Formaldehyde Smell in the House

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Formaldehyde is a common chemical used to preserve dead specimens.

Formaldehyde not only leaves an unsettling smell, it also causes health problems in those who breathe the invisible gas for an extended period. Several common household items contain some level of formaldehyde, which will seep into the air, causing possible health side effects and leaving your house smelling like a funeral home.


From cigarette smoke to furniture, formaldehyde is an inexpensive preservative and germ killer that many companies regularly use in the production of their products. When products containing formaldehyde release the gas into the air, it can fill your home with its unpleasant aroma. Inhaling the fumes can cause various health complications, such as difficulty breathing and burning of the eyes, nose and throat.

Carpet and Upholstery

During the production of carpeting and upholstered furniture, chemicals such as formaldehyde are used in the manufacturing process. The carpet and upholstery can slowly release the fumes into the air. This process, known as offgassing, will quickly fill your home with unpleasant and possibly harmful vapors. Fortunately, you can remove the formaldehyde smells by covering the carpet or upholstery with baking soda and letting it sit undisturbed for 24 hours. After the allotted time passes, remove the baking soda with a vacuum cleaner. Baking soda contains sodium bicarbonate, which will naturally absorb the odors from the surface.

Wood and Other Hard Surfaces

As with carpet and upholstery, wood, particleboard and other hard surfaces can release formaldehyde into your home. You can absorb the odors by wiping the hard surface with a cloth dampened in pure white vinegar and letting it dry on the surface. Even though it removes tough odors, white vinegar may not get rid of all the formaldehyde smells. In that case, consider applying a clear sealant over the wood surface to seal the vapors in and prevent them from releasing into the air.


Another option to help get rid of the odors is to circulate and ventilate the air in your home. By opening windows and running fans, you will push the vapors out of your home and replace it with fresh air. In addition, move the offensive furniture to an outside, covered area for several days. This will allow the offgassing to release the vapors from enclosed areas. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, it will typically take a few days for the furniture to release all the gas. If you are concerned that your home may have high levels of formaldehyde, contact your local health department to have your air tested.


Amanda Flanigan

Amanda Flanigan began writing professionally in 2007. Flanigan has written for various publications, including WV Living and American Craft Council, and has published several eBooks on craft and garden-related subjects. Flanigan completed two writing courses at Pierpont Community and Technical College.