ILD latex for some people even though any latex will feel “different” from any type of memory foam.

One of our members here allows exchanges for their toppers with only return shipping costs which may be helpful. Some of the big box stores do as well (but they often don’t have any latex toppers). Toppers that are sold and fulfilled by Amazon are usually returnable as well under the terms of the Amazon return policy (as long as it can be returned by courier).

What you are doing is generally referred to as “mattress surgery” and there are many who have done this for other reasons (fixing comfort or support issues because of foam that has softened or broken down) but I’ve not heard of anyone doing it for the smell.

It would also be risky for several reasons IMO because it’s a rather radical solution for an issue that may be more about your specific mattress than every Genius mattress. If it turns out that the smell isn’t coming from the gel memory foam then you would also be out of options. In addition to this (and I don’t know this either way) the memory foam may be laminated to the layers below it and may be difficult to remove without damaging the other foam.

It also could present a problem with any longer term issues you may have over time with the firm but low quality 2" polyfoam layer below the memory foam in the Genius softening over time with the possible loss of comfort and support that would go with this. If this happened for you and you needed to replace the mattress because of it then there would be no warranty coverage (although this may not be such a great loss because in most cases there isn’t a deep enough impression when foam softens to be covered under a warranty anyway).

My tendency would be to talk with the retailer and ask them to treat this as a defect and exchange the mattress as a warranty claim and then have them renew your original comfort guarantee so you can test if the issue happens with a second mattress as well or if it’s your own sensitivity (in which case it would be something you would experience anyway).

I would personally try less “destructive” options first before taking a more radical approach.


Well I’m going to give it some more time to air out. Part of my problem is I’ve been having asthma type symptoms since I got the mattress but the air quality here has been questionable to so I don’t know if it’s the mattress or the air. I’m sleeping on the couch now. Once I’m feeling better I’ll sleep on the mattress again and if the symptoms come back then I’ll know it’s the mattress. I guess since this happened I’m really skeptical about memory foam - which sucks because I love the feel of it.

I already returned a mattress on a warranty and got the guarantee again. I originally got a simmons beautyrest and it was WAY softer than the one I tested in the store. I got horrible lower back pain - something I’ve never experienced from a mattress. I know it had memory foam in it and the smell did not seem to bother me- so I’m hoping it’s not the foam with the current mattress- but I’m scared now. I do have chemical sensitivities but normally I don’t get asthma symptoms- it’s more of an annoyance.

So basically I’m worried if I do another exchange I’ll end up with yet another mattress that I can’t sleep on. At least with the current one I know it’s comfortable if I could get rid of the smell. I’ve tried all the suggestions- I’ve been walking on it daily, took everything off it including the cover, have the window open, tons of air flow, bowl of vinegar in the room, etc.

I guess I could exchange it for a super firm spring mattress and then put a topper on- but they didn’t have any I was very excited about. I’m def. not getting another simmons beautyrest… what a disaster.

Anyway, I don’t know what happened to the mattress industry- or maybe it’s just that I’m pickier now that I’m older… but the mattress I bought 12 years ago was so easy. I went in, bought it, slept on it the first night and was happy for 12 years. If I’d known what I know now I would have either 1) kept my old mattress, removed the pillowtop and added a topper… or 2) bought my own foams and constructed a mattress…

Hi railit,

The industry has changed a lot in the last 12 years (and not for the better unfortunately).

There are still many smaller manufacturers that are sold either factory direct or through better sleep shops that are still providing great quality and value but they are usually drowned out by the massive advertising of the major brands and chain stores which don’t sell mattresses with the same quality materials as they did one or two decades ago.

It seems to me that you have already tried the most likely suggestions and hopefully the next little while will solve your odor problem and symptoms. At least your experience with Simmons showed that you don’t have the same issue with every type of memory foam.

I also had an issue with a specific type of memory foam (as you can read here) and this was the only time I’ve reacted to any memory foam that I’ve tried. Hopefully this is a unique circumstance for you as well.


