How to Test Your Home for Formaldehyde

OK, so I know this isn’t the most glamorous topic to talk about on a Monday morning, but I recently did something really important in our home and I want to share it with you all. So last week a report was released that stated how formaldehyde exposure is linked to serious health issues like terminal illness and cancer. I wasn’t surprised by the report at all, I mean we’re all aware that chemicals are bad for our health, but this article confirmed it even more so. It’s scary, scary stuff. And since reading that article I’ve been thinking about how formaldehyde is in SO many of the products we use and the things we have in our home. It’s used to make furniture, rugs, lotions, laundry detergents, etc. It’s in EVERYTHING, which is awful considering how damaging it is to our health. It really weighed on my mind, so I did a little research and found that you can actually get a test kit see how high the formaldehyde levels are in your home. I was really curious to see how our home would test, so I ordered several of these test kits. I’m going to share the results with you guys today and chat about how to test your home for formaldehyde. I’m also going to share four ways you can lower the levels in your home.

How to Test Your Home For Formaldehyde

How to Test Your Home

There are lots of kits you can buy to test the formaldehyde levels in your home, and you can even hire a professional to do it, but I ordered this test kit. It was pretty easy to use and the directions were clear–you simply mix two different liquids into a powder substance at different times and then let it sit for 30 minutes to test the air quality in each room. I tested our living room, the kids rooms, and our basement. Safe indoor formaldehyde levels should not exceed 0.10mg according to this test. If the levels in your home are high, or if your exposure through other products is high, you can have things like burning eyes, nose and throat, asthmatic attacks, skin irritation, headaches and nausea. And studies now show the long term effects include cancer, leukemia, and other terminal illnesses. (Sources here and here) It’s definitely a serious thing, which is why I wanted to do this test. Ok, so here’s the one I bought:

How to Test Your Home for Formaldehyde

I did four total tests in our home. Here’s how my son’s room tested:

How to Test Your Home for Formaldehyde

And this is the test from our basement:

How to Test Your Home for Formaldehyde

It’s obviously a bit tricky to tell exactly what the levels are based on this chart that came with the kit, but from what I can see I think we tested a bit higher than the normal level of 0.10mg. Each room that I tested was slightly different, but they all looked to be between 0.10 and 0.30mg. Thankfully none of them were super high, but they were still higher than they should be.

How to Lower the Level of Formaldehyde in Your Home

So of course my next question was how do we lower the levels of formaldehyde in our home? I did a ton of research and here’s a few things I came up with:

Get Lots of House Plants

Apparently house plants are like little superheros when it comes to purifying the air. They can be one of the most effective ways to remove toxins from the air in your home. According to recommendations from NASA, you should have at least one houseplant per 100 sq. ft. in your home–which means a houseplant in basically every room in your home! And NASA even did an in-depth study to find which plants are the best at removing formaldehyde from the air: Spider Plant, Peace Lily, Rubber Tree, Moth Orchid, Money Plant, Dumb Cane, Philodendron.

How to test your home for formaldehyde

Choose Furniture Wisely

One of the most common places formadehye can be found is in our furniture, rugs, and even flooring. So whenever possible, read labels and any disclosures to see how the product you’re buying is made. Always buy real, solid wood furniture and avoid any pressed wood products as much as you can. Even most mattresses are loaded with chemicals! (I found several non-toxic options listed here) Unfortunately formaldehyde is very common when it comes to furniture, but you can avoid it by looking for products that are labeled organic and eco-friendly.

Get An Air Purifier

There are actually several air purifiers on the market that are great at removing toxins and specifically formadeyde from the air in your home. They’re very expensive, but definitely worth the money if your home tests high. I found a few options here.

Switch to Natural Cleaners and Products

One of the easiest ways to reduce your family’s exposure to formadehde is to switch to natural, non-toxic household cleaners and other products like laundry detergent, shampoo, lotion, etc. It’s SO important to read labels and look for products that are biodegradable and non-toxic. I’m in the process of switching all of our household cleaners over to non-toxic alternatives from Young Living and I’m also switching out other things like our hand soap, laundry detergent, bath products, etc. It’s a bit of a process and it doesn’t happen all at once, but little by little we are making those changes and I am so happy we are. You can read more about all of that here if you want. Even just a couple of small changes can really help.

