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As it turns out, wrinkle-free isn't always problem-free, especially for people with skin allergies and sensitivities.

Classified by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a known human carcinogen, formaldehyde, a colorless, flammable glass that has a distinct, strong smell at room temperature, is a strong chemical that's often used in the production of fertilizer, paper, plywood, and urea-formaldehyde resins.

Aside from preserving some foods and other common home products, this volatile organic compound is also utilized in the textile industry by making the fabric resistant from stain, wrinkle, and static.

What’s the problem with “wrinkle-free” anyway?

Although the terms "wrinkle-free" and "iron-free" garments may have altered the laundry game, the conveniences that they provide also come with a price, especially to people with skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and contact dermatitis. 

In an article released by The Atlantic, non-iron shirts have something in common with cadavers: the use of embalming fluids, like formaldehyde. 

"Though it is not obvious from the label, the anti-wrinkle finish comes from a resin that releases formaldehyde, the chemical that is usually associated with embalming fluids or dissected frogs in biology class," it said, emphasizing that people who work with the aforementioned chemical in factories can have serious health implications.

While exposure to formaldehyde will probably not cause any issues for the majority of consumers, wearing wrinkle-resistant clothing while having contact dermatitis poses the biggest risk. 

What are the short-term health effects of formaldehyde exposure?

According to NCI, when formaldehyde is present in the air at levels exceeding 0.1 ppm, some individuals may experience adverse effects such as watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation. "Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde, whereas others have no reaction to the same level of exposure," it added.

Can formaldehyde cause cancer?

NCI also reported that, according to studies of workers exposed to high levels of the chemical, such as industrial workers and embalmers, myeloid leukemia and rare cancers, such as those of the paranasal sinuses, nasal cavity, and nasopharynx, are caused by formaldehyde.

LiverDoctor also echoed the same sentiment, stating that exposure to formaldehyde may also increase one's risk of cancer. "That’s why it’s a good idea to wash new clothes before wearing them. You won’t remove all chemical residues, but you can reduce your exposure," it added. 

Where can you find formaldehyde? 

In a report by How Stuff Works, they said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified that everyone is exposed to small amounts of formaldehyde. Sources of formaldehyde in the environment include: 

  • some manufactured wood products like furniture, laminate flooring, cabinets and more
  • permanent press fabrics, like those used for furniture, carpets and curtains
  • some household products like detergents, glues and some paints
  • certain cosmetics
  • cigarette smoke and other tobacco products
  • smoke from gas stoves and open fireplaces
  • smog
  • medicines and vitamins
  • preserved foods
  • fertilizers
  • certain electrical wiring

What's wrong with wearing non-iron shirts?

According to the New York Times, out of all the 180 fabric-related products tested for noticeable formaldehyde levels, "5.5% exceeded the recommended limit of 75 parts per million." 

"Though the vast majority of the tested items—including sheets, towels, and hats—passed with flying colors, non-iron shirts were among the 5.5% that had potentially dangerous formaldehyde levels. The chemical has also recently been found in higher-than-recommended levels in some baby clothing," they reported.

What should I wear instead?

If you can't live without the convenience that wrinkle-free shirts provide, always wash them with every use. However, synthetic textiles are typically finished for a variety of reasons, such as to make the fabric waterproof, less flammable, and crease-resistant. And when high humidity and perspiration strike, little amounts of formaldehyde are released from your clothing, jeopardizing the comfort of your skin.

Most of the time, we have a tendency to be too trusting and dependent on the language they employ. And while people with skin conditions frequently attribute their flare-ups to their laundry detergent, it's crucial to remember that their clothes may actually be to blame. 

Since we believe that consumers are often in the dark in terms of knowing what goes into their clothing, we, at Cottonique, made the decision to develop hypoallergenic clothes made without harmful synthetics, toxic chemicals, and harsh elastics. 

Our allergy-free collections, which range from tops and bottoms to masks and other accessories that aid in symptom relief, are made with GOTS-certified 100% organic cotton. No latex, no spandex, and no formaldehyde. 

Individuals who already deal with eczema or contact dermatitis can be aggravated by wearing non-iron, wrinkle-free shirts. To prevent flare-ups from happening, we recommend using our allergy-free organic cotton tops instead: 

FOR MEN

Delivering the same excellent fit and allergy-free comfort in a fresh, new look
Fresh and elevated long-sleeved shirt for men's easy weekend outfit.

FOR WOMEN:

Dependable allergy-free wardrobe essential

Allergy-free wardrobe essential that gives extra layer of warmth and comfort on frigid days

While there needs a closer examination of the cumulative effects of formaldehyde, additional research should also be done on a wider range of chemicals used in textiles and clothing. 

TAKEAWAY: Even though these dangerous substances don't frequently appear on tags because they make up a relatively small portion of the entire shirt, they can still irritate people who have skin allergies and sensitivities. Fortunately, our allergy-free organic cotton clothing adheres to high standards for health and safety while still offering non-irritating support and comfort during each wear. 

At Cottonique, we never use a formaldehyde finish on our shirts because we don't want to risk your health. To know more facts about formaldehyde, you may this in-depth resource from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. You may also read our previous article: 3 Effective Ways to Remove Formaldehyde in Clothing to know how you can better protect yourself against the harmful substance.

DISCLAIMER: The information presented on Cottonique is not, and will never be, intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content materials found on this site, from text, treatments, outcomes, charts, graphics, photographs, and study findings, are created and published for general informational purposes only. It should not, in any way, be construed as a standard of care to be followed by a user of the website. 

Thus, readers are encouraged to verify any information obtained from this website with other accurate references and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with their physician. As Cottonique strives to help those with allergies live with better days, the hypoallergenic apparel brand encourages everyone to always seek the advice of their physician or other qualified health providers with any questions they may have regarding a medical condition.

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