How to Tell if a Pallet is Safe to Use in the Garden | PreparednessMama (2023)

I am creating a new garden on the cheap. I have big plans for raised beds and I’m looking for re-purposed materials to build them. I was able to scoop up a bundle of pallets from the local mini-storage for free. Cheap is good, but not at the expense of my family’s health. Therefore, I had to do research on pallet safety.

I’ve heard that pallets can be treated withmethyl bromide, which is listed as an endocrine-disrupting chemical on the EU list. According to the California Proposition 65 List, methyl bromide also has far-reaching effects on biological reproduction and development.

Since soil can pick up chemicals leaching from reclaimed wood, I need to be sure that my “free” pallets are not going tocause us long-term harm, as no garden is worth health complications.

Pallet Safety Comes First

From the websiteof the EPA:“Methyl bromide is an odorless, colorless gas used to control a wide variety of pests in agriculture and shipping, including fungi, weeds, insects, nematodes (or roundworms), and rodents.

Methyl bromide is highly toxic. Studies in humans indicate that the lung may be severely injured by the acute (short-term) inhalation of methyl bromide. Acute and chronic (long-term) inhalation of methyl bromide can lead to neurological effects in humans. Neurological effects have also been reported in animals.”

Methyl bromide can be devastating to the human body, being able to enter it through inhalation when breathing contaminated air. It can also enter your body through theskin or through the eyes. Both happen when you make direct contact with the substance, which can happen without your knowledge, especially if you are within distance and lack protective gear.

(Video) Pallet Wood Projects - Are Pallets Safe to use for Projects?

The symptoms of inhaling methyl bromide are abdominal pain, convulsions, dizziness, headache, labored breathing, vomiting, weakness, hallucinations, loss of speech, and incoordination. Kidney damage is also likely if severe amounts of methyl bromide have been inhaled. When exposed to skin, it can cause tingling and itching. It can also be absorbed through the skin: symptoms of absorption are redness, burning sensation, pain, and blisters.

Redness, pain, blurred vision, and temporary loss of vision are the symptoms that occur when methyl bromide comes in the contact with eyes. The EPA lists methyl bromide as a “highly acute toxic.”

YUCK!

Fortunately, methyl bromide has not been used to fumigate pallets since 2005, but there are still old pallets in circulation, which means that you need to be on the lookout for them.If you find an MB pallet, please do not use it for your craft project, in the garden, or as firewood. Instead, find a waste removal company that can dispose of it properly.

Here’s How to Make Sure That Your Pallet Is Safe to Use

Every pallet has a label stamped on it somewhere. If your pallet does not have this label, then it means that it was produced locally or at the very least in your country and is thus designed for domestic use. However, it is better to be safe than sorry, so using pallets without a stamp is not recommended, as you are putting yourself at risk.

The label should have several codes on it that list:

(Video) What You Need to Know About Pallets (Stamps and Safety)

  • the country where it originated
  • the IPPC logo
  • how it was treated
  • it may have a unique numerical code
  • a logo identifying theinspector

ONLY pallets marked HT (heat treatment) are safe to use. DB means that the wood was debarked. It has no bearing on the safety of the pallet. MB means that hazardous methyl bromide was used to treat the wood, so steer clear of such pallets if you want to use them for your edible garden crops, as they will toxify them with chemicals, which can lead to devastating health complications.

Don’t use MB-marked pallets for indoor heating, such as by burning, as methyl bromide releases toxic fumes that can be hazardous to both human and animal health in the long run. One study found that the inhalation of such fumes can scar the human lungs even after short-term exposure.

To make matters worse, acute exposure to methyl bromide can lead to pulmonary edema, a condition in which there is too much fluid in the lungs and that is known to cause severe respiratory issues.

What’s more is that methyl bromide is known to be an ozone-depleting chemical, which is one of the reasons why several nations have decided to ban it altogether, including the United States. Methyl bromide depletes the ozone layer, meaning that it is easier for ultraviolet sunlight to reach the Earth, which is detrimental to our quality of life, as ozone is essential when filtering harmful radiation.

Despite international bans, the chemical is still being used. Certain foods in North America are known to contain methyl bromide since it is very effective at killing off nematodes, fungi, and weeds, all while being cheap when compared to alternatives.

The KD stamp on a wooden pallet means that it was “kiln-dried.” This process refers to drying the pallet in a special oven called a kiln with the intent of bringing down its moisture levels so that rot and fungal growth can be prevented, among other issues that might appear. KD doesn’t mean that the wood is hazardous for human health and pallets that have been stamped as such can be used in safety.

From 1001Pallets.com – “Wooden pallets manufactured in Canada or the United States undergo a pest control treatment called heat treating (HT) which involves heating the pallet to (a) minimum core temperature of 56°C (132°F) for softwoods and 60°C (140°F) for hardwoods for a minimum of 30 minutes in a kiln. HT pallets are not harmful to your health and can be used in safety.

(Video) This Is Why I DON'T Use Pallets In My Garden

There is one final thing to check before using a found pallet. If the wood is visibly stained and you don’t know “where your pallet has been,” then you should absolutely not use those stained boards. While it might be a harmless stain, such as from soda, or less harmful substances such as oil, the risk of it being far more than that does not justify using it. Practicing pallet safety is highly important for a perfect and stress-free gardening experience.