Here are a few common products that contain formaldehyde:

Lotions, Sunblock, Soap Bars, Body Wash

Cosmetics, Skincare Products, Toothpaste

Baby Wipes, Shampoo, Bubble Bath

Cleaning Products, Laundry Detergent

Furniture, Laminate Flooring, Mattresses

Particle Board, Pressed Wood

Permanent Press Clothing

How to Test Your Home for Formaldehyde and switch to non toxic products

I know this isn’t exactly a fun topic, and I hesitated to even share this little test we did in our home, but I think it’s really important so I wanted to share it with you all. I was really nervous to do the formaldehyde test in our home, but I’m glad that I did because it motivated me to make some changes. (You better believe I’ve already loaded up each rom with tons of plants!) Our health is such a gift and it’s really up to us to do the best we can for ourselves and our families. And even though formaldehyde is in so many things we use, I do think we can be proactive to create a healthier home for our families. Even just adding in a few of the right house plants in your home or switching out a few products can be a great start. Small changes eventually add up to big changes!

Well I hope this was helpful and maybe gets you thinking about how you can take little steps to avoid chemicals and toxins in your home. Thank you SO much for stopping by the blog today, here are a few other posts you might like:

Testing for Lead Paint on Vintage Decor

5 Ways to Remove that Musty Smell from Old Furniture

My Journey to Creating a Toxic Free Home

Leave a Comment

The Comments

  • Zadelle VanAuken
    July 16, 2018

    Thank you so much for this post.
    I seriously never gave this topic a thought. I am definitely going to switch to organic products. I changed my diet to clean eating, so why not my environment that I live in. I appreciate the post.

    Zadelle VanAuken

  • Dina
    July 16, 2018

    When choosing plants, consider any pets in the house, cats in particular –
    Thank you for raising our awareness!

    • Sarah
      > Dina
      July 16, 2018

      yes that’s so important. Thank you for sharing Dina!

  • Donna Bergthold
    July 16, 2018

    Thank you Sarah for all this great information. I really never thought about any of this at all. But you can bet I’ll be checking all of this out in my home. Have a great day!

    • Sarah
      > Donna Bergthold
      July 16, 2018

      Oh I hope you do sweet Donna!!

  • DonnaLee
    July 16, 2018

    Thank you for sharing this information. I actually had a friend’s child become serious ill and after a year they learned it was from the formaldehyde levels in their home. They had remodeled and all the new flooring and cabinetry was their culprit. Their levels were off the charts.

    • Sarah
      > DonnaLee
      July 16, 2018

      Oh gosh, that is terrible. I’m so sorry to hear that DonnaLee, but thankfully they were able to find the cause. I hope they moved from that house!

  • Cathy- Naquin Designs
    July 16, 2018

    Sarah, This is s great topic to blog about! Learning from articles like this is what we need! I also use all the Young Living cleaning products and love it! I just started using the makeup which I love ! Thank you for sharing!

    • Sarah
      > Cathy- Naquin Designs
      July 16, 2018

      Oh that’s awesome you’re a YL fan too!! I am so in love with all the cleaning products. They’re amazing!

  • Pauline Hinsch
    July 16, 2018

    When I look for the ingredients on products like soap and baby wipes, does it come right out and list formaldehyde or are there other names that would be the red flag? I can’t imagine companies want to eagerly announce the use of this chemical. Thank you your post. I just figured if they banned formaldehyde when preserving critters (I’m a biology teacher) then they must ban it everywhere.

    • Vicki
      > Pauline Hinsch
      July 16, 2018

      Thanks for aking, as I was wondering the same thing. What do we look for on ingredient lists, as I don’t recall seeing the word formaldehyde. It’s so frustrating that these chemicals are used so much in products that our families are exposed to.

      • Sarah
        > Vicki
        July 16, 2018

        I looked it up and formaldehyde is commonly used under these names: Diazolidinyl urea, 3-diol Imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM Hydantoin, Quaternium-15, Nitorpropane-1, Formalin, Methanal, Methyl Aldehyde, Methylene Oxide.

    • Sarah
      > Pauline Hinsch
      July 16, 2018

      Most of the time it’s hidden in other names. I looked it up and formaldehyde is commonly used under these names: Diazolidinyl urea, 3-diol Imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM Hydantoin, Quaternium-15, Nitorpropane-1, Formalin, Methanal, Methyl Aldehyde, Methylene Oxide.

  • Becky
    July 16, 2018

    Wow!!!! Never even thought about a lot of those things as toxic. Well I certainly will start the change over now. Like you said it will take a bit of time and effort but so worth it for ourselves and family. Thanks Sarah. 💕💞💞💞

    • Sarah
      > Becky
      July 16, 2018

      Isn’t it surprising to see how many things have these toxic chemicals?! It’s just awful.

  • Christy H
    July 16, 2018

    Would be interesting to retest those areas you previously tested in a few months and see if adding house plants made a measurable difference!

    • Sarah
      > Christy H
      July 16, 2018

      Yes! I am totally planning to do that.

      • Jessica
        > Sarah
        July 18, 2018

        Oh yes let us know! Curious if plants can remove all or most or if it only helps slightly.

