Why We SHOULD NOT Be Using Pallets in Our Interiors

toddler bed, kids eco furniture, recycled materials, DIY, pallet bed, shipping pallets, lori danelle

Okay, here's the deal, a blogger by the name of Nick went on a rant a few months back about why we should absolutely NOT be using rescued pallets in our interiors. His argument is compelling indeed and has made me re-think all those 'pallet projects' I've promoted over the years. 

First he points out the history of rescued pallets.

  • They are "exposed to water, all manner of vermin and insects" and bird droppings.

Then he brings up E. coli & Listeria.

Then he mentions fungus. 

And if all that isn't bad enough...

  • Think pallets made of engineered wood and cardboard might be a better option? Think again; they're oftentimes loaded with formaldehyde. 
  • Engineered wood and cardboard are also notable harbingers of 'creepy crawlies' like cockroaches. 
  • Also of concern is the stuff shipped on the pallets, which could include noxious items that off-gas themselves.

One of Nick's readers took this picture:

THEN Nick counters all those "but MY pallet is SAFE" arguments. 

  • You used only kiln dried pallets. Great, but left in any damp & warm situation (see rainy pic above) for any amount of time and they become a breeding ground for mold.
  • You sanded and washed your pallets. Great, but boring insects and chemicals might still be in there.
  • You know where your pallets came from. Great, but companies reuse pallets all the time. 

So, that's Nick's rant in a nutshell and it's a total buzzkill! BUT it's also a very compelling argument that is hard to dismiss. To read the entire article, follow this jump.

Now, tell me what you think. Has Nick's rant changed your opinion of pallets used in interior decor? Should I stop promoting rescued pallet projects?


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david hannum on Jan 26, 2016:

The misinformation on here is amazing. One previous comment says that lumber from the hardware store is safer. That is completely wrong. Much of that wood has been treated already and is stored in the same way as pallet material. I work for a family business that has a sawmill and a pallet mill. Some of the wood we harvest we sell to lumber yards, some we cut into railroad ties, some of the higher grade woods go to flooring companies, and most goes to our pallet mill. If you think there is some way that wood is separated based on where it is going in the end, you are mistaken. We process our trees, cut them into the needed length of boards and then nail them together. There is no sinister chemical process or treatment done to the typical pallet. Why would we spend the money for something that isn't needed? We do heat treat pallets, but that is required for those shipping outside of the US to kill any bugs that could be considered invasive in other countries. Relax people and use common sense when you use pallets for your projects. If they look like they've been used over and over and have chemicals spilled on it - then pick a different pallet!
Driving back and forth to the place you got your pallet is MUCH more dangerous than the pallet!

Christian dendinger on Jan 26, 2016:

Blah blah blah people there are chemicals in alot thing we eat and use get over yourselves

WDNJ on Jan 26, 2016:

I disagree. If that was the case then we would have to stop using wood all together. All wood is exposed to chemicals. I believe that if we take proper precautions and clean, use sand paper and cover the wood with a good stain or paint this wood is just as safe as any other wood in the market. Better care should be taken to select the products used to treat the wood after all they contain chemicals. Common sense, if a pallet is cover with oil or smells like a pesticide or you suspect the wood to be infested with insects then don't use it! Please keep recycling those pallets and everything else that can be repurposed. The Earth will smile when we save those thousands of trees and reward you with fresh oxygen.

Lori Arnold on Jan 26, 2016:

I work with and use pallets (as pallets) every day. I see what they look like when we have them and frankly wash my hands often. Full of spiders and mouse droppings. Especially if they have been stored outside (and alot are!) We have to special order "treated" pallets to send stuff to other countries and sometimes the smell that comes off of them causes us to open all the doors in the buildings. I sure wouldn't want those chemicals to be breathed in by a child with a bed frame made out of them! Lumber from the hardware store is safe. Pallet wood is not...
But this is just my opinion

Rick on Jan 25, 2016:

Question then? Would this be the same for reclaimed wood from old barns? I see these shows that use them all the time.

Ken on Jan 25, 2016:

Oh please stop all of you, let's use some common sense... All wood comes from outside. Birds crap on wood every day. And unless your blind or completely ignorant, mold shouldn't be an issue either. Unless you lick the pallets while its raining right after a bird crapped on it while someone poured gas on it, I highly doubt any harm will come to you. And as far as bugs go we've found bugs in some of the most expensive pieces of wood, we've even cut 2X4s from Lowes and found bullets lodged in them(by the way there made of lead). Guess what the US government use to test and use nuclear weapons in the open air, animals pee in your water supply every day, farmers use cow crap to grow crops, oil can be found in soil under your house, antifreeze leaks from all types of vehicles and equipment every day, the sun can give you cancer, and bugs and vermin can infiltrate your home any time they please. Id guess tho,that the number one killer and diseaser of humans is humans... So please don't use or burn or enjoy pallets in any way, that's just more for the rest of us. Use your heads people. It's no wonder we as a country are in such sad shape, when everyone starts to make epidemics of such stupid stuff. Sorry for offending half of you and to the other half, stay calm and build on.

Knoepps on Jan 24, 2016:

Paranoia strikes deep! You are exposed to all of these things any way. I've watched homes being built with lumber that has been sitting in the rain and covered with mold spores. There is nothing more dangerous about a pallet health wise than there is a pine board from the lumber yard. If we took this attitude toward everything we would live in a sealed plastic bubble. Oh, but wait, that would contain a substance suspected by California to cause cancer.

