What is off-gassing?
Off-gassing (sometimes called out-gassing) is the release, under normal conditions of temperate and pressure, of airborne particulates or chemicals (volatile organic compounds (VOCs)) from common household products.
Potential sources of off-gassing range from construction materials to carpeting, paint, furniture, cleaning materials and many more household goods.
Some of the most common chemicals off-gassed include benzene, ammonia, formaldehyde and toluene.
We can recognize when off-gassing is occurring by identifiable smells such as those emanating from paint or a new carpet, but it can also be odorless.
Off-gassing and MCS
If you have MCS, or multiple chemical sensitivity, then you will probably be looking for ways to reduce your exposure to things like:
- new clothing
- new carpet
- synthetic fibers
- cheap furniture
- chemically treated wood
and all the artificial products in our lives that “regular” people don’t seem to have a problem with, but which flatten those of us who are chemically sensitive
Use heat to speed up off-gassing
One simple but effective trick that will really come in handy for people who have trouble handling the smells of new chemical based products is exposing these items to heat for prolonged periods of time.
Everything that’s made of synthetic fibers will eventually off-gas, or lose its chemical potency along with odor. It’s the reason why, when you first buy a foam mattress you may have trouble sleeping. It may make you sick, but the same mattress, after it’s been used in your home for a year, will stop causing a reaction.
You can speed up this natural, out-gassing process with heat. This can be done to items both large and small.
Heat speeds up molecular activity. So, if you have a manufactured, plastic item that would normally take a certain number of months to lose its chemical smell, when you expose it to heat, it will take much less time.
For example, if you buy your child a new pair of sneakers, and you find that the smell of them makes you sick, you can store the sneakers in the trunk of your car for most of summer. By the end of this DIY heat treatment, they will no longer smell like chemicals.
Of course, this means always being ahead of your shopping schedule, but is that really a bad thing when you consider all that needs to be accomplished in our busy lives?
This may not be the best example, depending on how quickly your child’s feet grow, but you probably get the point.
If you add a throw-rug to your basement that’s made of synthetic fibers, it may make you feel ill for a while each time you go down and spend time there. But if you can turn up the heat in your basement to the highest it will go, then leave the house for several hours, return and air out the room, until the expelled molecules dissipate. The new rug should have out-gassed some by then.
Let new products air
You can also decrease VOCs and off-gassing in your home by letting new products air out before bringing them indoors. This should be done in a large, open space if possible. If appropriate let it sit out outside or, preferably, in a garage for a week or more before bringing it indoors.
Consider buying clearance items
Many items that you find at the store may be “new,” but because they’ve hung around for several seasons or even years, they may have already out-gassed which means they will be easier for you to tolerate after bringing home.
If you’re shopping for things like new couches, rugs and curtains, search the clearance areas of the store first so that you can hopefully find something that’s had time to air out and lose its chemical potency.
Give it the sniff test. If you’re embarrassed by your chemical sensitivity, and fear being called eccentric or high maintenance or a drama queen, then you may not want people to catch you going around sniffing everything to determine if it smells like chemicals.
But try to find a way to test out new products before taking them home.
Sometimes it could be as easy as dropping something on a couch cushion, then bending close to pick it up, and getting a quick whiff as you do so. Or you can claim to be examining the construction, while you take a sniff when no one is looking.
Floor models are also good options when purchasing new appliances or furniture. Not only are they typically cheaper, but they’ve had a lot more time to off-gas in the store.
Try Buying Secondhand
Secondhand items are almost always fully out-gassed.
If you’re petrified to be surrounded by new products made of synthetic fibers and chemicals that make you feel dizzy, lightheaded, nervous and confused, or cause your joints to ache and your head to throb, or keep you up tossing and turning all night, then take a deep breath and remember that reused is always an option.
This is made easier with so many buy, trade and sell groups on Facebook and other social networks.
In fact, you can get so many household items in excellent condition, simply by finding them gently used, from families just like you who live nearby.
So, there are definitely options for people who can’t seem to handle chemical smells, and out-gassing is a big part of why you don’t really have to live in a bubble if environmental toxins make you sick.
Remember that heat treatment goes a long way to provide relief, and making a few changes in how you do things can make a big difference in how you feel.