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I threw out my old bed since it was falling apart and this is when it all went downhill. First I got a new bed (upholstered, unfisnished MDF board) that had such a strong odor, it invaded all the rooms so I returned it after 2 weeks, as the odor got stronger - the manufacturer said they have never heard of any complaint like that. Thanks to the internet I thought it might have been the unfinished MDF releasing formaldehyde, since it also made me cough and my eyes were burning.

But then I ordered an IKEA natural pine wood bed base (unfinished + upholstered Espevar) which had a very strong chemical odor too. Since it comes disassembled I just put it into another room next to the window for 1 month to let it air out. As soon as I assembled the bed, it had almost similar strong chemical odor as the MDF bed that made me cough.

I used acrylic polyurethan finish later to seal it (sadly since it has stuff attached to the wood I could only seal about 95% of it), and after another month I put it back together, only to smell the same chemical odor that the wood produces. It got weaker by about 90% so I can stay in the room next to it at least but it's still difficult to sleep on it, it's pretty strong upclose. I also feel this weird taste in my mouth as soon as I enter the room. It smells a bit like petrol, bitter and overwhelming.

So why does a natural pine wood release chemical odor? It seems to happen in all new lumber. When will it stop? Will this even stop, since it didn't after 2 months? I can't even take it back considering I used a finish. I fear it will impact my health since it's a very small room and I work in home office next to the bed, so I spend like 90% of my time there.

Literally none of my old (wood and mdf) furniture had or has any odor so I'm baffled why this is suddenly happening with every new furniture.

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  • The strong inference is that it's you, not the wood. But what you're smelling is a puzzle. It seems unlikely to be offgassing formalehyde, as even with freshly produced MDF this odour shouldn't just not be evident it should be undetectable (and some MDF is now produced without it, so there's a chance it didn't even have any). Plus, of course, pine should not smell anything like MDF.... but what is the upholstered part of the current bed? I see nothing but wood and metal when I look up the Espevar bed on the Ikea site.
    – Graphus
    Jun 28 at 16:47
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    BTW have you visited Ikea in person or gone into another furniture shop lately? If so, any symptoms at all in either location?
    – Graphus
    Jun 28 at 16:50
  • Do you notice such smells at a lumber yard or big-box store? Jul 1 at 2:41
  • Haha the MDF was like a chemical weapon., not undetectable. I sadly haven’t visited IKEA in person before buying the frame, they were closed because of the lockdown. I visited them 3 years ago with family and bought some stuff. Their warehouse obviously had furniture odors but it wasn’t too bad. Some days ago I went to IKEA with the family and their warehouse had the same smell their wood produces in my home, and I’m sure they didn’t have this smell 3 years ago. We didn’t have any symptoms it was just disgusting and irritating. Jul 2 at 10:20
  • I have never been to a lumber yard and I haven’t smelled anything like this in big box stores. I was in another furniture store before IKEA, despite the huge vents it had quite a bad odor, and they had some upholstered MDF beds which smelled terrible. That’s why I thought IKEA would be different since there was no problem with them before – or any furniture before this year. Jul 2 at 10:22
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I do have a question, do other people notice this odor/chemical? I ask because it's possible you are/becoming chemically sensitive to something. As jdv said, there is a good chance the wood was treated with a chemical to meet international shipping (kill pests) or some other similar treatment.

If others don't notice it or find it almost unnoticeable, then I'm afraid it's you and it will probably be YEARS before it is gone for your senses. Think of it like a mild allergic reaction. If it is you that has become sensitive to this chemical (say the glue even) chances are you're going to be stuck buying used/antique furniture from now on or at least not anything that is mass produced.

Leaving it outside under a roof (with lots of air movement) would likely speed up the process of what ever chemical is there outgassing/evaporating away. If it has an obvious smell to everyone, then I'd still try to take it back and explain what is going on and what you tried to do to mitigate the problem. If they can smell it then you can try to find a different one and check it before bringing it home. However, buying 2 different types of beds and getting the same smell seems unlikely that both were sitting in the same diesel soaked container on the ship.

