Why Does My Mattress Smell?

Last Updated On April 18th, 2024
Why Does My Mattress Smell?

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding the Causes of Mattress Odors: Various factors contribute to mattress odors, including the “new mattress smell” from volatile organic compounds (VOCs), accumulation of body oils and dead skin cells, presence of dust mites, and materials like memory foam. Even waterproof mattress protectors can trap odors if not breathable.
  • Effective Methods to Eliminate Odors: To combat mattress odors, airing out the mattress in fresh air, spot cleaning and air drying spills promptly, using baking soda as an odor absorber, and employing natural deodorizers like white vinegar and essential oils are effective strategies. Regular cleaning and maintenance, along with proper ventilation, can prevent odors from developing.
  • Preventative Measures for Long-Term Freshness: To maintain a fresh mattress, consider using a mattress topper or cover for added protection, regularly vacuuming the mattress surface, sprinkling baking soda periodically, and ensuring good airflow in the room. Addressing specific odor sources, such as pet dander, and promptly dealing with spills or stains can help prevent odors from becoming persistent.

Have you ever wondered why that fresh, new mattress smell seems to fade away and get replaced by an unpleasant odor? Perhaps you’ve noticed a lingering odor on your mattress, and you’re wondering where it’s coming from. Why does your mattress smell?

In this article, we’re going to dive deep into the world of mattress odors, exploring the culprits behind those unwanted smells and providing you with effective tips to eliminate and prevent them. Whether you have a new mattress or an old one, memory foam or traditional, we’ve got you covered.

Save $450 On Any Mattress

Plus free shipping

Get $450 OFF Mattresses

The Culprits Behind Mattress Odors

Is your new mattress emitting an unpleasant smell? There are several factors that can contribute to mattress odors, including:

New Mattress Smell

When you first bring home a new mattress, it may have a distinct odor, commonly known as the “new mattress smell.” This smell is often a result of volatile organic compounds ( VOCs Verified Source Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Works to control/prevent natural and manmade disasters. View source ) released by the mattress materials.

Remember, even if you can’t smell them, some chemicals in your mattress might still be releasing gases, so it’s best to let your mattress air out for as long as possible.  While this smell is usually temporary and dissipates over time, it can still be bothersome.

Accumulation of Body Oils and Dead Skin Cells

Over time, your mattress can accumulate body oils and dead skin cells, which can lead to the formation of foul odors. These substances can penetrate into the mattress fabric and create an unpleasant smell.

Dust Mites

Dust mites are microscopic creatures that feed on dead skin cells. Their presence in your mattress can contribute to foul odors. Dust mite droppings contain enzymes that can cause allergic reactions and emit an unpleasant smell.

Mattress Mold

Mold on a mattress can cause a funky, musty smell due to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs) produced by mold growth. When mold spores land on a damp surface, such as a mattress exposed to moisture from sweat or spills, they can begin to grow and multiply.

As mold colonies develop, they release gases as part of their metabolic processes. These gases, including VOCs and MVOCs, have distinctive musty or earthy odors that are commonly associated with mold.

Furthermore, mold secretes enzymes and other substances as it feeds on organic material present in the mattress, such as dust, skin cells, and body oils. These substances can break down mattress materials and contribute to the development of additional odors.

Memory Foam Mattresses

Memory foam mattresses, known for their comfort and support, may also emit a chemical-like smell. This can be attributed to the release of VOCs from the foam.

While memory foam mattresses are generally safe, the smell can be bothersome for some individuals.

Waterproof Mattress Protectors

While waterproof mattress protectors are great for preventing spills and stains on your mattress, they can also contribute to odors. If not properly breathable, these protectors can trap moisture, body heat, and odors, creating an environment conducive to bacterial growth and unpleasant smells.

Try washing your mattress protector and if that doesn’t remedy its smell, replacing it entirely.

Even though they can hold onto smells, we do not recommend you avoid using a protector. Having a mattress protector can even help prevent your mattress from developing unpleasant odors over time by acting as a barrier against spills, sweat, and other sources of moisture.

In the next section, we will discuss easy solutions to eliminate mattress odors and refresh your bed.

Tips to Eliminate Mattress Odors

Is your mattress emitting unpleasant odors? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are some effective methods to get rid of those unwanted smells and keep your mattress fresh:

Air it Out in Fresh Air

One of the simplest and most effective ways to eliminate mattress odors is to allow it to air out in a well-ventilated area. This is especially helpful if you’re looking to revitalize a dusty mattress.

Find a sunny spot outdoors or open the windows in your bedroom to let in fresh air. This will help to neutralize odors and freshen up your mattress naturally.

Spot Clean and Air Dry

If you have a spill or stain on your mattress, it’s important to address it promptly to prevent smells from setting in. Blot the affected area with paper towels to absorb any liquid. Then, air dry the mattress completely before putting sheets or covers back on. This will help to prevent mold and mildew growth and keep your mattress fresh.

In case you encounter stubborn odors or spills, a natural and effective solution is to spot clean using white vinegar. Mix a few drops of white vinegar with water and lightly spray the affected area. Blot the area with a clean cloth and allow it to air dry. White vinegar is a powerful natural deodorizer that can neutralize many smells.

Baking Soda: The Odor Absorber

Baking soda is a powerful natural odor neutralizer. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over your mattress, paying extra attention to areas that smell the strongest. Let it sit overnight or for several hours to allow it to absorb the odors.

