Depending on the chemicals used, new paint jobs or sealants on new furniture can release harmful chemicals into the air. It’s not such a big deal outside or where ventilation can disperse the chemicals, but indoors it can create a risk to human health.
Fortunately, it isn’t a permanent problem. Off-gassing will eventually stop. It’s just a matter of how long it will go on. Knowing a little about off-gassing will go a long way to helping you protect yourself and your family from it.
We put together this article to explore the issue of furniture off-gassing. Hopefully, you find it illuminating in knowing why it’s potentially a problem and what you can do to limit the risk to your family.
In This Article We'll Discuss
How long does it take for furniture to off-gas?
There isn’t a definitive timetable on how long your furniture will off-gas. It will depend on a couple of things. The first is what chemical is causing the emission of harmful gasses. The second is how much was used.
Each chemical will decay at its own rate. Depending on the molecules it is comprised of, some chemicals will off-gas for only a short period of time. Others can persist for years.
The question is compounded by the fact that if multiple chemicals were used, you’ll get heavy off-gassing from all of them very early. Then they start to taper off.
Most off-gassing will take place in the first few years that you own a piece of furniture. While it might decrease to levels that are no longer dangerous to human health, it can still take place years later.
What is the fastest way to off-gas furniture?
There are ways you can speed up the off-gassing process. But, first, we’d like to discuss how to do it safely.
Off-gassing is dangerous to human health because it means concentrating fumes harmful to human health in a confined space. A small amount of the substances in question — Volatile Organic Compounds — isn’t so bad. But if you breathe in a lot, it could spell trouble.
The trick to off-gassing quickly is to do it in a well-ventilated space. Outside is ideal. Otherwise, pick a spot with a lot of open space; a room with high ceilings and open windows is almost as good. You can also set up a fan to keep air flowing.
Once you’ve selected your space, make sure there is maximum airflow around your furniture and take all of its coverings off. Coverings might trap chemicals released during the off-gassing process.
Warm the furniture in question. Dry heat is the best because high humidity is not good for upholstered furniture. As the chemicals warm, they will release more gasses.
Leave it there for a day or so. Two or three days would be ideal if possible. It might not totally eliminate the off-gassing, but it can cut it down significantly and maybe even to the point where it poses no danger to your family.
It will get rid of the chemical smell associated with off-gassing.
Is furniture off-gassing dangerous?
The issue of furniture off-gassing is still pretty new and just how dangerous it really is debatable. Some experts believe it isn’t all that dangerous, while others say it is.
One thing to consider, however, is that off-gassing in high quantities over a long time is much more likely to be bad for your health than just a small amount for a short time.
The smart thing to do is to minimize the amount of off-gassing from your furniture before you use it. You can do that either during the purchase but looking for materials not associated with off-gassing, or by allowing new furniture to sit in a well-ventilated room before using it.
How do you seal off-gassing furniture?
It isn’t possible to completely eliminate off-gassing except through the march of time, but you can reduce the amount of off-gassing that takes place by sealing your furniture.
Doing this right first requires what chemicals in your furniture are off-gassing. Different chemicals will give off different VOCs, and those will require different sealants to suppress them.
There are a handful of sealants with a wide range of applications on the market, so look for one of those. Depending on the surface area you want to seal, you can also get sealants that are brushed on or sprayed on.
When you apply the sealant, make sure you follow the instructions for how many coats to apply and how long to let it dry. In the end, you won’t totally eliminate off-gassing, but you will cut it substantially.
How long does formaldehyde stay in furniture?
Most experts agree that formaldehyde remains in furniture for about two years. But that isn’t a hard limit.
There are things that can affect the amount of time it will persist.
The first is the air temperature. One reason people are advised to sit new furniture in a warm, dry place with lots of ventilation for a few days is that this helps shunt off extra gasses. If your furniture is in a naturally warm room, formaldehyde will go away more quickly.
Another thing is the amount of formaldehyde used in the first place. If there was a lot used in the manufacture of your furniture, it will just take longer to go away completely. If there was little, it’ll be gone in a shorter amount of time.
We’re just starting to learn about why furniture off-gassing is so important, and what it might mean for the health of your family. Part of that is learning how to mitigate the risks associated with buying new furniture.
However it’s not all cut-and-dried, so it’s not a matter of just knowing a basic time you need to wait before you can be sure that noxious fumes aren’t building up in your home. You want to know a little about the topic as a whole to make smart choices.
That’s where we come in. Hopefully, this article will give you the knowledge you need to minimize the risk created by off-gassing to your family. If you found it of value, we hope you share it on your social media networks or even leave a comment down below.