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  • Yes, my family noticed the MDF, everyone was running away from the bedroom and the smell stayed in the room for 8 days after returning the bed. They noticed the IKEA bed too. I might’ve become allergic to this chemical as my nose started bleeding after sleeping on the MDF bed and then the IKEA bed. Since the wooden parts were moved into the living room where family usually is, their nose started bleeding too. The smell got stuck into the small spring mattress too that you're supposed to put inside the frame, and it won’t air out. Jul 2 at 10:13
  • I bought an unfinished pine wood board only 3 years ago and it had no smell at all. The bed I threw out was an MDF bed with no smell when it arrived about 10 years ago. I feel like they might’ve changed something recently in my country and started using some chemicals for the wood that they haven’t used for decades? IKEA has a furniture factory here so I wouldn’t be surprised if it used the same chemicals as the local manufacturer. Do you think it is possible they use unhealthy chemicals that don’t match safety standards? Jul 2 at 10:14
  • @Wonderingwood anything is possible. and that is terrible news. Don't know what else to say other than hope you have better luck in the future. Do you have a 'Better business bureau' or something to report to?
    – bowlturner
    Jul 5 at 12:39
  • Thanks. Yeah we have something like that but they are very difficult to reach and quite useless. I'll message IKEA though and ask for a refund and ask them to ship everything back. I can't take it back myself since its too heavy and big. I know they refuse shipping back but hopefully they will do it under warranty since that's the only time they are required to do it. I might try the better business bureau route if IKEA refuses to ship it back under warranty since I need to get rid of all this wood as fast as possible. Jul 10 at 15:10
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You've done all you can do. Time and some sealing finishes can reduce some odours. But volatile chemicals (both natural and added) will be released no matter what you do.

Well, maybe. We don't know what you are experiencing. It could just be the natural turpenes and other volatiles in the wood off-gassing, or it could be some sort of preparation Ikea uses so they can export wood furniture.

Many wooden goods have to be treated with pesticides before exporting them to other countries, so maybe that's what is going on here.

Or it could be the glue (probably some sort of PVA) since in most cases if you look closely the solid pieces are often laminates (which offer decent stability and economy).

Even if it is just natural volatiles we don't know what sort of "pine" this really is (it may literally be Swedish Pine, but they buy something like 1% of the world's wood, so who knows) so it is hard to say how long it'll last.

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  • That first paragraph doesn’t sound very assuring. I thought the sealing acrylic finish would stop this problem. I wonder, could there be a new standard to treat wood with chemicals, pesticides in my country? We bought an unfinished wooden board 3 years ago and it had no smell whatsoever. My bed I threw out was made of MDF too and it had no smell at all. Yes the wood is glued in the IKEA bed base but how come it could release VOCs? I thought glue loses its smell quite quickly as it dried out quickly, at least that’s what the home-use glues always do. Jul 2 at 10:16
  • Ikea is factory furniture, made for global markets. Who knows what they use at various points of the assembly and construction? The glues used to maximize shrinkage by laminating pieces into dimension lumber is probably a different one than the actual construction of the item itself, especially if the laminates are heat-cured. It could just be some sort of PVA glue everywhere they need glue, but who knows? My point is that we don't know what you are reacting to. It could just be softwood volatiles. Acrylic, properly applied will slow these volatiles but not really block them completely.
    – jdv
    Jul 2 at 22:16
  • Oh I read about acrylic it would be a good sealant to seal the wood that's why I bought it. Could you recommend something that seals VOCs completely instead of slowing them down - or suddenly making them all explode out like now? I'm considering metal bed frame, that shouldn't have any odor right? What can I look for in a metallic frame to avoid VOCs or minimize them? I just now boight some metal furniture and they have 0 smell but who knows. I read today they can add fire retardant chemicals or something to metal so it might not be so worry-free as it first seamed. Jul 2 at 22:36
  • I suppose if you covered the wood in plasticized epoxy it would be completely sealed. I mean, acrylic is great, but it is still porous. Few things outside of industrial situations is 100% vapour proof. If you go for metal, then you are looking for powder-coated or heat cured paints (often referred to as "enamel"). Once cured, those are inert.
    – jdv
    Jul 2 at 22:57
  • Thanks for your help! Jul 10 at 15:03

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