Why Do Bamboo Pillows Smell?

Published Categorized as Pillows, Bedding

Have you recently purchased a bamboo pillow with a chemical smell when you first opened the packaging?

Bamboo pillows smell because they are typically filled with shredded memory foam that is manufactured using polyurethane and other chemicals. The chemical smell some pillows release is known as “off-gassing” and is created by the pillow being encased in packaging and not being able to breathe. 

The intensity of the smell can be affected by the types of chemicals used and the density of the foam.

Some bamboo pillows contain bamboo fiber filling which is more breathable than memory foam and may emit fewer off-gassing odors. 

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How Long Does The Bamboo Pillow Smell Last?

There is good news: off-gassing odors do go away.

The chemical smell from the bamboo pillow’s memory foam will generally go away within a few hours to a few days (at worst up to 4 weeks).

bamboo pillow smell

Is Memory Foam Toxic or Dangerous?

The short answer is that “it depends.”

The chemicals used in the production of memory foam are known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and they can release several vapors or gases.

VOCs are unfortunately an unavoidable part of polyurethane foams, even those that contain a percentage of green materials like bamboo pillows. 

It is important to know that almost every household product emits some sort of VOC; even fruit emits it. 

The critical question is how harmful these emissions are.

There are some VOCs that are highly toxic, while others do not cause any harm. It’s also worth noting that some VOCs are odorless.

The off-gassing fumes from low-quality memory foam may be more potent.

Some memory foam pillows are scented with industrial deodorizers and perfumes to hide the chemical smell of the foam. Several of these perfumes contain chemicals and are likely not to be recommended for inhalation.

The bottom line is: 

It’s always advisable to shop for high-quality memory foam products that are certified to be low in VOC.

One of the certification standards for flexible polyurethane foam is CertiPUR-US

CertiPUR-US certified memory foams are made without:

  • Low VOC emissions for indoor air quality (less than 0.5 parts per million)
  • PBDEs, TDCPP or TCEP (“Tris”) flame retardants
  • Heavy metals such as lead and mercury
  • Mercury, lead and other heavy metals
  • Ozone depleters
  • Formaldehyde
  • Phthalates

The bamboo pillow below is GreenGuard Gold Certified (includes a Plush Kool-Flow Bamboo Bed Pillow Cover):

Best for Low-VOC Emissions
Snuggle-Pedic Original Pillows for Sleeping - Ultra Luxury GreenGuard Gold Certified Shredded Memory Foam Pillow w/ Plush Kool-Flow Bamboo Bed Pillow Cover, Made in The USA - Queen Size

Rest easy knowing that these memory foam pillows are put under stringent third party lab testing and are GreenGuard Gold Certified to ensure your safety, quality and comfort.

What Are The Possible Side Effects Of Memory Foam?

While most people are unaffected by memory foam pillows, some people are extremely sensitive to the emissions.

The possible side effects of memory foam pillows include headaches, dizziness, nausea, loss of coordination, eye and throat irritation, or difficulty breathing, and asthma. 

memory foam side effects

In general, symptoms disappear if you are not near the memory foam, and they also disappear once the off-gassing has dissipated.

Acute and long-term VOC exposure can have severe negative health effects like kidney, liver, or central nervous system damage.

Luckily the amount of VOCs you are exposed to while your pillow is off-gassing is relatively low.

However, the most important thing is to reduce your exposure to VOC as much as possible.

It is worth noting that no study has proven that memory foam can cause cancer.

Off-gassing components, however, are listed as carcinogens or possible carcinogens. 

How Do You Get Rid Of Memory Foam Smell?

You can get rid of the memory foam smell by airing it out. You can also use bamboo charcoal, baking soda, or an enzyme spray.

Air It Out

Experts recommend letting your memory foam pillow off-gas in a well-ventilated area. 

If possible, put the pillow outside, or leave it near an open window.

Bamboo Charcoal (Activated Charcoal)

You can use bamboo charcoal to get rid of VOCs. 

Activated charcoal is 100% safe and natural, plus it’s odorless and tasteless.

The activated charcoal acts as an air filter because it has millions of tiny pores that absorb all the harmful chemicals efficiently. 

Due to its high surface area, bamboo charcoal can trap VOCs.

Best VOC Eliminator
12 Pack Bamboo Charcoal Air Purifying Bag, Activated Charcoal Bags Odor Absorber, Moisture Absorber, Natural Car Air Freshener, Shoe Deodorizer, Odor Eliminators For Home, Pet, Closet (6x50g, 6x150g)

Activated bamboo charcoal carbon adsorption capacity is three times stronger than ordinary carbon. Bamboo activated charcoal is a natural deodorant without fragrance, very healthy for cats, dog and baby.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is another excellent natural deodorizer.

Sprinkle baking soda on the pillow, then let it sit for a few hours or overnight for the best results. 

Then suck up the baking soda with a hand vacuum cleaner that has a soft brush.

Best Natural Deodorizer
Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda Shaker - 12 Oz

This container is much more convenient than the traditional cardboard box. Leave it on your sink, don’t worry about getting the box wet and making it useless. Plus it’s great to use as “shaker” when you apply it for cleaning. (MUCH easier than shaking it out in “clumps” from the cardboard box.)

Vodka Spray

You can use pure, high-proof (unflavored) vodka, then spray onto your pillow.

Give the pillow ample time to dry because as the alcohol evaporates, it’ll carry the smell with it.

If you’re not comfortable using 100% vodka, you can mix with some water to dilute the spray.

The empty spray bottles below are perfect for this task:

Best for DIY
Pinnacle Mercantile Plastic Spray Bottles Leak Proof Technology Empty 32 oz Pack of 3 Made in USA

Sprayer features a long lasting polypropylene spray head, tight and secure cap closure, internal cap gasket, 302 stainless steel spring and a precision valve and piston, for a no clog and no leak experience.

Enzyme Spray

If you’re still struggling to get rid of the memory foam smell, you might want to try an enzyme spray.

These sprays are made to work with the most pungent smells like animal urine and vomit.

The spray below contains a professional strength Pro-Bacteria and enzyme formula that can be used on upholstery, clothes, bedding, and fabrics:

Best for Extreme Odors
Simple Solution Extreme Pet Stain and Odor Remover | Enzymatic Cleaner with 3X Pro-Bacteria Cleaning Power | 32 Ounces

Simple Solution pet Extreme Stain and Odor remover is three times stonger than their regular formula to eliminate tough odors and stains.

Home Cleaning Solutions To Avoid

Some home cleaning solutions include throwing the pillows into the dryer with a dryer sheet. 

Be aware that you shouldn’t put a memory foam pillow in the dryer or washer unless its recommended by the manufacturer.

The movement inside your washer or dryer can break up the foam or cause the pillow to tear.

If you need to wash your memory foam pillow, it’ll need to be hand-washed, or you can spot clean with a damp cloth and a small amount of mild detergent.