I’m going to test for VOCs etc (basic air quality in my room)- I’ll let you know what the results are. Basically don’t f$$$%^% with a chemical engineer. :slight_smile:

If the test comes back good (which it should given the certi-pur testing) then I’ll let it go. For some reason I don’t think it’s going to though.

Hi railit,

I’d sure be interested in hearing about your results … and in the equipment you are using to test as well.

In most cases VOC’s are measured in fractions of PPM as you can see in the CertiPur testing standards here* and would need sensitive equipment to detect them.

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


Ok. I could be wrong about some of this but I’ve been looking at some numbers and things aren’t adding up as far as the certi-pur certification. According to their documentation the limits in ppm of the following chemicals are:

Benzene <0.1565 ppm
formaldehyde <0.082 ppm
aromatic hydrocarbon (which includes benzene in my mind???) <0.07 ppm
tributyltin (TBT) (which is fat soluble btw) <5 ppm
2,4-toluenediamine (TDA) < 5 ppm
4,4-diaminodiphenylmethane (MDA) < 5 ppm

When I look up exposure limits from various sources (EPA, NIOSH, OSHA etc) this is what I find:

benzene <0.1 ppm (NIOSH), < 0.5 ppm (NAAQS) (this is either higher or lower than the certi-pur certification depending on which limit you use and which standard they list.)
formaldehyde < 0.1 ppm (EPA)
tributyltin (TBT) (which is fat soluble btw) < 0.0084 ppm (NIOSH)
2,4-toluenediamine (TDA) < 0 (OSHA) (I wasn’t sure if this was zero exposure because it’s a proven carcinogen or if it meant they didn’t have an exposure set)
4,4-diaminodiphenylmethane (MDA) < 0.1 ppm (NIOSH)

So basically with the last three the amount in your mattress can be way higher than exposure limits in the workplace?

I’ve already decided that once I test the air in my room I’m getting rid of the mattress… I always thought organic mattresses were hokey but I’ll probably be going that route considering that almost all other mattresses have memory foam in them.

I’ll post my results when I get them. The measurements should be in the ppb range…


Hi railit,

Welcome to the rabbit hole of chemical testing and “mattress safety issues” :dry:

To make matters even more confusing than the different standards (NIOSH, OSHA, EPA etc) … there are also different testing methods used for bedding materials that will make a big difference in the results (such as testing in a small chamber with 72 hour pre-conditioning vs testing the air quality in a room).

There’s a little more in post #2 here (which also has further links to other posts and resources) which may be of interest.

The majority of mattresses sold in the country don’t have any memory foam although if they don’t they will usually contain other types of foam such as polyfoam or latex and of course polyfoam also has some “issues” for many people depending on how each person answers the question “how safe is safe enough for me?”.

I would also be very careful with “organic” mattress claims because in many cases a mattress that is marketed as being organic only has an organic cover and “organic” is used in a marketing sense rather than indicating organic certification.

There are currently only three mattress manufacturers in the US that make any organic mattresses (GOTS certified not USDA certified) which are OMI, Naturepedic, and Savvy Rest and none of their organic mattresses contain any foam of any kind at all (they all make latex mattresses that aren’t certified organic).

Having said that there there are many manufacturers that use organic materials or latex in various layers of their mattress even though the mattress itself has no organic certification. Even latex needs other chemicals to make the foam so the GOLS organic certification for latex is only 95% organic and the other 5% is the other ingredients used to manufacture the foam.

In most cases … “organic” is more about mattress marketing than mattress fact. You can read a little more here about organic latex for example in post #6 here.


Yeah, I understand why they have testing guidelines. The air quality in my room will be completely different from the air quality in a different room with the same mattress. Also, from a scientific perspective it’s impossible to know if the chemicals detected are from the mattress, carpet, varnish on the dresser, paint on the wall etc etc. This is why if the results are bad I’m planning to retest the air once I get the mattress out- just so I have a better idea of exactly what was coming from the mattress and what wasn’t.

