How is formaldehyde normally used?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring chemical. It can be found in our bodies as well as in many of the products that we use everyday. In the early days of food mass production, formaldehyde was used as a preservative. Because is is a preservative, formaldehyde is also used in embalming.

It can now be found in glues and ink that is used to print books, magazines and money. Formaldehyde is used to make different kinds of plastic. Some of these plastics are used to make prosthetic limbs, pacemakers and artificial heart valves.

Formaldehyde-based materials are also used to produce engine and transmission parts and paint. If you own a pair of slacks or a dress shirt that was advertised as being "wrinkle-free", then the fabric used  to make that garment was most likely treated with formaldehyde. The formaldehyde helps the dyes in the clothes resist bleeding and enables the material to resist wrinkling.

Because of its antimicrobial qualities, formaldehyde is used to create a number of vaccines for humans. These vaccines help prevent a number of illnesses like Polio, Influenza, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Anthrax, just to name a few.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

You will find formaldehyde normally used in preservatives in the form of formalin. Formalin (a 10% solution of Formaldehyde) is also used in vetenary medicine for hoof abscesses in goats and as a disinfectant on concrete, wood and PVC.

Formaldehyde is used in the manufacture of many common consumer items, including paper towels, photographic film, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, lipstick and nail polish and acts as an anti-bacterial agent in such consumer products as mascara.

Formaldehyde is a bonding agent used in many glues that you find in trailer homes, pressboard, and wafer board as well as paneling.

Formaldehyde is used in the manufacture of wrinkle-free clothing, women's bras and undergarments, as well as a binding agent for dyes in materials.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial