That smell in new clothes and fabrics, and how to get rid of it?

Often when I purchase new clothes or my wife buys fabric to sew something, there is a chemical smell in it. I did some searching and it looks like they use Formaldehyde in the process of these materials.

Sometimes a single regular washing gets rid of them. Other times, I have given up on wearing them.

Is Formaldehyde something which can be washed out? Like using soap trading off with using baking soda or vinegar?

Or is Formaldehyde something on fabrics which will eventually gas-out? Like leaving them hanging over a beam in the attic for a month?

Anyone have a chemical background to explain why they use Formaldehyde and what might be the best way to get rid of its smell?

I’m assuming it is actually Formaldehyde I smell. But my assumption is in places I’ve read about smell in fabrics that’s what it might be.

I’ve also gone through this problem with wanting to get a small throw-rug for my office chair to protect the wood floor. Some rugs don’t have a smell and others I’ve had to return because of it.

Almost all new fabrics have some kind of temporary sizing applied to the yarns to facilitate weaving/dyeing. The sizing generally washes out in laundering.

Formaldehyde or methanal compounds, along with perfluorinated compounds and similar chemicals, AFAICT are usually found in permanent fabric finishes to make them wrinkle-resistant, stain-resistant, anti-cling, mildew-resistant, and so forth. They are not intended to wash out or outgas, though I suppose age and washing may reduce their smell over time. There are various home-remedy procedures described on internet sites for removing formaldehyde from clothing using baking soda, powdered milk, white vinegar, etc., but I don’t know how well any of them work.

I think if you are sensitive to these fabric-treatment smells, your best bet is trying to find items that haven’t been given these wrinkle-resistant, stain-resistant, etc., finishes in the first place. If that’s not an option, experiment with some of the suggested home-remedy washing and airing strategies to see what works on a particular item.

You could try one of the home steam cleaners. Or a hot iron. If the items are ironable. The rug you need to look into 100% cotton.

Rugs: The rugs I have gotten from IKEA have given up their smell pretty quickly IMO. A cotton one may not have much smell but they also don’t wear very well.

Clothing: Wash it as hot as the fabric can take it and add 1/2 to 1 cup vinegar to the wash. Presoak and rinse at least twice.

I remember my kids’ PJs used to say not to use fabric softener so as not to remove the flameproofing instilled into them so fabric softener may be worth a try there.

I couldn’t say whether the sizing and/or starch uses formaldehyde but I know my husband thought it smelled like the morgue. Well, the idea is for the fabric to be stiff…