IMPORTANT NOTE: This is not a medical site. You should always discuss medical matters with your doctor.
Memory Foam SmellFor all its advantages, memory foam isn't perfect. One of its disadvantages is that when new it does give off a distinctly unpleasant chemical smell.
Why Does It Smell So Bad?The chemical smell of new memory foam is due to a release of chemicals used in its manufacture. This release of smelly chemicals into the air is a process known technically as off-gassing.
All petrochemical based memory foam will offgas and smell when new. Most products will have been wrapped and sealed in the factory - trapping in the smell. When you open the packaging the odour is released and the foam continues to offgas for a while longer.
Whether or not this smell causes a serious problem for you depends on the brand of foam you buy and your sensitivity to the smell.
When Will It Go?So how long will this unpleasant chemical smell last?
It depends, both on the brand and on your sensitivity. There's no simple method for instant removal of the smell, there's no special trick to make it go away. Getting rid of it is really just a matter of ventilation and time. Leave the item out in the open in a place where it will get lots of fresh air... and wait.
Few people are able to sleep with their new memory foam product immediately they take it out of the packing. Personally I had to leave mine airing for about two days and even then I could still smell it slightly for a couple of days more. This seems to be about average for most people. However there are some who find they need to leave the foam to air for a couple of weeks before the bad smell fades enough for them to sleep with it.
Some are so sensitive to the smell that they simply give up waiting.
Exactly how long new memory foam smells bad depends on the brand and the manufacturing process. Some producers allow the products to air and lose the worst of the smell before packaging. This will eliminate much of the initial smell for the customer, however the process takes time and adds to the production cost. This pre-airing is therefore more common among premium rather than budget brands.
If you know that you're sensitive to smells in general then it might make sense to consider buying something small such as a memory foam pillow before investing in a large and more costly product such as mattress. This will give you a better idea of any problems that the offgas smell might create for you.
NASAHere's an interesting little piece of trivia: apparently it was this smell that kept memory foam "earthbound". Visco-elastic foam was initally designed for the NASA space programme to cushion astronauts from the effects of acceleration and is still often called space foam.
Unfortunately the smell produced by the off-gassing was enough to scupper this plan. In a well-aired bedroom, the bad smell of memory foam might dissipate quickly and become negligible. But in a small cabin with recycled air it would be a distinct problem - unlike us, the astronauts could hardly open a window.
And you thought you had it bad with your new pillow!