Sean on Jan 23, 2016:

I wash mine and I seal everything
Doesn't everyone?
I thought that was the way it was done
I'm sure pallets with character are full of scary things, but not after I clean and seal them

dave on Jan 23, 2016:

You can use bleach or lysol to disinfect if need be

Dana on Jan 23, 2016:

Most of the same arguments hold true for any wood exposed to the elements (read virtually all wood sold). Sanding and finishing would resolve most of the above issues in either case.

JOYCE BUCHANAN on Jan 14, 2016:

Let me shed some light. I am a Truck Driver with 21 years and i can tell you some serious nightmares about pallets, which are used everyday in our industry and i remember taking some pallets to a place that purchased them and they looked at them and won't take them cause they were contaminated. Yes it's best to buy new if your going to be making indoor or outdoor. When they are contaminated the only thing they're good for is kindling. Just giving you the perspective of what i know from being around pallets and what type of issues that occur or can occur from using used pallets.

Katie Divin on Jan 10, 2016:

There are bugs and fungi in wood when it's still a tree. You can always great the pallet. It's not like you are going to eat it. You just have to be careful.

Spence on Jan 09, 2016:

I didn't find it compelling at all. I felt like the whole article boiled down to him saying I don't like pallets because I think they're gross. Ew! A bug! I'm scared of those. Ew! Bacteria from being outside. Scary. Mold from being outside. Scary. I don't like things that have been outside. I bet he is not much fun to camp with.
This article read like one of those news stories you see when there is no real news that day so they fill it with fear mongering and sensationalism. "Sex offenders are now using the same communication devices as your children. Are your children safe? Tune in tonight at 10 for our investigative report on...the telephone."

All wood has spent time outside stacked in a lumber yard where bugs and bacteria are. All of it.
All wood has slivers until it's been planed and/or sanded. Then it doesn't. If you have a rough cut, sliver prone piece of wood, sand it til it's smooth and doesn't have slivers and THEN make a baby bed with it. Your baby will love it.

Ironically, one the best decontamintors out there is good ol' UV light- breaking down chemicals since...the sun existed. If you're really worried about a pallet you should leave it outside longer.

The data he cites about the bacteria found on pallets pales in comparison to the quantity and frequency of the same and similar bacteria on SHOPPING CARTS, a place where people with babies and little children put those babies and little children ALL THE TIME.

Anyone making their own stuff eats into his bottom line, which makes the whole article somewhat dubious from my perspective. If you're going to build with pallets, use common sense...and bleach, just to be on the safe side.
If you don't like building with things that have been outside because the outside is gross , don't use wood to build with.

Dan on Dec 04, 2015:

Someone correct me if I'm wrong but I saw no mention of any kind of polyurethane or protection sealant, which everyone should use on all projects, especially furniture or things that humans have close contact with. Seal off the projects with 4 coats of polyurethane and there's not much to be afraid of.

MAtt on Nov 16, 2015:

I worked in the pop/soda industry for 5 years. Pallets are pretty gross. On the bottoms, there is sand, dirt, grease. On the tops there is impressions from steel drums, strange stains and a lot of them soak up liquids that broke open. Things like pesticides, lubricants, car batteries, leaking food containers. Generally, if pallets are going to have food moved on them, they put a layer of cardboard on top of them first. Used pallets are stacked and everything that is on the bottom of them, will end up being on top. Plus when it rains, everything will end up dripping on the ones below. Granted, if you are fine with storing your lawnmower in your bedroom, or don't mind remnants of industrial chemicals in your furniture, them maybe it isn't a big deal to you

Anonymous on Oct 09, 2015:

E coli & listeria, both found on natural wood as well, like ANY thing else if you look hard enough you can find all bacteria anywhere

Tanya on Sep 24, 2015:

I drove a truck for years and pallets was reuse over and over By different to companies. All the pallets from Walmart with everything from food to TV to paint oil.. is all put on a trailer out side the stores and filled top to bottom. some times it will set there for a year till the trucking company finds someone to sell them to.

Joe Hart Designs on Sep 22, 2015:

I produce commercial pallet furniture and wood walls in the UK. Personally, I no longer go scrounging for old dirty pallets to use as the effort of finding, locating, dismantling, waste disposal, cleaning and sanding takes far more time and energy than it does to purchase new pallet wood slats direct from the mill. That way, I know what I'm selling to my customers as well as keeping check on my company's green target. Dirt and grub can get into the wood at any stage including when it's growing, you got to do your best to keep it in check.

Anonymous on Sep 21, 2015:

So much misinformation on here its laughable.  If your biggest health concern in your home is a used pallet that you recycled, them you must live in a pretty sterile home.  There are hundreds of other risks in your home that far outweigh the risk of a pallet.  The author talks about basically "playing it safe' and not bringing them in the house.  Well, if you are going to "play it safe", then don't bring in any furniture, carpet, paint, non stick pans, plastic containers, most household cleaners, soaps, shampoos, air fresheners, produce bought in the store or any processed foods.  They are filled with chemicals and can harm you as well with enough exposure! While you're at it, don't drive a car, don't use the staircase to your basement, make sure your home is completely fire retardant, and never get on your roof.  All of these have multiple cases of death every year.

Erik on Sep 17, 2015:

"It seems like I'm reading an article everyother day about all the people that got listeria from their pallet project" said no one ever...

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