Why Does My Bamboo Pillow Smell?

by Alyse Kaitlyn

Let us guess: the vexing question of why does my bamboo pillow smell lead you to look for answers on our blog. If our guess is correct, let us show you the numerous reasons why your pillow might smell bad.

The Off-Gassing Process 

The root cause of the smell your bamboo pillow is emanating is the off-gassing or out-gassing process. This process happens after you open new products due to a release of volatile organic compounds or VOCs in enclosed spaces. For those with a thirst for more knowledge, VOCs are found in common products in your households that didn’t have the time to release these compounds after production, including new devices, furniture, and clothes.

For instance, with your bamboo pillow, it’s memory foam stuffing. Even though different foams contain different VOCs, we decided to name the most commonly used ones.

  • Vinylidene chloride
  • Benzene
  • Toluene
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • Methylene chloride
  • Formaldehyde

Do VOCs Make the Off-Gassing Process Harmful?

Not necessarily. As this depends on the quantity of VOCs that a sleeper can inhale, bamboo pillows are generally safe as their off-gassing smell swiftly evaporates in the air. Our very own bamboo pillow, for instance, loses the odor within the first 24 hours after you open it. This means that you can allow the smell to dissipate in the air before laying your head on a completely new bamboo pillow.

Do note, though, that memory foam pillows can sometimes cause headaches or nausea due to the intense initial odour, which is why we recommend letting the pillow sit in an area with an abundance of airflow to release airborne chemicals during the first day of purchase. 

How Long Does Pillow Odour Normally Last?

In general, this depends on the manufacturer and the foam’s quality. As we said, with our bamboo pillow, the smell lasts for up to 24 hours. This means that buying a pillow with an inferior quality might take several days for the odours to disappear, or in worse cases, it might take even a month. 

Can I Wash These Chemical Odours Away?

Since the best way to wash your bamboo pillow is after six months of use to avoid compromising the firmness of the memory foam, we don’t recommend washing the odours away. However, as you’ll discover in a minute or two, your pillow requires frequent cleaning due to various bad-odour causes.

Is There Any Other Way to Fix the Bad Smell?

All memory foam pillows use certain chemicals in the production process that cause odour emissions, which means that these smells can’t be avoided. In other words, you’ll have to put up with them for at least 24 hours. 

Avoid purchasing from companies that use toxic compounds such as heavy metals, formaldehyde, phthalates, or CFCs to avoid these initial odours. The best way to give these compounds a miss is to look for CertiPUR-US® certified bamboo pillows, as this organization imposes strict standards for emissions, performance, content, and durability. 

Other Reasons Why Your Bamboo Pillow Smells

There are myriad causes for the icky smell your bamboo pillow emanates, including perspiration, spillages, or even cat urine. 


As we sleep for somewhere around seven hours each night, our bodies have a tremendous amount of time to transfer sweat and other body oils to the pillows we sleep on. Over time, the accumulation of these liquids can cause your pillow to smell, requiring you to wash them away.

Cat Urine

No matter how therapeutic living with cats can be, these adorable meme muses can sometimes cause a lot of trouble — from racing through your house in the middle of the night to rejecting an impeccably clean litter box. The worst scenario is when this rejection leads them towards peeing on your sleeping pillow, causing an unbearable odour. 

The best way to get rid of this unpleasant smell is by acting quickly (as soon as you notice the smell) and removing both the pillowcase and the bamboo cover from your pillow. The next step is for you to create a 1:1 water and vinegar solution into a spray bottle and spray it all over the pillowcase, cover, as well as memory foam stuffing. Lastly, wash these parts separately by following our instructions on how to wash a bamboo pillow properly.

Spilling Drinks or Food

Spiling drinks or food is one more reason why your pillow emanates those odd odors. As with the cat urine, the best way to break free from them is to act quickly: sprinkling your pillow parts with water and vinegar solution, waiting for a few minutes for the vinegar to work its odor-removing wonders, and washing them separately.

Final Thoughts

Nobody wants to lay their head on a smelly pillow, no matter the comfort and support it offers. We are well aware of this fact, which is why we hopefully assisted you with not only discovering the root cause of the irritating smell but how to fully eradicate it. 


Is odorous shredded memory foam a toxic material to sleep on?

Not necessarily. Nevertheless, we recommend sleeping on a memory foam pillow once the original off-gasing smell fully evaporates for greater certainty. To eliminate the new foam smell faster, make sure you allow your pillow to sit somewhere where there is air circulation for several hours.

Can you wash bamboo pillows to get rid of musty smells?

Since musty smells are usually caused by moisture in your pillow, there is no other way to eliminate them than washing. Wash both the bamboo cover and memory foam separately, putting the cover in a washing machine on a gentle cycle with mild detergent and lukewarm water, and handwashing the foam material. Before putting the cover back on the memory foam, make sure to let both parts of your bamboo pillow air dry.