Formaldehyde in clothing – product safety

Formaldehyde is used in a variety of industries, including the textile industry. We recommend washing and airing new clothes before wearing them.

What you need to know

Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring substance in our atmosphere. It's emitted by animals and humans as a by-product of digestion, and created during combustion.

In more concentrated forms, formaldehyde is used in a number of industrial processes, including in the clothing and textile industry.

In clothing, formaldehyde can be used:

  • to give a permanent press effect to clothing
  • to increase stain resistance
  • for colour-fastness
  • to keep garments looking new and fresh while in transit
  • to retard mildew growth.

The product safety policy statement on formaldehyde in clothing and textiles sets acceptable limits for formaldehyde in clothing and textiles.

What you need to do

The most common effect of formaldehyde in clothing is skin irritation.

We recommend you:

  • wash and air washable garments thoroughly before use — preferably outside
  • air new clothes labelled 'dry-clean only' thoroughly before use.

If you're concerned about symptoms that you think may be due to formaldehyde, contact your GP.

If you have a safety problem or concern

If you have some concerns about the safety of a product or if you’re injured by a product, you should tell the retailer or supplier about it.

You also have the right to ask for a remedy such as a refund, replacement or repair under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA). One of the guarantees in the CGA is that products must be of acceptable quality and this includes that the product is safe.

Faulty products – Consumer Protection(external link)

In addition, it’s good to report the details to us – product safety reports from the public help government agencies to identify systemic issues and help us to prioritise and respond to issues.

Report an unsafe product