How long does it take a couch to stop offgassing?
August 22, 2008 9:27 PM   Subscribe

How long does it take a couch to stop offgassing? I assembled a new Ikea Karlstad sofa five days ago, and while the odor has decreased a bit, it still smells. Worse, there's some VOC that irritates my nose and throat after I sit on it for half an hour or so, which is rather worrying. (My wife gets the same 'acrid feeling' too.)

Bonus questions and info:

Are Ikea Karlstad couches especially bad? (I purchased mine up here in Ottawa, Ontario, if regionalization matters).

Are my cats in danger? They're in love with it.

Am I going to die, Doc?

Any guesses what chemical it is, and would it be the foam or the particleboard?
posted by sebastienbailard to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
We bought a futon from Ikea that had a similar horrific smell and creepy fume feeling. I want to say it took about a week or maybe two for the smell to go away. And if it is the same smell, I believe it's due to flame retardant in the foam. I did some googling about it at the time and think I was fairly well reassured that it wasn't going to kill us, it was just a nuisance.

Just be glad you don't have to sleep on it.
posted by crinklebat at 9:51 PM on August 22, 2008

We got a new armchair about 2 weeks ago and it took about a week before I could sit in it.
Burned my eyes and nose for a bit, I had to open all the windows while it did it's thing.
In some ways I really don't want to know what it is!
posted by bottlebrushtree at 9:54 PM on August 22, 2008

Any guesses what chemical it is, and would it be the foam or the particleboard?

I have a real good guess...

Formaldehyde, an embalming fluid, was used in the glues and pressed wood used to make the travel trailers that FEMA purchased to house tens of thousands displaced by the storms. Complaints about fumes first surfaced in early 2006. The Sierra Club, an environmental group, tested dozens of trailers in summer 2006 and found that 83% had levels above the point at which federal workers would be required to use respirators if exposed all day to fumes. Residents complained of headaches, burning eyes, running noses and asthma.

Having lived in one of these trailers for 2 1/2 years, I know exactly the odor you are talking about.
posted by JujuB at 10:11 PM on August 22, 2008

Response by poster: Ikea claims their particleboards and textiles are low in formaldehyde.

They may have learned their lesson after getting into trouble some time previously.

I suspect it's some other VOC than formaldehyde, based on the above links. It's also possible there's two chemicals; one I that smells, and one that is irritating me.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:23 PM on August 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

We bought a Karlstad armchair a while ago. It stopped smelling within a week.
posted by zsazsa at 1:07 AM on August 23, 2008

Yeah, there's something they use that irritates.

A futon mattress I bought there, probably around 10 years ago, ended-up with me having to use an inhaler for a couple of months. Couldn't sleep on it, so I put it in a storage closet in my apartment during that time hoping it would off-gas, but eventually had to sell the thing.

I bought one of the fabric-based armchairs a few months ago, it was only mildly irritating for a couple of weeks, but just the smell.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 4:34 AM on August 23, 2008

It could still be formaldehyde, because even when its used minamally in the production of the item, the packing materials (cardboard, especially) are often soaked through with it to prevent the cardboard from falling apart in the damp conditions on the shipping freighter which brought your sofa to North America.

Fresh air is your friend here. If you want to keep the sofa, open some windows and turn the a fan directly onto the item, and let the wind blow on it for at least 24 hours.

Or, go back to IKEA, let them know your Sofa is offgassing in a particularly nasty way (be sure to let them know that its made you "feel sick") and ask them if they can swap it out for a floor model or one that has already been assembled (or at least unpacked).
posted by anastasiav at 5:31 AM on August 23, 2008

If you want it to outgas more rapidly, you might consider increasing both the temperature and the air circulation. I'm not saying to hit it with a heatgun or hair dryer, but perhaps open your windows and turn a fan towards it on a hot day? Also, note that as you do this, the outgassing will be temporarily worse.
posted by JMOZ at 7:22 AM on August 23, 2008

Best answer: FWIW, we have a Karlstad that smelled weird for a few days, but it soon went away.

I would also reccomend these feet, instead of the "stock" feet. They don't prevent outgassing or anything, but they look real neat.
posted by rossination at 10:32 AM on August 23, 2008

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