How To Test for Formaldehyde in Air?

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Written By Jamila W.

If you have been experiencing burning eyes or other adverse health effects over the past few months, it may be the best time to test your air.

There are several methods to test for formaldehyde in the air, such as professional lab testing, at-home test kits, air purifiers, digital monitors, and spectrophotometric methods.

Formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound (VOC) found in everyday products, like insulation, carpeting, wood products, paints, and cleaning agents. When exposed to high levels of formaldehyde, you are also exposed to various health problems, including cancer. Tests for formaldehyde levels in the indoor air are essential to monitor and protect your home’s safety.

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Keep reading to learn everything you must know about Formaldehyde testing in this article. Discover the importance of formaldehyde tests in your home, the various methods you can use, and how to reduce formaldehyde in the air.

What is Formaldehyde, and Why Test for it?

Formaldehyde is a transparent gas with a strong smell, commonly in indoor environments, mostly in older homes. It’s often used in building materials like pressed wood usually used for cabinets and flooring, particleboard and insulation, and household products like cleaning agents, paints, and cosmetics. However, high levels of formaldehyde can harm your health and affect your indoor air quality.

Exposure to formaldehyde causes respiratory problems, including coughing, wheezing, eye and skin irritation, skin rashes, asthma, and headaches. Prolonged exposure to high levels of formaldehyde may increase the risk of cancer. That’s why tests for formaldehyde in your home are crucial to ensure indoor air quality is healthy and safe.

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Methods of Formaldehyde Test

Different methods exist to test for formaldehyde in the air, ranging from professional air quality testing to DIY home testing kits. Knowing which testing method to choose depends on your situation, budget, and level of expertise. Below you’ll discover different methods for testing formaldehyde and how they can help you measure and reduce formaldehyde levels in your indoor space.

DIY Air Testing

DIY air testing is an excellent option if you want to test the indoor air quality of your home or workplace without hiring a professional. You can use various methods to test for formaldehyde in the air, including an air quality monitor, home test kits, and observing potential sources of formaldehyde.

Air quality monitor devices can measure formaldehyde levels in real time. They typically pull air through a sensor that detects the formaldehyde in the indoor air. You can purchase these monitors online or at hardware stores. They’re relatively easy to use. Simply turn your monitor on and let it run for a few hours to get accurate readings.

Home test kits usually involve placing a test strip or device in the target room and leaving it for a set period. The device will change color to indicate the presence of formaldehyde in the air. You can also purchase these kits online or at hardware stores.

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Besides purchasing a specific testing device, you can also observe the potential sources of formaldehyde in your home or workplace. For instance, if you recently installed a new carpet or furniture or painted a room, those items could release formaldehyde into the air. Ventilate those areas and wait a few days before conducting a test to get an accurate reading.

Professional Air Quality Testing

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If you’re concerned about the levels of formaldehyde in your indoor air and want a more accurate assessment of the problem, invest in a professional air quality testing service. This is crucial if you have recently renovated or furnished your home, as these activities can release high levels of toxic formaldehyde into the indoor air.

Professional testing involves using specialized equipment to take samples of the air in your home and analyze them in a lab to determine the levels of formaldehyde present.

When choosing a professional air quality testing service, research and choose a reputable company. Look for reviews and ask for referrals from trusted sources. You can also check with your local government agencies to find certified professionals.

Off-gassing Testing

The off-gassing test involves placing a material, chemical, or product suspected of containing formaldehyde in a sealed container with a small amount of water. After a few hours, the water is tested for the presence of formaldehyde.

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This first test kit requires a sealed container, distilled water, and a testing kit for formaldehyde detection. Follow these steps:

Choose the material or product you want to test, and cut a small sample.

Place the sample in the sealed container with a small amount of distilled water.

Close the container tightly, and let it sit in a warm area for at least 24 hours.

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After 24 hours, remove the container’s lid, and use the testing kit to test the water for formaldehyde.

Follow the testing kit’s instructions to get accurate results. Remember, this method only measures formaldehyde levels emitted from the tested material or product. It does not indicate the formaldehyde levels present in the air of your indoor environment, but it shows a likelihood of formaldehyde in the air around the tested material.

Spectrophotometric Methods


The Spectrophotometric Method

This method is one of the most accurate methods to test for formaldehyde in the air. Chronotropic acid and pararosaniline are the most widely used reagents in this testing process. The spectrophotometric test involves collecting a sample of the air in the room and mixing it with a solution of chronotropic acid and sulfuric acid. This creates a reaction that produces a color change, measured using a spectrophotometer. The intensity of the color change corresponds to the concentration of formaldehyde in the air.

Pararosaniline Testing

On the other hand, this method is similar but uses a pararosaniline and hydrochloric acid solution. The color change produced is also measured using a spectrophotometer.

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These methods are susceptible and accurate, making them ideal for testing formaldehyde levels in indoor air. However, the accuracy of this method requires specialized equipment and training, making them more suitable for professional air quality testing rather than DIY testing. If you’re concerned about formaldehyde in your indoor air, contact a professional air quality company to perform spectrophotometric testing for accurate and reliable results.

When to Consider Testing for Formaldehyde in Your Home

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Formaldehyde is an indoor air pollutant that can cause health concerns and breathing problems if inhaled in large amounts. Therefore, knowing when to test for formaldehyde in your indoor air is essential.

Health Issues

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It may be due to formaldehyde exposure if you experience persistent health symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, and difficulty breathing. These symptoms are often worse in recently renovated rooms or around new furniture.

Unusual Odor

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If you notice a strong and persistent odor in your indoor space, it may be due to formaldehyde off-gassing from building materials or household products. This odor is often described as intense and may cause eye, nose, and throat irritation.

Family Sensitivity

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If you have young children, senior family members, or individuals with respiratory issues, consider testing for formaldehyde in your home air. These groups are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of indoor air pollution.

Pre-construction or Remodelling

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If you have recently constructed, renovated, or furnished your home or office, consider a thorough formaldehyde test as a precautionary measure. Building materials and furniture are sources of formaldehyde.

The Bottom Line

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Testing for formaldehyde in the indoor air is essential to ensuring your safety and health. By considering the effectiveness of various testing options and taking action when necessary, you can ensure your indoor air is free from harmful chemicals. If you need help with testing for formaldehyde in the air, consult a professional or use a reliable DIY formaldehyde testing kit. Don’t take chances with your health or loved ones. Prioritize air quality and take steps to improve it as needed.


What product in your home is most likely to emit formaldehyde?

Furniture made of pressed wood products may contain an adhesive that releases formaldehyde over time. Additionally, Formaldehyde can be found in vinyl flooring adhesive and laminate flooring.

How long does formaldehyde stay in the air?

In a study by Park and Ikeda(2006), most formaldehyde is released within the first two years of installation.

How common is formaldehyde in homes?

Formaldehyde can be found almost everywhere at home. Generally speaking, tobacco is one of the best sources of formaldehyde. Less air movement will keep formaldehyde in the air longer in homes.