24 Sources of Formaldehyde in Your Home

What is Formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is an organic compound that is commonly found all around us. It is used for product manufacturing in various industries and thus produced in large quantities. Its most common use is in the production of industrial resins.

Still, however useful it is, it also significantly reduces indoor air quality. Moreover, it can be rather toxic if we are exposed to large amounts of it.

formaldehyde in your home


Formaldehyde Health Effects

Health issues associated with formaldehyde exposure include:

  • eye, nose and throat irritation;
  • wheezing and/or coughing;
  • nausea;
  • skin irritation;
  • chest pain;
  • bronchitis, and
  • asthma.

In addition, numerous studies conducted in the U.S. and Canada have shown that exposure to high levels of formaldehyde can likely result in nasopharynx and nasal sinuses cancer.

Sources of Formaldehyde

You therefore have to know where formaldehyde is found and how to minimize exposure to it in your home. That is why we have compiled a list of the most common sources of formaldehyde in homes.

1. Cigarettes and cigars

Formaldehyde is a by-product of cigarette and cigar smoke. Besides smoking being harmful to your health in so many other ways, it also produces formaldehyde. So, if you are a smoker or live with one, it’s time for the talk.

2. E-cigarettes

You would think that e-cigarettes are healthier than regular ones. But unfortunately this is no the case. In many aspects, e-cigarettes are actually equally or more harmful, and formaldehyde emission is not an exception.

3. Furnaces, stoves and fireplaces

All of these produce a lot of combustion by-products. And where there’s smoke, there’s formaldehyde. So, if you use any of these three heat sources in your home, just make sure that you have them regularly exhausted and you are good to go.

4. Water heaters

Yes, it is necessary to heat water, especially in Canada in the winter. But in this case, the same goes as for furnaces, stoves and fireplaces. If you maintain your water heater properly, you will ensure that formaldehyde levels stay at a minimum.

5. Vehicle exhaust system

Actually, this one is pretty serious. A car exhaust system can produce dangerous amounts of this toxic substance. If your garage is attached to your home, this can pose an additional issue because these fumes can easily enter your HVAC system and thus your indoor air.
Therefore, always open your garage door before starting your car and don’t leave it inside for too long. Another good solution is to get a garage exhaust fan to reduce the risk of inhaling too much formaldehyde.

6. Plug-in fragrances

Regardless of how good they smell, artificial fragrances abound with dangerous chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). One of them, you guessed it, is formaldehyde. This and other chemicals pose a danger to your immune and respiratory systems.

7. Air fresheners

Much like plug-in fragrances, air fresheners also contain many harmful substances. To reduce the levels of this toxic chemical, go natural. Place a plant or slices of lemon in your room; not only will it smell better, but it will also strengthen your immune system instead of harming it.

8. Paper towels

This might sound rather strange, but it’s true. A large number of paper towel products contain and emit formaldehyde. Instead of paper towels, you can switch to microfiber cloths or reusable rags.

9. Products containing terpenes

Some essential oils and cleaning products contain high levels of terpenes. Terpenes react with ozone to create formaldehyde. Therefore, if you really like to use essential oils, try buying those that don’t contain terpenes.

10. Clothes

Pay attention to “easy care” clothes. If you want to wear clothes that require little or no maintenance, there is a price to pay. To be resistant to wrinkling and shrinking, clothes are usually treated with formaldehyde. Imagine wearing such clothes every day. Doesn’t sound too healthy now, does it?

11. Bed sheets and pillows

The same goes for bed linens. Anti-wrinkle sheets, pillows and blankets are usually treated with a formaldehyde resin and therefore emit formaldehyde all the time. So, it is up to you to decide—to iron or not to iron and risk your health.

12. Furniture

Your furniture, especially if bought recently, emits and even smells of formaldehyde. This is known as off-gassing. If you want to avoid getting harmful fumes into your air, go for untreated, solid-wood furniture. This might be a bit more expensive, but good health is priceless.

13. Curtains

Again, much like clothes and bed linens, curtains and drapes that are no-iron, permanent press and wrinkle-free are very likely to contain formaldehyde. Consequently, they off-gas it into the air and reduce indoor air quality, thus posing a health risk to you and your loved ones.

14. Skincare products

When did you last check the labels on your body and skincare products? If your answer is never, you want to start doing it as soon as possible. If there is formaldehyde in the products that you apply to your skin, your risk of acne increases.

15. Makeup

The same goes for makeup. There are just too many makeup manufacturers that simply don’t care about the concentration of formaldehyde and other toxic substances in their products. Luckily, there are also various other brands that do think about their customers’ health. So be careful next time you buy your makeup, and choose the healthier alternatives.

16. Nail polish

Yes, it’s true that nails are less sensitive than your skin. But still, you definitely don’t want to coat them with nail polish that has a high level of harmful chemicals. You know your nails are very important, so it’s high time you started treating them accordingly.

17. Nail polish remover

Did you know that nail polish and nail polish remover contain as much as 5% of formaldehyde? Well, now you know. And now you do, you probably want to switch to healthier nail care products, which we would recommend to everyone who wants their nails to be not only pretty but also healthy.

18. Hair straightening and smoothing products

Have you noticed unusual hair loss lately? Does your hair stylist use keratin smoothing therapy or Brazil blowout? If your answers to both of these questions are yes, then it is easy to connect the dots. Stay away from these and similar products for they contain a high amount of toxic chemicals.

19. Toothpaste

Besides fluoride, conventional toothpastes contains other harmful substances too. Of course, one of them is formaldehyde. The best thing to do is make your own DIY toothpaste or simply choose another brand that contains a lower level of toxic chemicals.

20. Perfumes

Perfumes containing synthetic fragrances usually contain a lot of chemicals that you don’t want to apply to your skin. If you want an alternative to a conventional perfume, you can always go for a healthy essential oil. Another benefit of essential oils is that they smell much better. When you try them, you will never want to go back to regular perfumes.

21. Baby care products

Now, this is an industry where you would think that everything has to be super safe. But in fact, it’s not. The only thing that we can say is to pay attention to what baby wash, lotions and baby wipes you use. After all, your child is your world.

22. Plastic bottles

Believe it or not, plastic bottles contain formaldehyde and many more toxic chemicals, such as bisphenol A. Therefore, go natural and opt for a glass instead.

23. Artificial sweeteners

You think sugar is bad for your health? It’s true, but fake sweeteners are much worse. If you need to sweeten your food or drinks, use natural sweeteners like stevia or organic honey.

24. Foods

Finally, there are some foods like shiitake mushrooms, crustaceans and Bombay duck that contain a slightly higher level of formaldehyde. However, this doesn’t mean that you should stop consuming them altogether. You just don’t want to overindulge in them if you want to keep yourself safe from this substance.

To sum everything up, to reduce your exposure to formaldehyde, start by giving up some of these products.
If you’re concerned about formaldehyde in your home, the best solution is to conduct a formaldehyde test, which will precisely determine the source of this dangerous chemical in your house.

Don’t wait to schedule a formaldehyde test in your home. Call Mold Busters today.

Published: November 17, 2021 Updated: February 7, 2022

John Ward

Written by:

Account Executive
Mold Busters

Fact checked by:

Mold Busters

Michael Golubev