New mattresses made from synthetic materials often contain at least a few hazardous chemicals such as flame retardants. Plastic bags that keep the mattress clean before purchase also trap the chemicals and their odors in the mattress. Air out the mattress for at least a few days, then sprinkle baking soda over it to remove any lingering odors.
Why It Matters
Synthetic mattresses -- crib and toddler mattresses included -- are made from materials such as polyurethane foam, which emit volatile organic compounds, also known as VOCs. Besides the odor, VOCs may contribute to asthma attacks or allergic reactions for those with chemical sensitivities. Even the adhesive used to hold mattress parts together may contain formaldehyde, another potentially harmful chemical. Flame retardants, which are required by law on most mattresses, are another potential source of chemical fumes you may smell on a new mattress. Even all-natural mattresses may contain these flame retardants, unless the mattress tag or packaging specifically states otherwise.
A Healthy Dose of Fresh Air
Fresh-air treatment is the optimal way to rid a new mattress of strong odors, whether the mattress is an old-fashioned innerspring design or made of memory foam. Even crib mattresses benefit from a good airing out, both for a better scent and for added safety. Remove the plastic bag or any outer wrapper covering the mattress, then air it out in a protected outdoor environment. A screened-in porch or an open garage allows airflow while protecting the mattress from some airborne debris. Air out the mattress for at least several days before using it; this allows ample time for any chemicals to off-gas or convert into gas form and leave the mattress. Vacuum the mattress afterward with an upholstery brush in case it was exposed to pollen. If you are unable to find a suitable outdoor location, set the mattress on its end against a table or other stable object in a room you won't need to use for a few days. Open the windows in the room, turn on fans and close the door while the mattress airs out. If you have a box fan or window fan, aim the fan so it draws air out of the room.
Check on the mattress frequently if you air it out in a garage to ensure no animals or insects get on it; if you are concerned that could happen, air the mattress out elsewhere.
Baking Soda: Freshness Booster
If the mattress still smells after airing it out, sprinkle baking soda on it and allow it to sit overnight before vacuuming up the powder. Sprinkle baking soda on the flip side of the mattress the next day, letting the baking soda sit overnight again before vacuuming it up. If the mattress smells enough that you notice the odor while standing anywhere in the same room, place a few bowls of vinegar around the room, leave the room and close the door behind you to let the vinegar absorb airborne odors overnight.
Kathy Adams is an award-winning writer. She is an avid DIYer that is equally at home repurposing random objects into new, useful creations as she is at supporting community gardening efforts and writing about healthy alternatives to household chemicals. She's written numerous DIY articles for paint and decor companies, as well as for Black + Decker, Hunker, SFGate, Landlordology and others.