I should also mention that my roommate has a memory foam mattress which is one reason why I wasn’t worried about getting one. She went in my room earlier today and said is was hard to breath. I don’t think hers ever smelled this bad.

Anyway, once I get rid of the mattress I have some time to think about it because I bought an aero bed at costco for the meantime. I’m pretending it’s a sleep number. :slight_smile:

I do understand that organic tends to mean a latex mattress with an organic cover. I was hoping the organic cover would mean it hasn’t been treated with chemicals. Rocky Mountain Mattress Company is close to here so I was hoping I could try out some of there beds before committing to ordering a latex bed (I’ve never had latex). I went to Ikea to try their latex mattress (I have no intention of getting it because I know it’s a blended latex but I wanted to see how they felt) and I was really disappointed at how soft it felt considering it was listed as firm. This makes me even more nervous about ordering online.

Hi rzailit,

Good idea that should eliminate most of the variables. Like you said … don’t mess with a chemical engineer. I’m really curious what your results will show.

Sometimes it really seems to be hit and miss. We also had a bad experience with a memory foam topper on one occasion and it was both of us with similar symptoms and not just the smell. It wasn’t pleasant to say the least. It’s the only time I’ve reacted to memory foam. The smell itself was kind of “musty” which I understand is typical of aldehydes but you would probably know more than I would on that front.

There are two parts to an organic wool certification. One of these is the farming of the sheep and the production of the raw wool which is controlled by the NOP of the USDA. They don’t have an organic certification for the wool products or textiles though and for this you would need to look for GOTS organic certification. There are also non certified wool textiles that don’t use chemicals such as eco wool or Puregrow wool. There is an interesting article here on organic wool.

Unfortunately they no longer have a showroom but they may be able to give you some guidance about testing similar mattresses at Lake Mattress (see post #19 and 20 here). I would call them first though as there appears to be some confusion in their relationship or agreement which I still haven’t been able to clarify.

Post #2 here may also have some other options close to you where you can test latex.


Doesn’t the icomfort mattress have novaform in it? maybe it’s something to do with the process they use to add the gel that makes it more prone to reactions? or off gas more? I did smell my roommates memory foam mattress (she got her’s at ikea) and it doesn’t smell at all. granted it is a year old but she said her’s only smelled for a few days. and she never had a reaction to it, but she said it’s hard to breath in my room. anyway, I set up the filters today to sample the air. I put them about 6 inches above the mattress because I figure that’s where your head is when you’re sleeping/or laying on the mattress. I should have results within a couple weeks. When I went in my room I had the same reaction as before only not as severe. chest tightness and difficulty breathing… can’t wait to tell the store to get the thing out of my room…

I think I had a different rocky mountain mattress in mind? this one is in Lehi, UT. I’m not sure if these guys have the best prices but it would be nice to try out a mattress before buying it…


Hi railit,

Novaform is a brand name for a mattress not a foam but both of them use variations of gel foam made by Sleep Innovations (or their foam manufacturing division called Advanced Urethane Technologies).

This is the same company (and a member of this site). Their corporate headquarters is in Levi, Utah and they used to have a factory showroom in Conover (where the factory is located) and when they closed that (it was in the factory which was a liability issue) then they made an arrangement with Lake Mattress in Mooresville to test some of their mattresses there (or similar mattresses that they carry).


I’ve been finding lots of papers that attempt to quantify 2,4-TDA and 2,6-TDA (toluenediamine) in memory foam products. These are both biproducts of the chemical process to make memory foam and are suspected carcinogens. It appears that current thought it you can be exposed to around 1 ppm without adverse effects. However, the CertiPUR certification allows up to 5 ppm.

One paper I found looked at ranges of 2,4-TDA over a 10 day period and found that 2,4-TDA decreased between 20-90% and 2,6-TDA decreased between 20-80%.

