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. 

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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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160456 views | Comments (174)


Do you know how much formaldehyde is in particle board and plywood?  I think these new products are far more contaminated than any pallet.  Don't even get me started on wal to wall broadloom and the chemicals it off gasses.

Yesterday in my travels, and as I gazed out the passenger window at the tick and gypsy moth infested trees with decaying moss and bacteria ridden rotting trees, I was passed by an open air flatbed 18 wheeler loaded up with lumber. I'm sure some at least one peice of that lumber will grace the interior of someone's home. Shortly after that we passed 4 massive peices of a hopefully happy family's prefabed modular home. While new and rather fuel efficient, some of my pickup trucks exhaust and the thousands of other vehicles had to have passed through, over, and around both precious cargo. All kidding aside I think some care and consideration should be taken with all secondhand and recycled materials.

Also: "I'll remember these warnings the next time I want to lick my pallet wall." Is my all time fav responce 

Isn't most all wood treated. If anything the wood from a lumberyard is more likely to be treated more than the lowly pallet. I just made a work bench out of some and plan to do side tables for our sofa next weekend with pallets. Can't wait!

nick is a jag off. I loath the cry baby statistical arguments people make. Scour the internet and you can argue any point with "facts" in your favor, in no time. Here's some ecoli and listeria facts nearly all chicken and eggs bought in commercial environments are ecoli packed. How about lunch meat and our hoagie/subs from our favorite deli or subway etc... The meat is riddled with listeria (this is why lunch meat and hot dogs are forbidden for pregnant women) Now, knowing that we eat these bacteria on a regular basis are you scared? I'm not. With wood you can take precautions to select or prevent interactions with these contaminants, food is a grab bag of invisible and unavoidable bacteria. The threats can be nearly eliminated with using the pallets, be smart and select the best available options, sand and seal them, kiln if possible, etc. If you live life under a microscope your bound to see impurities ...
Wow, just curious does he work for a lumber supplier?

I plan on slathering my pallets with the creamy filling from Twinkies!  First it will kill off and / or neutralize anything that's ever touched a pallet and secondly it will preserve it forever!  Better yet, I'm going to forgo the pallets and use Twinkies as building materials along with hot dogs, fruitcake, etc.  

I would suggest not breathing to avoid many of these problems...

When I was younger I worked in a lot of warehouses and touched, loaded and broke down many many pallets and so did everyone I worked with.never got anything from them and neither did anyone else.
Duh.....clean them...a good drowning of bleach water and dawn will kill and sanitize anything...I use Barnwood and my barn is 200 years old and we are still alive....pss if you use paint pr varnish or anything on the wood....kills organisms

I was trying to do a little research on pallets for my garden and came across this. While there are concerns over some chemicals, bugs, bacteria, whatnot.-Keep in mind wood furniture has been used for thousands of years (if not longer) and humanity has prevailed. I am more worried about plastics or pre-fabricated furniture and all of the chemicals that not only make up the furniture, ( which can be absorbed by the skin and food), but what chemicals were emitted in the air from the factory. I choose the less scary, recycled, wood furniture any day!  I plan to use kiln dried pallets in my garden, and put a food safe stain on them. Just my two cents.

let me know the last time someone died from something they caught from a pallet....safer to have a pallet in your home then the air we breath...

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

The same arguments can be made of ANY reclaimed wood - and in fact any wood, period. Anyone with a reasonable amount of woodworking experience will know in an instant which pieces of pallet wood are usable for flooring (or whatever) and which are not.  Once the fasteners are out and the wood is re-milled, it's very easy to see/know what is contaminated and what is clean, usable material.  I would however use a respirator and take other reasonable precautions while milling down ANY reclaimed material.  If I have to detail point by point what those precautions are- you don't yet have enough experience to attempt reclaimed material and should find a mentor. 

Hasn't changed my mind, still going to do my floor. Most of his concerns apply to most anything you bring into your house. We have way too many chemicals in our world. You can clean the wood, with a disinfectant, sand it down and inspect it well. You can also seal it which will end most of his issues.

Formaldehyde is found in almost every vaccine that we are required to inject into our kids... 

If people are concerned about the chemicals that may be found in pallets, they should research how many household products have formaldehyde as an ingredient; the #1 active ingredient in Mr. Clean dry erase sponge is formaldehyde. Creepy critters are everywhere. Do I want a brown recluse spider living in my Maine home? No. To ensure this, I would make sure all pallets used are from the northeast. carry on with pallet furniture!
Ok you can still do your pallet projects you just can use premade pallets so go to the hardware store buy 4x4's and 2x4's it's a simple 4 ft by 4 ft construction or custom build them to fit your project

The Tylenol story would have more weight if the chemical they blamed it on is actually used in pallet manufacturing.  It's banned in the US.  Also, lets say that the chemical was used.  This chemical had to be able to permeate the initial plastic wrap, then the large box that multiple packages are placed in, then the smaller box that you see on the shelf, and then the plastic bottle.   They were never able to prove that it was the pallet, only blamed the pallets, with no proof.

Mold, formaldihyde, germs oh my!  We should look at banning dihydrogen monoxide.  Without DHMO these other things cease to be problems

I'm using pallets that were used to ship vegetables. Okay, maybe at one time they "may" have been subjected to chemicals, but ultimately I think these might be some of the safer ones to use. Also, if we are painting and sealing them, whatever horrible creatures that live in them, will most likely die and be enternally embalmed. I'm okay with that. I still think a lot of pallet furniture is better than some of Ikea's crap and a lot less expensive to make.

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