Why Do Bamboo Pillows Smell? 🛌 (And How To Fix It)

There are several compelling reasons to consider a bamboo pillow if you are in the market for a new pillow. Nevertheless, one particular characteristic might catch you off guard when you first take the product out of the package.

In most cases, a bamboo pillow will produce a unique odor that many people find somewhat objectionable.

Even though I now prefer to sleep on a bamboo pillow, I have always wondered what causes that smell, so I decided to do some research on the topic.

In the sections below, I’ll discuss where this odor comes from and, more importantly, what you can do to get rid of it so you can put your head down without any strange scents coming out of your new pillow.

What causes a bamboo pillow to smell? The simple answer is that the odor comes from something called the off-gassing process. This term refers to the emission of a volatile organic compound, several of which can be used to create the memory foam that is used to fill the bamboo pillow.

As for how strong the smell will be or how long it will last, each of these factors can vary considerably based on the foam’s manufacturing process and the quality of the pillow’s construction.

For this reason, spending a little more upfront is often a good idea to ensure you purchase the best possible product. Not only will this ensure that the pillow will remain comfortable, plush, and supportive for as long as possible, but it will likely result in a less conspicuous smell.

After taking care of these simple steps, you’ll likely determine that owning a bamboo pillow is worth the time and effort it takes to prepare it for your first night sleeping on this innovative product. 

What Can You Do to Eliminate the Smell?

There are a few helpful tips and tricks owners of bamboo pillows can use to reduce or completely remove the odor that can come out of the product upon bringing a new pillow home.

Not all of these strategies are effective in every situation, but each represents a good place to start in your goal of deodorizing any bamboo pillow. Here are some of the steps you can take:

  • Air out the pillow thoroughly.
  • Shake the pillow out vigorously.
  • Spray the pillow with some vodka.
  • Try an effective enzyme spray.

The most common method of dissipating the odor is as simple as letting the pillow breathe for a while. If you buy a bamboo pillow in the morning and allow it to sit out in the sun for the entire day, the smell will likely be a lot less pronounced by the time you get in bed that night.

Of course, it is important to note that the smell could still stick around for a few days, so do not be concerned if some ventilation doesn’t take care of everything all at once. In addition to simply letting it air out on its own, you might also choose to give it a hearty shake.

This will allow more air to circulate through the shredded foam interior and will likely help the odor escape into the atmosphere more quickly. An additional benefit of shaking your new bamboo pillow is that it will add some body and bounce to the foam filling.

Since the chunks of memory foam inside can become compressed during the shipping process, it is a good idea to fluff it up before sleeping it on the first time.

Since bamboo pillows are often harder and heavier than other types of pillows, a vigorous shake at the outset will help create the most comfortable experience possible.

If simply airing out the pillow doesn’t work or takes too long to remove the smell, you can also try spritzing the pillow with a small amount of vodka. Since it has a high amount of alcohol, this liquid will evaporate quickly and will likely take most of the odor out of the foam as it dries.

Just make sure you leave plenty of time for all the moisture to escape from the pillow before you try to sleep on it to ensure that it still has all of the comfort and softness that bamboo pillows are known for offering.

If you don’t want to use vodka for any reason, you can also try an enzyme spray. These products are often used to remove stains from a variety of fabrics and can also be effective at removing objectionable odors.

There are a number of great options available, and they can typically be found near the laundry detergent and fabric softeners at your local supermarket. It’s also easy to find these sprays online.

Look for a highly recommended enzyme spray with a great reputation for breaking down compounds that can restore a neutral pH balance and eliminate odors.

In basic terms, enzymes are proteins that can act as natural cleaners, and sprays can include a variety of versions, including lipases, proteases, and amylases. Any or all of these enzymes are likely to assist you when you’re trying to reduce the initial off-gassing odor from your new bamboo pillow.

What Are Some of the Volatile Organic Compounds Used to Create the Foam?

Several types of chemicals are frequently used to create the memory foam added to common bamboo pillows’ interior.

Although it is not necessary to completely understand the properties and compounds that create each of the following chemicals, at least it might be a good idea to be familiar with their names.

You can typically find out more about the process used to create a particular pillow’s foam by checking out the manufacturer’s website or simply checking the fine print on the package that your pillow came in when you bought it.

You might encounter certain other volatile organic compounds that are not on the following list, but these are the most common ones currently used the in manufacturing process of memory foam products:

  • Formaldehyde
  • Methylene chloride
  • Vinylidene chloride
  • Chlorofluorocarbons
  • Benzene
  • Toluene

It is possible that you are already familiar with a few of the names listed above, but unless you’re a science whiz, you probably don’t know what each one of them does. In layman’s terms, these chemicals work to create a stable and reliable foam material that will stand up to frequent use.