  • Brenda Johnson
    July 16, 2018

    This was so interesting! I bet lots of clothing we wear has it, which is scary. To realize that things in our home could be making us sick is so disturbing! I switched to organic food, shampoo, make-up and lotions etc., but looks like I need to do more changes than that. I recently was diagnosed with neuropathy and there is no obvious reason why I have it as I am not diabetic or have had any of the other common reasons why people get this disease, so makes me wonder if some kind of chemical caused it….hmmmm. Thanks for the info.

    • Sarah
      > Brenda Johnson
      July 16, 2018

      Yes totally, I was really surprised to see that even permanent press clothing has it. So scary! I’m so sorry about your diagnosis Brenda, I hope you are doing ok! xoxo

  • Sheri
    July 16, 2018

    Thank you for sharing and for caring.Love your Instagram page..

    • Sarah
      > Sheri
      July 16, 2018

      Thank you Sheri! xo

  • Linna Grøn
    July 17, 2018

    Such an important and informative post. Really happy you decided to share. When I got sick from stress (so not even a physical illness) plants helped me lots in my recovery. The indoor climate is so much better in our house now too. They also made studies on the psychological impact on having green plants in the work place (so assume it would be the same in your home). Overall happiness and productivity rose. Oh, and don’t worry about keeping all of your plants alive. If one of them isn’t happy in your home it is an excuse to go buy a new beautiful one 🙂 Some plants like the temperature, moisture etc. in your home and others don’t. Good luck 🙂

  • Anni
    July 17, 2018

    You might try the Norwex products. Clean without chemicals. My daughter went to a home party with a hostess selling their products – came home told me all about it and I told her she was nuts ! I went to a party and I have changed my cleaning routine almost 100 %. You have to see it to believe it. Google it – you’ll be amazed.

  • Shaz Isaac
    July 22, 2018

    Thanks so much Sarah for sharing all this info. Of course I knew there were bad chemicals in stuff but I honestly did not know how bad it was. I’m out tomorrow to buy some of these plants and will be checking the few cleaning products etc that I have. I usually try to use things like vinegar, salt and bicarb soda for cleaning because of the chemicals but never thought about the chemicals in all the other things we use. Thanks again. Love your blog, instagram and stories xx

  • Joanna
    October 2, 2018
    The cdc says air purifiers don’t decrease formaldehyde.

  • Katie A
    April 19, 2019

    I found out several years ago I have an allergy to quaternium-15. It is a formaldehyde-releaser used in lotions, make-ups, etc to give products shelf-life (basically a way to have formaldehyde slowly released). When I come in contact I get skin irritation that is very controllable but annoying. After still having skin issues, I did research and found there are 4 others I need to also watch for. BINGO! 3 of them are quite common and found in so many things. DMDM hydantion, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea are very common in hair care, lotions, make-ups, etc. Bronopol is another one, but I haven’t found it in anything yet. Sometimes these are used as finishes on fabrics to keep it from wrinkling on the slow boat to the US. If I wear clothing before I’ve washed it I can tell if they have these finishes because I’ll start to itch.

    Thanks for your blog! I’m going to buy these kits and get more plants.

  • Tracey
    January 3, 2020

    My husband doesn’t believe me. He thinks I am manifesting my acute bronchitis. I have had it 3x. I have old Walmart wood futons and now laminate flooring in this new rental. He thinks I should see a psychiatrist! I know how I feel and the mold men here in Nebraska can’t help me with formaldehyde testing. Pray for me it gets cleared up soon and my health doesn’t get worse than it already is. I did order a few different tests, they should be in by the 10th.

  • Rachel Waldron
    March 15, 2020

    Great post! I shared this in my blog (linked) about understanding VOC’s.

  • Aly
    August 19, 2020

    Hi Sarah!
    Thanks so much for this! I am just learning about all the cancer causing toxins in the house and it’s mind blowing that we even grew up with this. It was back in the 80’s though but I’m surprised people still have this crap in their household it’s scary actually. I appreciate your article. Love your brand design. Cheers!

  • laurie Kemp
    December 3, 2020

    thankyou for your research! I believe my house is making me sick so I’m on the warpath to finding out why; and I do believe it is formaldehyde. LK

  • Jack Barker
    January 29, 2024

    Recently we discovered that some end tables we purchased
    Had a formaldehyde sticker stuck to the underside where no one could notice. We had the tables for approximately 3years and in that period my wife developed cancer on the outside of her nose and then later she developed breast cancer. I myself developed blurriness in both eyes. After doing some research and finding out how bad formaldehyde can be we removed the tables from our home and contacted the store we bought them from who then had us contact the manufacturer who then had their lawyers contact us who then offered us no more than what it would take to buy new tables about the same quality as the ones we had bought from them. They just want us to go away. We’re not well off but we’re not about to sign their release paper