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 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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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...

Anonymous on Sep 14, 2015:

There are tons of safe - and beautiful projects using wooden pallets. One in particular comes to mind for a very high-end home that used old shipping pallets for floors throughout the home. The pallets were fumigated, sorted, then planed to get a consistent level. The smoothing process was accomplished with a nylon pad then an oil sealer applied. Google Schenck and Company if you're curious about the outcome. I've seen smaller scale projects, like coffee tables or furniture created similarly. 

John Sheridan on Sep 08, 2015:

 Some pallets are used continuously by the same companies, for example some companies charge a deposit on their pallets so that they get them back And can reuse them.  Many companies give away pallets and you can find out what they are used for shipping if you simply ask.  

Anonymous on Sep 05, 2015:

So then go and buy some timber from a DIY shed treated with chromium arsenate! If the pallets are stained or coloured, don't use them. If they smell funny, don't use them. If they look clean and smell of only wood then break them up, dry them out, oil them and use them. Bacteria etc need three things- moisture, air and warmth, deny them one or more and they won't be a problem. You can use food grade oil to seal wood, three coats of rapeseed/canola oil should seal it pretty well.

Bev Jackson on Sep 05, 2015:

Well I have read all the above comments and some of them have made me laugh so loud...does the gent Nick not have Garden Furniture left outside or does he bring it into his sterile home each night after watching gueard on it for creepy crawlies, flies etc whilst it is outside. Just about to start a pallet project and will check the wood out first but then bring it on...

plowman on Aug 31, 2015:

Has the writer quick driving his car? Did he have his windows rolled up tight and a gas mask on when he was behind the "toxic pallet" truck?

Gimme a break.

Justine on Aug 29, 2015:

So, you took one man's comments as gospel? Please tell me that you investigated his research. If you had, you would learn that you have a greater chance getting bad bugs off your kitchen counter, your bathroom doorknob, and YOUR CELLPHONE screen (yes, over 20% of all phone screens have trace amounts of fecal matter- that is POOP). Re-use shopping bags? Congrats! They release chemicals into the air! Wish I had more space because I would dispell all of his rabid concerns. You are welcome!

terre on Aug 28, 2015:

Does anyone feel as I do that we were healthier back when we used soap and water to get rid of dirt and didn't strilize every surface? We developed immune systems that responded appropriately and took antibiotics ONLY when seriously ill. We also played outside, climbing trees (bugs!) even made mud pies and splashed in puddles. We didn't snack between meals, if the kids were 'fat' they got jello for dessert, and eggs instead of pancakes.

Andy on Aug 24, 2015:

I saw nothing written about toxic chemicals. Many pallets have held toxic chemicals that leak. Then pallets soak up these chemicals like a sponge and there's no removing the chemicals from the wood.
Also, the best pallets you can use are the oak pallets. They are a lot stronger than pine AND they are more dense as well which will help limit liquid damage.

Anonymous on Aug 23, 2015:

No it doesn't change my mind. I am sure all said in this article is true, but I have yet to hear of one case of anything coming from a pallet. If it was so easy to catch e.coli from pallets everyone who loads, and unloads them would have come down with it or anything else mentioned!

dawn briggs on Aug 22, 2015:

Can u sand blast them to help eliminate these concerns.than seal the wood with a stain or shallack.maybe

Rach on Aug 21, 2015:

I thought pallets would be great till I read this article and I worked in the steel industry tour 20 years. I should have been smarter. These pallets are exposed to some very harmful chemicals. And our company along with many others would swap pallets all the time. Plus all the stuff shipped from China and other countries who have no regulations. I'd rather use something else than find out 10 years from now I exposed my kids to something that made them sick just to have a bookshelf in my house.

Sherrol on Aug 19, 2015:

Each pallet has a stamp on it if it was used for chemicals. If you have questions www.1001pallets.com is a good source to check what is safe.
However y'all need to stop living in fear ????. Anything now days can kill ya and if the good Lord wants ya He's gonna take ya!!

Anonymous on Aug 18, 2015:

Does sanding, paint ting and sealing not fix this problem? I'm just saying. I refurbish old furniture which I'm sure has been exposed to many nasty things but after sanding painting and sealing I think it's fine. Until I hear of ppl becoming sick form use of I door pallets i,will co tinge to use them I doors.

John Sheridan on Aug 14, 2015:

 So Nick Needs to calm down, Our houses are built with 80 percent reclaimed wood,  We pressure wash all our wood and lightly wire brush it, this gets rid of the dirt, we then dry it all in bright sunlight which gently drys it and disinfects it,  if we are worried about bugs we spray it with borate solution. [ Remember BORAX]   Any cellulose material is a natural environment for mold to grow in, however mold needs moisture.    Lumber from the lumber yard can grow mold just as easily as reclaimed wood.   Keep out  the moisture and keep out the mold.   If you are worried about e coli  etc  then  treat your pallets with a  cleaning solution that will kill these . 

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