Why We SHOULD NOT Be Using Pallets in Our Interiors

By: Diy maven Sep 28, 2011

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 buzz kill! 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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Comments

jscsgrl lick the pallets Im hysterical! You made my day!:

While some might argue pallets are harmful. They should also take into consideration that some people (me) live in North Dakota. VERY FEW insects can survive during our brutal winters. This is why I do my pallet re-stocking during the brutally cold winter months. I use to live in New Orleans for 20 years, Im an insect pro. Cockroaches will not stay on or somehow in your pallets when your moving them, they will scatter. Go poke your nose somewhere else, like a McDonald's factory. People eat junk every day, they work dirty jobs (oilfield). At the end of the day, no one cares about a "dirty" pallet.

The thing is every wood product is suspect to micro objects, and as a society we are hopefully aiming to reduce waste, as well as costs.  The pallet issue so far as contamination is completely insane, whereas the greater majority of "finish" woods are available to the same which has been stated.  Pick your party, choose what you will, but do not freak people out over stupid shit!

So much misinformation.  Whether or not the pallets have been heat treated has virtually no bearing on its safety in the home. Heat treatment is used for pallets intended for shipment outside the US and is used for killing bugs and any eggs/larvae that may be present.  This has a limited amount of time that it would be of value.  Typically, most heat treated pallets are intended to be used in a short amount of time after production. For the most part, once you have brought a used pallet into your home, it has probably spent a fair amount of time in an area with stagnant air, outdoors exposed to weather, humidity, and whatever else to make the heat treatment irrelevant.  The bugs have had plenty of time to reinfest if they wanted to.  By and large, bugs are of no more concern than they are compared to anything else you bring into the house.  Just make sure you give them a good cleaning.  Most of the alarmist stuff in this article is meant to get people riled up.  Basically, use common sense and you won't have any issues.  You have a million other things in your house and under your sink that are much more harmful than a wood pallet. 

painting or varnishing is a great way to sterilize anything.

Here's a fun exercise. Take a household material, i.e. latex or oil based paint, cooking spray, dish detergent, swiffer wipes, soda etc. anything. and google it along with the word "toxic". you'll likely find a rant. Maybe not with all of them, but many. My point is there're a hundreds if not thousands of toxic things we associate with in our lives. Almost everything you purchase has been in contact with a pallet also - next time you go to ANY grocery store bathroom in the back storage/inventory area take a look around, looks clean right? ..right? My point is not to give alarm but to point out that even without man-made products our bodies are exposed to a multidude of toxic or harmful substances on a daily basis and essentially, generally humans are just not that frail. by all means, if you have a history of illness or are prone to infection, avoid pallet furnture. My own living space has it spread all throughout and I'm fine. My girlfriend is fine. my guests are fine. my pet is fine. notwithstanding as someone else pointed out use common sense. I don't think I'd ever build say, a crib out of pallets....unless the wood was literally buried underneath layers of sealant and had actually no exposed wood at all, then maybe. lol. In summation: pallets may just be one more thing one more person has suggested will hurt us. There are thousands maybe millions of people on tv and the internet saying this or that thing is terrible and will give us birdflue or marburg if we eat/drink/touch/breathe it and I for one feel if you're going to worry about pallets, you might as well give credence to the rest of All The Terrible Toxic Things and basically never go outside, touch an animal, try a new food or (gasp) do a diy project. Life will be pretty dull but hey at least you'll never ever EVER (maybe) get sick.

These are very common issues that people will bring up/think about when wanting to re-use pallets. Are they safe? Are they clean? To be honest, you can not guarantee that all pallets will be safe and clean to use inside the home. But, there are measures and precautions you can take to make sure that they are top notch quality, yourself. To do this, when buying pallets/looking for pallets make sure they are heat-treated (these are not chemically treated). Then when bringing them home wash them with warm water and dishsoap and rinse them off. Let them dry, and then you can sand them down to make sure you won't get slivers and such. Then stain them with a clear coat (or whatever stain you want). These are all ways to make sure that the pallets are safe and useful to re-use.

Rotf....licking your pallets. That's hilarious. I'm getting ready to rip out my floors and replace them with wood pallets. I'll try not to lick them.

Before I bring pallets inside I:

Spray them with alcohol, kills fungus and bacteria and helps dry the wood, making any new infestation or growth unlikely. 

