The process of manufacturing furniture exposes them to chemicals. Sometimes, the furniture absorbs certain chemicals referred to as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). New furniture attempts to get rid of some of these VOCs through the process of off-gassing or out-gassing.
In some cases, off-gassing can last throughout the lifespan of an item. How long it takes for furniture to off-gas is dependent on a couple of factors. Here is a guide to help you handle furniture off-gassing.
On average, it takes 1-5 years for furniture to stop off-gassing. The smell may be unnoticeable after only 6 months, although off-gassing is still ongoing. Furniture size, material, and location are involved in determining the exact time required for off-gassing.
Average Off-Gassing Time
The time it takes for furniture to off-gas varies from one product to the next. Naturally, porous items absorb a larger quantity of VOCs and tend to off-gas more than their non-porous counterparts.
Also, products made from plywood or particle boards contain more VOCs than those crafted from solid wood.
Furniture off-gases intensely during the first few months (approximately the first six months) after they are purchased. The intensity reduces over time. But on average it takes between 1-5 years for furniture to stop noticeably off-gassing.
Still Off-Gassing After Smell Disappears
The odor released by VOCs varies from one item to the next and sometimes these chemicals can be odorless. So, the absence of what I like to call “new furniture smell” is not always an indication that the item isn’t off-gassing.
Additionally, the odor released through the process of off-gassing reduces over time. After a while, the smell would become less pungent or it might disappear altogether. However, certain products continue to release chemicals even after they stop smelling.
It’s also worth noting that off-gassing doesn’t stop when you apply odor-absorbing substances like baking soda and vinegar to stop furniture from smelling.
Factors Affecting the Rate of Off-Gassing
The rate and intensity at which furniture releases VOCs is dependent on factors like the type/quantity of the chemicals used, the type of material used, the size of the furniture, and even the location of the furniture.
The material used to build the furniture determines the concentration of VOCs in it.
Furniture that is crafted from artificially generated materials would most likely release more VOCs than those that are fashioned from natural materials.
For instance, furniture made from engineered wood like plywood and particleboard has a higher concentration of VOCs than furniture made from solid wood. Also, mattresses that are made with organic cotton or natural latex do not off-gas as much as those made from synthetic materials.
Additionally, porous surfaces absorb chemicals more than those that are non-porous. So, they tend to off-gas for longer.
Size of the Item
The amount of chemicals used during furniture manufacturing is dependent on the size of the item. Naturally, larger items take up more chemicals than smaller furniture. Thus, they tend to off-gas longer than smaller pieces of furniture.
For instance, finishing products like paints and sealants often contain VOCs and the amount of finishing that’s applied to a piece of furniture is determined by the size of the item. A big piece of furniture means a larger surface area to cover and vice versa.
Additionally, a small piece of furniture in a spacious room isn’t likely to pollute the air as much as a larger item would.
Location of Item
High temperatures expedite chemical reactions. As a result, off-gassing is more intense in warm areas than in cooler locations.
I recommend that off-gassing furniture is placed in well-ventilated rooms. This can also increase the rate of off-gassing and it improves your comfort and decreases the health risks of VOCs.
Off-gassing is also more pungent in cramped spaces so, it’s best to put the item in a spacious location until after the first six months.
Steps Taken to Speed up the Process
Short of getting rid of the furniture, there is no way you can stop it from off-gassing into your home. However, you can hasten the off-gassing process and also reduce the odor released by VOCs.
Here are some ways to do that:
- Allow moveable items to air out in the sun for a couple of weeks.
- Improve the ventilation in the room.
- Use substances like baking soda and vinegar to reduce the off-gassing smell.
- Use a purifier (like the Reme Halo LED) to improve indoor air quality.
- Set your gas or electric heater to high temperatures to speed up the off-gassing process.
- Purchase used furniture.