What Is Formaldehyde Resin?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Formaldehyde resin is a synthetic resin product made with formaldehyde as a base ingredient. This product is used in a wide variety of settings and industries, and is one of the oldest synthetic resins around. Manufacturers are often developing new formaldehyde resin products and thinking of new applications for existing products to make them more useful. Consumers most commonly encounter this substance in the context of a packaged product which includes it, such as MDF, a wood product commonly used in construction.

A man working with MDF, which is commonly made with formaldehyde resin.
A man working with MDF, which is commonly made with formaldehyde resin.

Phenols, melamine, urea, and aniline can all be used to make formaldehyde resin for various applications. The chemicals are reacted with each other to create the resin, which can have varying properties, depending on the ingredients used. Some resins are designed to be sensitive to heat, with heat being needed to activate the resin, while others react with chemicals. The resin may be clear or colored, extremely strong and hard, waterproof, and so forth once the curing process is over and the resin has set.

A face mask and eye protection should be worn when working with MDF, which is commonly made with formaldehyde resin.
A face mask and eye protection should be worn when working with MDF, which is commonly made with formaldehyde resin.

One common use for formaldehyde resin is in paints and varnishes. This product is also used in engineered wood products as a binder for component materials, along with a sealer and coating. The resin is used as glue in the leather industry, appearing in shoes, handbags, and so forth, and it is also used to make molded objects, insulation, fiberglass, fertilizers, and a wide variety of other products. This product has become ubiquitous in many industries because it is strong, reasonably cost-effective, resistant to microbes, and highly versatile.

Urea formaldehyde resin is commonly used as an adhesive in the fiberboard industry.
Urea formaldehyde resin is commonly used as an adhesive in the fiberboard industry.

There are some health concerns about formaldehyde resin. It off-gasses levels of formaldehyde which can become dangerous during the curing process and over the lifetime of the product. Concerns about formaldehyde have led companies to change the formulation of some products, especially those used in home construction, where formaldehyde can become ubiquitous. In a kitchen, for example, cabinets, flooring, and counters may all be made with this type of resin, while formaldehyde may also be present in the insulation used inside the walls and in the fridge.

Formaldehyde resins may be used in wood varnishes.
Formaldehyde resins may be used in wood varnishes.

Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde, and may experience symptoms such as skin outbreaks and respiratory problems if they are exposed to high formaldehyde levels. These individuals can seek out formaldehyde-free products. These products tend to be more expensive, recognizing the added difficulty in formulating such goods without the use of formaldehyde. It can also be difficult to avoid formaldehyde in settings away from home, such as the workplace and the residences of friends.

Formaldehyde resin is sometimes used to make leather goods, such as purses.
Formaldehyde resin is sometimes used to make leather goods, such as purses.
Some individuals may experience respiratory problems when exposed to high levels of formaldehyde.
Some individuals may experience respiratory problems when exposed to high levels of formaldehyde.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon190606

what is the formaldehyde resin used in making wrinkle free shirts and its availability and its application and disadvantages.

anon168311

Can the Formaldehyde resin found in Nailtiques nail products cause cancer and/or health problems of any kind?

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