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Bought several jeans, then to discover they have a really nauseating smell, that is not removed by washing. Reckon it's formaldehyde, from what I can read. Anyway, assuming you have jeans with formaldehyde in the fabric, what may effectively remove/neutralize this?

I ordered $\pu{10 kg}$ sodium bicarbonate for a soak, or I plan to heat them for a long time. But advice from chemists is perhaps more productive. So, any ideas?

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Formaldehyde is indeed used for disinfection, but usually there is a subsequent procedure involving formaldehyde neutralization with $10\%$ to $25\%$ aqueous ammonia solution introduced (as a spray) at elevated temperatures. Ammonia reacts with formaldehyde producing water-soluble hexamine which, even though also has unpleasant smell of rotten fish, is then easily washed out from the fabric:

$$\ce{6 CH2O + 4 NH3 -> C6H12N4 + 6 H2O}$$

I'd suggest to wash the clothes at higher temperature ($\pu{40 .. 60 ^\circ C}$) as you would normally do, but adding some ammonia; afterwards, soak the clothes in cold water for a while (solubility of hexamine increases in cold water), wring out and air dry.

In some countries there are also ozone-chambers (basically a sealed wardrobe with an $\ce{O3}$ generator inside, offered by dry cleaning companies) where organic pollutants are oxidized; formaldehyde is no exception:

$$\ce{CH2O + 2 O3 -> CO2 + H2O + 2 O2}$$

Both vinegar and soda can also be used, though I'd think their effectiveness is going to be lower.

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  • $\begingroup$ I will test it and report the results (..in some time). $\endgroup$ – bretddog Dec 12 '17 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ @bretddog - I would love to know how it went! Specifically, how offensive was the ammonia smell? $\endgroup$ – Tracy Jul 24 at 0:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Tracy The smell was strong enough that I would certainly have thrown them away or returned them. Forgot exactly what I did with them, but I believe I soaked them in baking soda, or a mix of baking soda and vinegar perhaps. Then I think I froze them. And hang them outside for several days. Maybe it got like at least 50% better, but still the smell was present. So they were just laying around for some time. Then after a while there was surprisingly no smell at all, so I started using them. Perhaps also laying them out in the sun may help. $\endgroup$ – bretddog Jul 24 at 1:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Tracy It's possible I may have heated them in the oven too, for a few hours, on 75-100C maybe. Thinking chemicals evaporate at different temperatures. $\endgroup$ – bretddog Jul 24 at 1:17

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