Formaldehyde in Clothing-A Lab Tester to Boost Your Brand Value

Formaldehyde is a primary toxic and harmful substance among hazardous materials. Formaldehyde can adhere to clothing. Long-term wear of clothing containing formaldehyde poses significant health risks. If you are a clothing manufacturer or work in a clothing laboratory, it is crucial to avoid or minimize the formaldehyde content in the clothes. This article will guide you through the dangers of formaldehyde, the reasons for its presence in the clothing production process, and methods for its removal.

Health Hazards of Formaldehyde:

Irritation: The primary hazard of formaldehyde is its irritating effect on the skin and mucous membranes. As a protoplasmic poison, formaldehyde can bind with proteins. High-concentration inhalation can cause severe irritation and edema in the respiratory tract, eye irritation, and headaches.

Sensitizing Effects: Direct skin contact with formaldehyde can cause allergic dermatitis, pigmentation, and necrosis. Inhalation of high concentrations of formaldehyde can induce bronchial asthma.

Mutagenic Effects: High concentrations of formaldehyde are also genotoxic substances. Laboratory experiments with animals inhaling high concentrations have led to nasopharyngeal tumors.

Prominent Symptoms: Headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, chest tightness, eye pain, sore throat, poor stomach appetite, palpitations, insomnia, weight loss, memory decline, and autonomic nervous system disorders, among others. Prolonged inhalation by pregnant women can lead to fetal malformations or even death. Long-term inhalation by men can cause abnormalities and death in sperm.

clothing with formaldehyde is harmful

Reasons for Formaldehyde Presence in Clothing

Formaldehyde is used in textile resin processing. In the production of garment fabrics, to achieve effects like wrinkle resistance, shrinkage prevention, and flame retardation, or to maintain the durability of printing and dyeing as well as to improve the hand feel, formaldehyde is added to the auxiliaries. Currently, pure cotton textiles are more likely to use formaldehyde printing and dyeing auxiliaries, as pure cotton is prone to wrinkling, and using formaldehyde-containing auxiliaries can improve the stiffness of the cotton fabric. Especially, some manufacturers use high formaldehyde content and cheap auxiliaries to reduce costs, which are very harmful to human health.

International Standards for Formaldehyde Content

International textile standards limit the amount of formaldehyde as follows: For baby textiles (diapers, underwear, bibs, pajamas, gloves, socks, vests, outerwear, hats, bedding), the formaldehyde content should not exceed 20mg/kg. For clothing in contact with skin (bras, belly bands, knitted underwear, shirts, pants, skirts, pajamas, socks, sheets, quilt covers), the formaldehyde content should not exceed 75mg/kg. For clothing not in contact with skin (sweaters, coats, skirts, pants) and home decorations (tablecloths, curtains, sofa covers, bedspreads, wallcloths), the formaldehyde content should not exceed 300mg/kg.

Which Clothing Are Prone to Exceeding Formaldehyde Limits?

Wrinkle-free Clothing: Wrinkle-free garments that require finishing may use formaldehyde-containing agents, and some of these products have high formaldehyde content.

Denim Clothing: The resin finishing process in denim (like setting creases) may involve formaldehyde, posing health risks.

Clothing with Adhesive Lining: The bonding of adhesive linings to fabrics mainly relies on the adhesive strength of the glue, which is typically a polymer formed from the reaction of amides with formaldehyde to create N-hydroxymethylamide. This polymer forms covalent cross-links between cellulose macromolecules or their basic structural units. These covalent cross-links can hydrolyze under certain temperature and humidity conditions, releasing free formaldehyde, and potentially leading to excessive formaldehyde content in clothing.

Paint-Printed Clothing: The durability of various colorfastness properties in paint-printed products depends on the performance of the adhesive. Adhesives containing formaldehyde have good adhesive properties, hence during their reaction with fibers, formaldehyde is released.

shopping cloths for kids

How Consumers Can Prevent Formaldehyde Pollution in Clothing:

Smell: Check for a strong, irritating odor on the clothing. Since stores are generally spacious, the smell might be less noticeable. You can also tell from the new packaging bag.

Air Out: Clothes stored in a closed space should be thoroughly aired out before use. For wrinkle-free shirts, it’s advisable to open the packaging and air them out once or twice before wearing them.

Purchase: Formaldehyde mainly comes from cheap dyes and auxiliaries, so try to avoid buying wrinkle-resistant clothing. Especially choose children’s clothing with smaller patterns. The print on the pattern should not be too hard, and try not to buy bleached children’s clothing.

Wash: Formaldehyde is often easily soluble in water. New clothes, particularly children’s clothing, should be thoroughly rinsed with clean water after purchase. Avoid hastily dressing children in new clothes.

Check: If symptoms such as skin allergies, restlessness, poor appetite, or continuous coughing occur after wearing new clothes, consider the possibility of formaldehyde being the culprit and seek medical treatment promptly.

Eliminate: Place some activated carbon in the wardrobe, which can not only absorb harmful substances like formaldehyde present in the wardrobe but also absorb harmful substances from the clothes.

clothing factory quality control

How Clothing Manufacturers and Design Laboratories Can Prevent Formaldehyde Pollution:

Research indicates that formaldehyde levels in clothing have decreased in recent years. However, formaldehyde exposure risks are still the most important for clothing manufacturers and design laboratories. You must test products to ensure to comply with formaldehyde limits. There are numerous methods for testing formaldehyde. 

A widely used method in the garment industry is spectrophotometry. This method is based on the selective absorption of electromagnetic radiation by different molecular structures and is used for qualitative and quantitative analysis. It is the most standard method for detecting formaldehyde in living spaces, textiles, and food. This involves various techniques like the acetylacetone method, phenol reagent method, AHMT method, magenta-sulfurous acid, chromotropic acid method, para-phenol method, catalytic photometry, etc. Each testing method focuses on different application areas and has its advantages and limitations.

The most commonly used method in the textile industry is the acetylacetone method. This involves the formation of a yellow compound when formaldehyde reacts with acetylacetone in the presence of excess ammonium salts, either by a 30-minute reaction in a 45-60°C water bath or a 2.5-hour reaction at room temperature at 25°C, followed by colorimetric determination of the formaldehyde content. The specificity of the reaction between formaldehyde and acetylacetone is good, with few interfering factors. The presence of phenols and other aldehydes does not interfere, the coloring agent is relatively stable, and the detection limit reaches 0.25 me/L[Bl. The method has a wide linear range, suitable for detecting high formaldehyde content, and is commonly used in living spaces, hydrolyzed food, and textiles for formaldehyde determination.

DaRong’s formaldehyde Determiner

In response to environmental protection and sustainability, DaRong Company produces formaldehyde testers that can accurately measure formaldehyde content. These testers aid clothing manufacturers and laboratory personnel in maximizing the appearance of clothing while minimizing formaldehyde content and designing and producing clothing that meets human health standards.

YG(B)201G Textile Formaldehyde Determiner


Q: How to understand the relationship between formaldehyde testers and spectrophotometers?

A: An example to explain: if a formaldehyde tester is a car, a spectrophotometer is the engine of the car.

Q: What are the limits of a spectrophotometer?

A: A spectrophotometer can only test the absorbance and transmittance, it cannot test the content of formaldehyde. Spectrophotometers have no specific standards for the textile industry. Spectrophotometers rely on manually drawing standard working curves and calculating formaldehyde concentrations based on the original formaldehyde solution. Spectrophotometers is not capable of producing customizable test reports.

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