The Best Way to Remove Formaldehyde and VOC Chemicals From Your Home

There’s a lot of noise about how to remove formaldehyde and VOC chemical build up in homes. Here are three scientific, data-backed ways to reduce and filter formaldehyde in the home.

Formaldehyde Chemical

Method 1: Open a window

Researchers have found that even in developed urban areas, outdoor concentrations of formaldehyde are near zero.

Average Outdoor Formaldehyde Levels

The only problem is, opening the window in a polluted city will bring in polluted outdoor air. The sky outside my apartment in Beijing isn’t always this blue. 

Blue sky Beijing

Sometimes the world outside my Beijing window looks like this. 

Polluted Sky Beijing PM2.5

If you have a central air system that brings in outdoor air and filters it, you’re good! But if you don’t have that, it’s not cheap to install, so you’re left with method 2…

Indoor air quality ventilation

Method 2: Use activated carbon filters

Activated carbon filters will reduce formaldehyde and other VOCs in the home.

DIY Air Purifier Activated Carbon

Because we’re an open-data start up, Smart Air tested this question by ordering formaldehyde straight from the factory in China (for science!). 

Formaldehyde and carbon filter absorbing test China

Formaldehyde—straight from the factory!

Smart Air co-founder Anna put formaldehyde in a rice cooker in a closed room. Then we compared that to our Cannon fan alone versus the Cannon fan with a carbon filter on it.

Smart Air formaldehyde test carbon filter

Results showed that the carbon filters effectively reduced formaldehyde and other VOCs

Formaldehyde activated carbon test data

With a fan only (red line), formaldehyde levels stayed high. But with a carbon filter on the fan (blue line), formaldehyde levels went down. 

But you don’t need to believe me. All the data and methods are open source: can carbon remove formaldehyde?

But pay attention for how much activated carbon is in your filter. Lots of purifier companies say their purifiers have carbon, but their filters only have a slight dusting of carbon. The Coway filter below is a good example. If you can’t see the tiny black dots of carbon, your eyes are normal! 

Don’t even bother with these “carbon bags” popular in China. Because there’s no fan, hardly any air passes over the carbon, so they likely have close to no effect (tests of plants in real-world homes—as opposed to tests in tiny sealed containers—have also found no detectable effect on formaldehyde).

activated carbon pouch bags ineffective formaldehyde home

Method 3: Try a formaldehyde home cookout

Since formaldehyde off-gases faster when temperatures are high, you might try throwing a home cookout. Set your heat to high, turn on a humidifier, and get the heck out!

Warm up your room by heating it to help release formaldehyde from new furniture and paint

However, I call this method “not so serious” because I’ve never seen anyone actually test it. One thing I’m sure of is that I would not say is that this will completely solve your formaldehyde problem. In the best case scenario, this would off-gas a portion more formaldehyde than normal. 

Bottom Line: Remove Formaldehyde from Your Home

Three effective ways of removing formaldehyde from your home are to open a window, use an air purifier with an activated carbon filter, or perform a home cookout.

Smart Air

Read More: 2 Other Things You Need to Know to Remove Formaldehyde

BONUS: Want Smart Air Professionals to Help You?

Smart Air can help you with formaldehyde removal and air quality testing. Smart Air is a certified B Corp started by University of Chicago Professor Thomas Talhelm to combat the myths big companies use to inflate the price of clean air.

How I Protect Myself

Smart Air is a  certified B Corp  committed to combating the myths big companies use to inflate the price of clean air.

Smart Air provides empirically backed, no-nonsense purifiers and masks, that remove the same particles as the big companies for a fraction of the cost. Only corporations benefit when clean air is a luxury.

Check out the Sqair! (chemical warfare model includes activated carbon for removing formaldehyde)


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