Although they do result in some smells you might not enjoy at first, you’ll soon realize the importance of these compounds when you are enjoying a relaxing and restful night of sleep with a supportive bamboo pillow cradling your head and neck.

Are These Chemicals Harmful to Your Health?

When you learn that there could be a range of chemicals in the foam that is filling your new bamboo pillow, it’s only natural to be concerned about the potential negative impact they could have on your health.

The good news is that the manufacturing process is highly regulated, and companies are required only to use chemicals that do not have any known health disadvantages when the pillow is used as directed.

Even though you might not enjoy the smell that comes out of the foam when you first purchase it, there is no real need to worry about whether sleeping on these pillows will have any short-term or long-term consequences that could impact your physical health.

Of course, there are a few exceptions that you should consider before deciding to purchase a new bamboo pillow. Some people might find that frequently sleeping on a new pillow can result in minor irritations to their eyes or throat.

An even smaller portion of users can experience breathing problems, nausea, or headaches. The good news is that these symptoms typically clear up quickly after a person gets up from the bed and can go away entirely when the compounds are no longer emitting the smell.

Despite all the evidence that bamboo pillows pose no real health risks, some regulators have labeled certain chemicals that could be used in manufacturing as possible carcinogens.

This is good information to have, but no conclusive studies have shown that sleeping on a bamboo pillow will increase your risk of cancer.

If you’re trying to keep your exposure to chemicals as low as possible, other pillow options are certified organic and contain no volatile organic compounds.

Nevertheless, if you’re interested in a bamboo pillow, you can always shop around for the highest quality products that can be aired more easily and reduce your overall exposure to chemicals.

While I’ve touched on a few of the health-related reasons that some people might not want to choose a bamboo pillow, it is important to focus on several possible health benefits you can expect after sleeping on one of these pillows for a while.

For starters, the hypoallergenic properties of bamboo are present in each pillow and can provide relief if you suffer from various allergies when trying to sleep.

Additionally, the breathable fabric and natural qualities of the bamboo fiber have been shown to restore a beautiful luster to your hair and might even be able to clear up skin that is prone to acne breakouts.

Finally, people who snore or have certain minor respiratory problems could potentially see those symptoms reduced or eliminated after using a bamboo pillow because of its ability to remove microbes, dust mites, and other germs that could create breathing issues. 

Related Questions

Should you wash your bamboo pillow?

Experts recommend that you wait at least six months to wash your bamboo pillow, so this does not represent a good strategy if you are trying to remove the odor caused by the chemicals in the foam.

It is helpful to wash your bamboo pillow when it becomes soiled or stained, and it can require a few specific steps to launder the product adequately.

First, take the foam out of the pillow and keep it in a safe location. Since it is naturally antimicrobial and hypoallergenic, it will generally not need to be cleaned. The liner on the outside should be machine washable, or you can opt to wash it by hand in the sink.

Use lukewarm water and a gentle detergent before letting it air dry or tumble it gently in the dryer until it is no longer damp.

Are bamboo pillows environmentally friendly?

There is still some debate about whether bamboo pillows are good or bad for the environment. On one hand, bamboo is a sustainable natural resource that can regrow quickly after harvest. The inherent properties of bamboo help clean the air, water, and soil as it grows and will help prevent allergens and microorganisms from causing certain illnesses.

Since bamboo does not require any harsh chemicals or pesticides to grow, this is another reason that proponents say it is a net positive for the environment. It also produces more carbon dioxide than most other plants, which is a huge ecological benefit.

On the other hand, the factories where the foam and other components for the bamboo pillow are made require a great deal of energy and can potentially release chemicals into the atmosphere, which are two factors that tend to result in criticism from some environmentalists.

Why are bamboo pillows so heavy?

As with the odor that is emitted from a new bamboo pillow, you’ll probably notice that these products are significantly heavier than certain other types of pillows. The cause for both of these characteristics is the same.

Since the memory foam inside the pillow is so dense, it can make the product heavier than you might be used to if you move from a cotton pillow or another lighter option.

Of course, the benefit of this extra weight is that you can count on support for your head and neck that will help keep your spine in alignment throughout the night regardless of what position you prefer to sleep in.

If you find that the foam is sagging or becoming too compressed for comfort, simply give it a good shake or a few swift punches with your fist to loosen up the chunks and restore its uniquely beneficial properties. 


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