Tempur-Pedic and other memory foam mattresses contain chemicals that create an unpleasant smell, especially right after you remove the shipping materials when you set them up. The variety of petroleum-based products used to make the memory foam can off-gas, especially when sealed up in plastic bags from the factory. Air out the mattress in a well-ventilated room before sleeping on it if you find the smell too offensive.
A Bit of History
Memory foam beds don't have any springs in them; they consist of several layers of different types of foam and materials, the top layer being the memory foam. Tempur-Pedic has a proprietary formula for its mattresses, but most memory foam mattresses consist of the visco-elastic cellular foam formula originally developed for NASA pilot seats, but never used. Charles Yost, the engineer and owner of the patent, sold the formula in the 1970s, which is how it ended up in mattresses and other products, such as motorcycle helmets.
Tempur-Pedic recommends a two-week break-in period for its new mattresses. The break-in period accomplishes two things: getting used to the way the mattress feels and getting rid of its new-foam odor. Ensure the mattress is in a room with a temperature of at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and that you spend time on it to get its cells to open so they can breathe properly.
Air It Out
One way to speed the airing out process is to set the mattress outdoors in warm weather to air it out. Set it on a porch atop an old sheet, or bring four kitchen chairs outside spaced apart in the dimensions of the mattress. Arrange boards between the chairs and cover them with a sheet before adding the mattress. This allows air to circulate all around the mattress, while the sheet protects it from splinters. A good 8- to 12-hour airing can remove most of the harsh odors.
The Fan Method
When you don't want to go to the trouble of airing the mattress outdoors, set the bed up in the room where you plan to use it, but don't sleep on it until it the smell has dissipated. Don't cover it with bedding -- open up the windows and exhaust the air in the room with reverse fans until you can't smell the mattress odor. Verify the temperature in the room is at least 65 degrees F to ensure the cells open up to release any gases or odors they contain.
The mattress itself doesn't require a lot of care. Do not flip the mattress, because it only has the memory foam on one side. Locate the care tag to verify you can remove the cover for washing, or look for a zipper. Removable covers usually have a zipper closure that runs along the side or bottom of the mattress. Do not use harsh detergents, chemicals or bleach when cleaning the cover; wash it in cold water, and dry outdoors or on the low setting in the dryer. For liquid spills, remove the cover and wash; soak up the liquid with a clean cloth by pressing down firmly on the mattress. Set up a fan to hasten drying, if needed. Do not apply detergents directly to the mattress.