And since I don't own a kiln, I put them in my car with the heat blasting for about three hours. Takes all the moisture out, kills bugs.

Neither of these methods are difficult.

These two posts sum it up for me:

"So, stop using all wood in household furniture? Use what, plastic, glass and metal? Ick. Look for labeled pallets, clean them, spray them with a 10% bleach solution (same thing labs use to kill E.coli and other bacteria) and seal it."

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Anonymous 
Aug 27, 2014

"Kinda a silly argument when you consider your new couch has all the same things your pallets do ..  And higher levels of formaldihide . Couches sit in wharehouses for months , all kinds of vermin and insects will crawl over them .  I should know I have been called hundreds of times over any given year .. to steam clean " NEW" furniture ... New carpet and underlayment is just as bad chemical wise .  So should we stop buying furniture and stop using carpet ?"

When my sister was probably around 7-9 she slept on a new carpet floor had a seizure and develop epilepsy.  I would guess had it been a pallet floor, the outcome would not have been the same. Most feng shui decorators and conscious interior designers recommend used furniture because it has had the opportunity to off-gas a couple years or natural safer options than conventional furniture.

I just like there its going :)

people with common sence here 

Wood comes from nature, it absorbs anything in the air any way. Poly it that stuff will kill anything.  How many bugs have lived in that wood anyway, how many birds lived in the tree the wood is made of?

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Seriously?????? I live half a mile from a lumber yard and i drive by it everyday and i can tell you that there are piles of wood all over the place just sitting there. either finished or uncut i swear i think some of them have been in the exact same spot for over a year. aint no telling whats on them or been on them. but honestly do you really think that we shouldnt use that wood in our house because its been out in the weather? give me a break thats ignorant thinking and people worry WAY to much about the littlest of things. thats like saying i cant use by back deck (all wood) because the bugs and rain have been on them. come on people. if you really want something to worry about then start looking at our government and its problems. big brother is watching everything we do now. thats more of a real threat to me than some wet dirty wood i want to clean and use in my house.

There are risks in everything we do anymore.  Riding in traffic is dangerous due to fumes, and the chance of getting into an accident.  Household chemicals are bad - like bleach and amonia.  Even Lysol spray was suppose to have Agent Orange in it under "Overt Chemicals".  How often did we spray our babies nurseries with that stuff?  And we also sprayed it on surfaces to kill flu bugs, and then we touched those surfaces.  We all know what Agent Orange did to Vietnam Vets.  The point is everything is dangerous in one way or another so decide what is right for you, research your options and make a decision that will work for you.  I did notice when sanding pallet boards the smell was bad, so I went to begging scraps of wood from people who finished projects and that ended that problem!  Enjoy!

 

I see reason for concern and I will definately show this to my daughter who build her raised bed out of pallets because she jumped all over me for using a rain barrell to water my vegetable garden with concern over the grit from the roof.  I guess we're all going to die of something.

I've been telling my husband lately that I wanted to use the pallet in our garage to make something to go in the house.  He just keeps repeating the same stuff you've said here, so I guess they'll be no pallet furniture for me.

"I'll remember these warnings the next time I want to lick my pallet wall." LOL!!!

I can see his argument, BUT, if bleached, then sanded and SEALED with polyurethane they how would it not be okay for them to be used on floors?  Of course I want i want it to be safe, but is anything safe? Those toilet bowl hangy thingies have cancer-causing agents if I remember correctly, and many household items are very dangerous or can be.  How about the fresh veggies and fruits we buy?  No telling what they contain.  Is it more risky when you weight the factors? How can it emit any fumes or transfer to anything else if sealed.  I just want to find someone who can tell me for sure if it is reasonably safe or not.  Also, The pallets I have don't have either of the two markings that a page I found says it should have...one being safe and the other not.

So, stop using all wood in household furniture? Use what, plastic, glass and metal? Ick. Look for labeled pallets, clean them, spray them with a 10% bleach solution (same thing labs use to kill E.coli and other bacteria) and seal it.

Kinda a silly argument when you consider your new couch has all the same things your pallets do ..  And higher levels of formaldihide . Couches sit in wharehouses for months , all kinds of vermin and insects will crawl over them .  I should know I have been called hundreds of times over any given year .. to steam clean " NEW" furniture ... New carpet and underlayment is just as bad chemical wise .  So should we stop buying furniture and stop using carpet ?

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