Then, using a vacuum cleaner with an upholstery attachment, thoroughly vacuum the mattress to suck up all the baking soda.

Natural Odor Neutralizers

For a natural and refreshing scent to freshen up a mattress, consider using essential oils or distilled white vinegar. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to a spray bottle filled with water and lightly spritz your mattress.

Alternatively, place a few bowls of distilled white vinegar around your mattress. Both methods will help to neutralize odors and leave your mattress smelling pleasant.

Preventing Future Mattress Odors

If you want to keep your mattress fresh and free from unpleasant odors in the long run, there are a few key steps you can follow.

To start, make sure you take care of your bed’s surface by regularly cleaning it. Use a vacuum cleaner with an upholstery attachment to remove any dust, hair, or particles that may accumulate over time. This will help prevent bad smells and maintain a hygienic sleeping environment.

Consider sprinkling baking soda on your mattress every few months to absorb odors, especially if you have pets or tend to sweat during the night. Allow the baking soda to sit for a few hours or overnight before vacuuming it off.

For mattresses with a strong chemical odor, such as some memory foam mattresses, lightly spraying the surface with a natural deodorizer can help neutralize the smell. Look for a deodorizer that is specifically designed for mattresses and contains ingredients like essential oils.

Another tip to prevent mattress odors is to ensure that your room is well-ventilated. Proper air circulation can help reduce moisture and prevent mold in the bedroom, which can cause foul smells. Open windows whenever possible and use fans or air purifiers to keep the air fresh.

If you have pets, be sure to address pet dander regularly. Vacuuming your mattress and using a pet-specific upholstery attachment can help remove pet hair and dander, reducing the chances of odors lingering.

If you worry about smells lingering in your mattress from sweat and such, consider investing in a mattress topper or mattress pad. These can provide an extra layer of protection for your mattress and prevent odors from seeping in. Look for a mattress topper or cover that is breathable and easy to remove and wash.


How do you get the smell out of a mattress?

To get rid of smells from a mattress, you can start by sprinkling baking soda over the surface and letting it sit for a few hours. Then, vacuum up the baking soda.

You can also try airing out the mattress in a well-ventilated area or using a fabric freshener designed for mattresses.

Is it normal for a mattress to smell?

It’s normal for a new mattress to have a slight odor initially due to the materials and packaging. This smell, often described as “off-gassing,” should dissipate over time, usually within a few days to a few weeks as the mattress airs out.

If the smell persists or is particularly strong, it’s a good idea to contact the manufacturer for guidance.

What should I spray on my mattress?

One effective spray for freshening your mattress is a mixture of water and essential oils for sleep, such as lavender or tea tree oil. Simply mix a few drops of your chosen oil with water in a spray bottle and lightly mist the mattress surface. The natural scent of the oils can help neutralize odors and leave your mattress smelling fresh.

You can make up a similar mixture to create a pillow spray for sleep, too!

Why does my bed smell musty?

A musty smell in your bed could be caused by moisture accumulation, dust mites, or mold growth. To address this issue, try airing out your mattress regularly by opening windows or using a fan to improve ventilation in the room.

Additionally, using a dehumidifier can help reduce moisture levels, preventing musty odors from developing along with promoting good humidity for sleep.

How can I deodorize my mattress without a vacuum?

If you don’t have a vacuum on hand, you can still deodorize your mattress using other methods. One option is to sprinkle baking soda over the surface, as it can absorb odors effectively. Let the baking soda sit for a few hours or overnight, then use a clean cloth or brush to gently scrub the surface and remove the baking soda along with any trapped odors.

You also try to lightly mist above the surface with a scented spray, to counteract any lingering smells.


To keep your mattress fresh and odor-free, make sure your sleeping area is well-ventilated to prevent the buildup of mold and mildew. This can be achieved by opening windows or using a fan to circulate fresh air regularly.

When addressing specific odors, consider spraying a mixture of cornstarch and baking soda directly on the affected areas. This combination acts as a natural deodorizer and helps absorb unpleasant smells. Remember to let it sit for a while before vacuuming your bed using a regular vacuum with an upholstery cleaner attachment.

By following these simple tips and incorporating them into your regular mattress maintenance routine, you can enjoy a clean and odor-free sleeping environment. Say goodbye to unwanted smells and hello to a fresh and inviting bed that promotes restful sleep.

About the author

April Mayer is a sleep expert and writer with a degree in exercise physiology. She has dedicated her career to exploring the relationship between sleep and productivity. Her insightful articles, such as "The Surprising Way Your Mood Might Be Messing With Your Productivity" and "Wake Up to More Productive Mornings," have been featured in reputable publications like Forbes, Greatist, Real Homes, Thrillist, Tom's Guide, and Eat This, Not That. With a passion for helping others lead more productive lives through restful sleep, April offers valuable expertise on foods and vitamins for better sleep. As a trusted member of the Early Bird team since March 2020, she continues to provide informative and well-researched content.

View all posts

Discover the ultimate sleep system

Choose your mattress

Shop top-rated mattresses with proven sleep-boosting materials.

Get a pillow

We have the perfect pillow to pair with your mattress.

Browse Pillows

Pick out bedding

Bring out the best in your mattress with our soft and breathable bedding.

Browse Bedding