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How to Know If A Pallet Is Safe to Use
Have a great pallet project you want to make, don’t know if it is safe to use the pallets you find?
How do you know if your wood pallet is safe to use for your project?
Recently, a reader drew our attention to the possible dangers using of shipping pallets, especially in DIY projects like our smoker, where the pallets will be used near food. Some, but not all, pallets have toxic chemicals on them or have been exposed to a chemical treatment that makes them inappropriate for use in home projects. We spent a lot of time finding the best, safe pallets for our use, and we wanted to share with you some tips that will help you find good, usable pallets.
Even a brand new wood pallet could be treated with chemicals. We did some research to figure out how we can assure that you can use a wood pallets safely. Pallets are great for building things and DIY crafts, but we want everyone to be able to stay safe doing so.
Any pallet you find may have been:
1) exposed to chemicals and/or toxins. These can include toxic bacteria from food or animals, chemicals and/or drug residue.
2) fumigated with toxic insecticides to prevent insect infestation.
There’s no way for us to be able to tell how much danger there is in using pallets, but we can tell you what we do know.
We also put together an article on how to find the best pallets, with free ones being our favorite.
Where to Find Free Pallets? Check out the post:
How to Know If A Pallet Is Safe To Use
Any shipping pallet you find at the on the side of the road or at a local source needs to be inspected for a few things.
Step 1 : Determine that the pallet is relatively clean
No signs of spills or leakage of items
If there are any spills on it, either oil, food or unknown substances, you should pass on this pallet. It is much safer to just stick with clean ones and not try to identify what might be on your pallet.
**If the pallet has spills on it, do not use it**
Step 2 : Look at the stamp and markings on the pallet
Almost all pallets will have a stamp, found somewhere on one of the sides.
There are two main things to look for on the pallet stamp:
The IPPC logo :
This is the logo for the International Plant Protection Convention ( IPPC) Pallets that are shipped internationally are required to be made of material that will not carry invasive insect species or plant disease. To meet IPPC standards, a pallet can not be made of raw wood that has not been treated. These pallets must be treated by one of the two following methods, and the treatment will be under the supervision of an agency approved to do this. Without this stamp, the pallet may be safe, but we would rather use pallets whose source can be traced.
**If you do not see an IPPC logo stamp on your pallet, do not use it**
The Method of Treatment and code:
- Heat Treatment [HT] The wood has to heated for at least 30 minutes to a minimum core temperature of at least 132.8 °F /56° C. A Pallet treated this way will be stamped with [HT], and it should appear near the stamp of the IPPC logo
- Chemical Fumigation [MB] The wood was fumigated with a chemical called methyl bromide. A pallet treated with this should be stamped with the letters [MB] and it should appear near the IPPC logo. Altough the use of methyl bromide was banned in March 2010 as an acceptable treatment under IPPC, you may still find a pallet that was treated using this method.
***If you see the letters MB stamped on a pallet, do not use it**
- Debarked [DB] This means the pallet was debarked, and many pallets have this stamp. This signifies that the wood was debarked under IPPC regulations, but it does not matter if your pallet does not have this stamp. Many of them we found do not.
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The things you will find stamped on a pallet and what they mean:
Wood packaging materials must be debarked prior to being heat treated or fumigated to meet regulations . These regulations prevent the re-infestation of insects while lumber is waiting to be manufactured and also after it has been manufactured. These items will likely be seen on a pallet stamp:
- IPPC certification symbol- The IPPC regulates wood products like pallets and ensures that they meet specifications for international shipping.
- XX: Two letters that represent the two letter ISO country code (e.g. US for United States, CA for Canada, AU for Australia, GB for United Kingdom).
- 00: represents the unique certification number issued to agencies that regulate and oversee the individual wood packaging manufacturers. This certification number allows the wood packaging material to be traced back to the NPPO/auditing agency.
- 1111: represents the unique certification number issued to the manufacturer and/or treatment provider. This certification number allows the wood packaging material to be traced back to the provider who treated the wood.
- Compliant stamps may include further information as producers and suppliers may choose to include additional information for identification purposes.
Note: All stamps on pallets may not be clear.
When we first inspected a few from the ones we found, the logos and stamps were not as clear as we expected, and did not exactly follow some of the guides we found online.
What if there is no stamp or marking on the pallet?
It means this pallet is likely used for domestic transport, and it did not require an IPPC stamp, since the pallet was not used for international transport. These pallets are likely safe, as most are not treated with chemicals. However, it is better to be careful. We recommend that you use pallets with stamps, as you can trace where they came from and know how they were treated.
Are colored pallets safe to use?
We do not recommend that you use colored pallets, as they are often used by the pool industry and can contain chemicals.
You will be using any pallet you use at your own risk. Use your own judgement to determine what type pallet works for your project.
Remember, you can always buy new pallets:
If you are apprehensive about using pallets you find, you can buy new, chemical free pallets from a shipping supplier called Uline. This company specializes in shipping supplies and has an extensive catalog online. Uline sells pallets made from new wood (hardwoods, such as elm, oak, cottonwood or maple) and also recycled wood (a combination of elm, oak, cottonwood or maple). If you need to be assured you can prevent insects (especially if you are using your pallets outdoors) you can buy pallets from them that are heat-treated (HT) This will mean the wood has been treated to a certain temperature without the use of chemicals, and this treatment will eliminate the risk of insect infestation.
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