I was recently asked by a reader whether or not pallets were in fact safe to use in the home for decorating. I thought this was a great question and in need of some addressing. Since decorating with pallets is so popular right now, it is important to know how to pick and then clean your pallets for optimal safety.
Before you start getting worried that all pallets are a hazard and that you are taking a big health risk by bringing them into your home, let me just say that most companies in the U.S. now use pallets that are heat treated vs. chemically treated which is the main concern when using pallet wood.
You can tell how a pallet has been treated by whether or not it has an IPPC logo on it, which is now required for heat treated pallets.
The HT stands for heat treated which makes it easy to spot and remember. According to Instructables, who makes dozens of pallets every day, more companies are also making one time use pallets instead of recycling them. But, how do you know? You can ask the company from where you are getting the pallets. It’s best not to just take pallets anyway since the business may be recycling them. Another good option is too simply use your senses. How does the pallet look? If the wood is very dark or spotted with spills, it may be suspect and better left for newer wood. How does the pallet smell? Any funky smell and you should definitely run from it! And, if you hear anything coming from it, that’s just weird and leave it alone.
Once you find a decent pallet, you still need to clean it before you use it in your home! I am the lover of bleach myself. Whenever I bring any wood in the house that has been outside I first sand the surface and then give it a good cleaning with bleach and a scrub brush. This should eliminate mold, mildew and any little insects or bacteria. Then let it dry thoroughly.
Between picking pallets that are heat treated and giving them a good cleaning, they should be perfectly fine to use in your home. If you can find one time use pallets, that is just icing on the cake! Also, moderation is always a good idea. If you lined every wall in your house with pallets and made all your furniture from them too, then the possible exposure risk to any chemicals may be too great. However, one or two pallet features, that have been cleaned, throughout a whole house should not pose a problem.