Is memory foam safe?

There are a number of sites warning of memory foam and health risks with certain chemicals used in their manufacture. With most man-made materials there are a number of synthetic materials many of which will be present in your home and as always we want to provide you with the facts to make an informed decision. So is memory foam really safe?


Man-made foams, not too dissimilar to memory foam, can be found in a whole host of household products. From sofas, cushion fillings, seat fillings and more.  This is in part due to the variety of densities, firmnesses and sizes that can be created. They are relatively resilient when covered and are lightweight. These foams are made from a plethora of synthetic compounds and chemicals which in the minute amounts present are classed as harmless. Is memory foam any different though? Is it safe or hazardous?

There are chemicals used in foam which have been a hotly debated subject in relation to safety and chemical volatility. Especially when they are present in a mattress. So should you be worried or rush to the bin with your memory foam mattress?

We’re not sure that some of the online concerns about memory foam are as serious as some writers claim. The evidence seems to be a bit stark. Given that foams have been used and approved for decades in the UK and memory foam is not that dissimilar in its manufacture method. A number of the claims single out specific chemicals that are toxic to humans.

Memory foam safe

However, these toxicity claims are when these chemicals are used in far greater volumes that foam manufacture. When found in high levels it’s true these chemicals can be highly toxic. However, the amounts used in foams are very low in some cases which obviously reduces the risk. A number of the online claims give no reference to the percentage or volume of the chemicals used in foam production, which really are needed to make a fair assessment.

It’s a tricky balancing act given the manufacturers won’t give the exact quantities and measurements.  It’s a bit of a trade secret with the different blends to make foams which are incredibly frustrating for you the customer. The following are frequently cited.

What chemicals are in memory foam?

The following chemicals are frequently cited:

  • Acetone
  • Dimethylformamide
  • Methylene diphenyl diisocyanate
  • Methyl chloroform
  • Methylenedianiline
  • Vinilideine chloride
  • Trichloroethane

An excellent resource for a more detailed explanation can be found here on the exacting contents of some types of memory foam.  There is a class lawsuit in the USA being brought against Tempur for the effects of off-gassing which has yet to be decided on in a court of law. Off-gassing, however, is a process found with a variety of household furnishings from paint to sofas. We have written more extensively here about off-gassing and why ventilation is the answer.

With everything, you need to be careful to measure up the risks, the chances of those risks affecting you when making decisions.  If you are overly concerned we would always advise a more natural material for your mattress rather than a man-made foam.


Our position is that Memory Foam has been around for over 20 years and whilst there are complaints about side effects from some of the chemicals off-gassings the majority of users report no complaints. The same chemicals are present in car seats, sofas, household plastics etc. If you are concerned then our advice would be to opt for a natural pocket sprung mattress or a natural latex bed, but there are price considerations. For further information of off-gassing please follow this link for a detailed account so you can make your own mind up.

For a further review of Memory Foams structure here is a link to one example of a data sheet for the more scientific of our viewers!


View Comments
  • David H says:

    I’ve had a memory foam mattress for about 14 months now from an online discount bed store, I won’t name them for fear of dropping you or them in it but its one of the big memory foam online stores. At first it was great, it has 2.5cm of memory foam and a foam support base, not sure what the foam there is to be honest! Any way- after 6 months I noticed that the foam was starting to show signs of sagging like it had been crushed some what. Now 14 months on its turned almost like a lumpy porridge feel and is incredibly uncomfortable. It was £169 in the sale. I’m 15 stone and I don’t want to spend a lot on just a mattress, I’m wondering what you recommend I do with this mattress whether or not to try and take it back? David
    Hi David. Many thanks for not naming and shaming, whilst we provide honest advice we certainly don’t like to throw stones at others. What I can say is that the mattress you have described is a very cheap low quality mattress, which is what you would expect for the amount you paid for it. 2.5cm of memory foam is too low to recover from what we call compression. Compression means that any foam can compress upto 2cm in its lifetime, some more but 2cm is usually the bench mark. This means that over time the foam will compress, you can’t avoid this. With cheaper memory foam in thin layers it means once its compressed your left with pretty much nothing to work with for your comfort layer. For the price though I’m not sure how you could get more as its pretty much on the money for that amount I’m afraid. Given your weight I would always advise a deeper mattress to accommodate this.

    You’ve also mentioned it now feels like porridge. There’s a big white elephant when it comes to memory foam, that all foams are equal. They are not. At the cheaper end of the market, and sometimes even at the higher end, you will find memory foams are being imported from the far east which are not of the same quality as the UK made foams. They don’t meet the same criteria, sometimes they dont meet fire regulations and the batches I’ve seen certainly don’t resemble quality memory foam. British Vita for example are one of the UK’s best foam manufacturers and their products are of the highest quality and completely compliant. Due to this all our memory foam comes from them and them only. The density and resilience of the foam is also incredibly important. Cheaper imported foams simply are not as durable.

    In terms of the guarantee I’d get in touch with the shop you bought it from online if you want to follow that route. Usually bed retailers use a proportional guarantee, ie if found to have failed you get a proportion of whats left of the beds life, ie if you’ve had it 2 years and its guaranteed for 5 you get 3 years proportional cost back. We however dont like this approach, our guarantee is much more simple. If the bed fails we will either repair or replace, no mathematical equations or proportions.

    Given your budget limitation what I would do is try and get a deeper memory foam mattress layer, have a look at our Genesis to get an idea of the kind of depths. Then I would buy a separate memory foam topper so you can replace this over time rather than the entire bed. I know its an old adage but sometimes you really do get what you pay for. I understand you don’t want to pay a lot for your mattress, but you need to balance this budget against comfort, maybe realising that buying cheap will lead to buying twice or putting up with discomfort I’m afraid!

    Hope that helps – Lee

  • Sam says:

    I find memory foam really hot what can I do to reduce the temperature, I’ve read about coolmax helping?
    Thanks Sam for your comment. Unfortunately memory foam does make some sleepers really hot. Whilst you can change the tog of your duvet and control radiator temperatures this is as far as you can go. Whilst there are high wicking fabrics out there, even a coolmax cover won’t remove the heat from your mattress. Ideally a traditional or latex mattress is the only way to reduce heat. – Lee

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