J. R. Johnson, D. Karlsson, M. Dalene, and G. Skarping, “Determination of aromatic amines in aqueous extracts of polyurethane foam using hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry.,” Analytica chimica acta, vol. 678, no. 1, pp. 117–23, Sep. 2010.

Another paper found ranges 2,4-TDA between undetectable - 6.9 ppm… and 2,6-TDA between undetectable - 6.3 ppm. These values all increased when the foam was heated - some being as high as 15 ppm.

Å. Marand, D. Karlsson, M. Dalene, and G. Skarping, “Extractable organic compounds in polyurethane foam with special reference to aromatic amines and derivatives thereof,” Analytica Chimica Acta, vol. 510, no. 1, pp. 109–119, May 2004.

Hi railit,

I think that the “truth” is that nobody really knows for sure and testing for individual chemicals or volatiles also doesn’t take into account the total loading of toxic chemicals that someone is exposed to that can increase sensitivity to any one of them (or to untested combinations). Over the course of decades … chemicals that were once considered “safe” within certain limits are now known to be potentially harmful to a percentage of the population but the science is nowhere near accurate enough as the amount of chemicals used in all parts of our society is increasing with results that are still not well understood.

CertiPur is a step in the right direction but empirical evidence suggests that the limits don’t account for all the population either because of individual differences between people or because of differences between different batches of material. Oeko-Tex is a more stringent qualification for many toxins and chemicals but in a decade even these may be discovered to to be too low as new information comes to light.

It can be frustrating when the simple act of buying a mattress leads to questions that nobody can answer with any specific degree of accuracy or that requires a degree in chemical engineering to be able to make sense of the information that is already available :unsure:


Got some VOC results:

benzene: 1.4 ppb
1,4-dichlorobenzene: 0.88 ppb
formaldehyde: 30 ppb
styrene: 0.47 ppb
toluene: 44 ppb
1,2,4-trimethylbenzene: 2.6 ppb
xylenes: 13 ppb

Not as high as I thought they might be but still disturbing that this stuff is potentially in the mattress.

I’m going to talk to the store tomorrow… if they won’t take it back I’m going to go on and measure for toluene diisocyanate, diphenylmethane diisocyanate, 2,4-toluenediamine, 2,6-toluenediamine and 4,4-methylenedianiline.

Hi railit,

I’d have to do some research to “translate” the results but they sure are interesting.

I’m curious about your testing protocol. Were these taken as random air samples in certain places in the room or at some predefined distance from the mattress?


I collected the air samples approximately 6 inches off the mattress (I figure this is about where your head is) over a period of 72 hours. The mattress had been already been out-gassing for two weeks before I collected the samples… and it was manufactured about two months ago.

All of these appear to fall within the guidelines of the certi-PUR certification. I however have a problem with how much benzene the certification allows. I also have a problem with how much TDA/MDA is allowed. As far as I can tell safe exposure to these is considered to be around 1 ppm but the certification allows up to 5 ppm. Also, it doesn’t look like they even test for toluene diisocyanate. I’m still trying to figure out he best way to test for these. So far it looks like I may have to cut the mattress so unless I figure something else out I won’t test for them unless they refuse to take the mattress back.

Also, it is true that these chemicals can come from other things such as pressed wood, varnish, carpet, paint, air fresheners, cleaning products etc. The carpet and paint in my room is VERY old (over 10 years) so it probably isn’t emitting much of anything. My dresser is old (over 40 years) and is solid wood (not pressed wood) so I doubt it’s emitting much either. I don’t use air fresheners, and the main cleaning product I use is a mix of vinegar/water.

I am planning to repeat this same test once I get a different mattress to be sure.

They refunded me for the mattress and are picking it up tomorrow. haha

Hi railit,

I think if I was presented with your numbers … whether I knew what they meant or not … my jaw would probably drop open and I would refund you as well just to be on the safe side.

You may be on to something :slight_smile: