June 25, 2019 4 min read
The question -- will our mattress work for someone with sensitivities to smell/aromas -- is one without a simple answer. It is more nuanced. There are people suffering from multiple chemical sensitivies who do well on a latex mattress and don't have any problems where as there are others can't get anywhere near it. Everyone is different. We can't in good faith recommend a product where potentially 30% of the people may have a problem with it.
Peoples' sensitivities to smell are complex in their own right and as a layman I'm not qualified to even begin to address them. While many people consider latex to have a "neutral" aroma, others are affected differently by what they smell. The challenge is smell can be very subjective depending on your sensitivities.
We have no set point for the “scent” of latex, wool, or cotton, as everyone’s sense of smell is different. Some people open their mattress and don’t notice a smell, or if there is one, it doesn’t bother them. Others are more sensitive to smells and find it takes more time for the smell of latex to dissipate.
Sometimes, odor and off-gassing get mixed together. To clarify, odor is something that we can't get away from it. Nearly everything smells like something, unless of course it's odorless like certain gasses. How it affects people is totally subjective. One person can walk into our warehouse full of natural latex and not notice anything out of the ordinary. Another person will lay their head on a latex pillow and reach for the oxygen tank [okay, maybe a bit exaggerated, but you get the point].
Everyone's olfactory glands are different, so it depends on how sensitive you are to odors that will affect your experience. Here's an article from Good Magazine that [profiles the talents of one super smeller]. We've sometimes heard that an odor is noticed when the mattress is new to one's home, but that it's not noticeable after a couple of days. Others claim they've smelled it for weeks...or that they still smell it for months. One out of a thousand will say the smell on a latex mattress never goes away. This is regardless of the manufacturer or process and relates more to one’s sensitivity to smells.
The most common complaint for us is related to the smell of the wool. This time of year with high humidity and heat can exacerbate the aromas associated with the wool. In this case, the best thing to do is unzip the cover, remove the top quilting to expose the latex, and place the top cover in a well ventilated area. If possible, aim a fan right at the mattress and another at the top cover. The more air circulation you can get going, the better. This would help ameliorate the smell.
Our wool is minimally processed. It is sheared and sent to a scouring train, which is five bowls of hot water with a mild detergent in the first bowl. We do minimal processing to make sure that the wool maintains it flame resistant properties. Also, the lanolin contained inside of the wool which can contribute to the aromas is an important part of the flame proofing. So, we can't strip out the lanolin to reduce the aroma. Wool can also smell stronger initially in more humid environments and it's a fairly common experience with wool that has had less processing. Either way it's certainly not harmful and should hopefully diminish over time to levels that most people won't notice.
A lot of wool producers add a masking agent like febreeze to chemically treat it to eliminate the odor. Unfortunately, one of the challenges of using a natural product is the aromas associated with it can't be easily minimized. There are a few options to reduce it.
- Direct sunlight for 8 - 16 hours is a great option, but I realize that this isn't always practical.
- There is a good natural deodorizer called Mrs Meyers Room Freshener. The cover can be very lightly sprayed with it in the morning and don’t put the sheets back on until the late evening so that it has time to dry. Do not saturate the cover.
- Remove sheets and mattress protector. During the day for a few days or a week. Put a few fans blowing air onto the cover.
Unfortunately, we do not provide sample kits. The main reason is a small hand sample is not representative of a large piece or the variation between batches. A small hand sample isn't helpful in determining how our mattress will feel. And, for testing smell and appearance, a test kit is not the best solution as there is variation from batch to batch. We could send you a very fresh piece and it may not have a scent that bothers you, but the next batch could vary slightly and be found offensive. For people concerned about latex allergies, we usually recommend this as a good, affordable latex pillow. It comes only in one height and firmness, but is a great value at $50. But, if you are highly sensitive to smell, I'm unsure if a pillow would provide an adequate test. There can be a lot of variation in smell from one batch to the next. Plus, the wool and cotton have an aroma as well. So, you'll only be testing one variable.
For someone who is chemically sensitive, we would highly discourage buying a mattress online. For those suffering from this, there is a broad spectrum. Some have such a highly accentuated sense of smell that even the aromas of natural materials can have a negative impact on them. So, it all depends on where someone is on the spectrum. For those with heightened sensitivities, we'd recommend visiting a local manufacturer where you test out the exact materials going into your bed. The challenge with any latex regardless of process is scent can vary from batch to batch. The same is true for the wool and cotton. There is a natural variation in materials. In fact, someone contacted us yesterday saying the bought two pieces of 100% natural latex at different times from the a different company than us and one smelled and the other didn't. And, the latex was identical and from the same source. Going to show, there is natural variation beyond our control that can lead to problems for people.