If you look at the picture depicting a stack of pallets at the beginning of this post you can see one that is visibly darker than the rest. That is a warning sign that the pallet may have been exposed to other chemicals. Using caution when using them is unnecessary, as the recommended approach is to discard them altogether and to use pallets you are utterly sure are safe.

Now you know how to keep your family safe when you find free pallets. The ones that are marked with HT are generally safe, so if you have any in your possession, then go make those planter boxes and get gardening! Remember: always keep pallet safety in mind!

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We’ve learned from the past so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes again. Fear of the unknown is one of the scariest things in life, but we hope that Preparedness Mama’s treasure trove of practical advice will make that unknown less daunting and ultimately help take the scared out of being prepared for every single one of our readers.

(Video) ★ How to: Select the correct Pallet Wood for Projects (Complete Safety Guide to Pallets & Symbols)

FAQs

How do you know if a pallet is safe? ›

Some pallets may have more than a single marking, and it is important to remember that an unsafe marking will usually supersede a safe one. In general, safe pallets will carry the DB, KD, EPAL or HT markings, meaning that they haven't been treated with dangerous chemicals.

Is it safe to use pallets in the garden? ›

Pallets are usually treated to destroy any parasites or insects in the wood. The treatments vary and some are not safe for use in the garden or even for burning on a fire. Pallets that are being sent internationally are required to have a treatment stamp on them, which helps us to identify how they were treated.

How do you make wood pallets safe? ›

Scrubbing the wood with bleach or soapy water and/or rinsing it with a power washer are good methods. Let the sun do a bit of cleaning, too, if you can—leave your washed pallets outside in full sun so they dry out completely and benefit from the disinfecting powers of UV rays.

Are unmarked pallets safe? ›

Pallet Markings

If a pallet is unmarked, it generally means that it's a 'national' pallet used within a particular country. The wood in these is generally untreated but may still be safe to use. Pallets for international use have to be in accordance with the ISPM 15 regulations.

Can pallet wood make you sick? ›

Sometimes untreated pallets can carry bacteria, mold, or fungus when shipped overseas that can make people sick so it is important to never use untreated wooden pallets when shipping overseas.

Do wooden pallets contain chemicals? ›

The main chemicals used on pallets are mold treatments and MB. The MB dissipates upon air contact, and mold treatments (which are applied to some HT-stamped pallets, contrary to some advice) dissipate in 15 to 30 days, long before the affected pallets will end up in the hands of pallet crafters.

How do you tell if a pallet is treated pine? ›

The basics of pallet identification

*The IPPC Logo: if you don't see it, don't use it! Even if a pallet may be perfectly safe without this logo, it could also mean that it was treated with chemicals! *The treatment code : [HT] = Heat treatment / [MB] = Methyl Bromide / [DB] = Debarked / [KD] = Kiln Dried.

How do you preserve wood pallets for outdoor use? ›

If you want full waterproofing for your wooden pallets, you'll want to apply a lacquer or varnish sealant. These sealants should be applied at room temperature, and with proper ventilation as the chemicals can be quite strong and even harmful in prolonged exposure.

Do wooden pallets attract bugs? ›

Wood-Eating Pests: Wooden pallets attract termites and wood boring beetles, both of which require special treatment from your pest control provider.

How do you keep pallets from rotting? ›

How to Prevent Wooden Pallets from Rotting
  1. Keep Pallets off the Ground. The bottom pallet resting directly on the ground, even in a paved lot, can lead to rotten bottom boards under long-term storage. ...
  2. Ensure Proper Airflow. ...
  3. Rotate the Stock. ...
  4. Move the Pallets.
8 Aug 2019

What wood is safe for pallets? ›

Pallets, lumber, and other cut and dried scrap wood are indeed good to burn (as long as you are completely sure they were not treated with any chemicals such as arsenic or methyl bromide, which are very hazardous when burned).

Do pallet beds attract bugs? ›

They frequently come into contact with water, insects, mold, animal droppings, and more. Because the wood isn't finished, it can absorb these contaminants. Even more seriously, wooden pallets are often treated with harsh chemicals to make them more resistant to moisture and insects.

What does it mean if a pallet is painted blue? ›

Over the years, people have asked why CHEP pallets are blue? The answer is that CHEP paints its pallets blue. CHEP uses blue as a pallet color coding aid as well as a marketing advantage. The blue color makes its pallets easier to identify.

Why are pallets painted blue or Red? ›

Colored pallets

1001Pallets.com lists the four main pallet pool companies in the world that you can differentiate by the color: Red pallets: PECO (The Pallet Exchange Company from the USA) Red pallets: LPR (La Palette Rouge from Europe) Blue pallets: CHEP (Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool from Australia)

Do pallets have bugs? ›

“It is a well-established fact that wood pallets are susceptible to insect infestation due to the porous nature of wood,” said Moore.

Will wooden pallets rot? ›

Do pallets rot? In the short-term, most wooden pallets can withstand weather conditions like rain and sun exposure. However, if pallets are stored outdoors for long periods of time, the wood will rot.

Do pallets get moldy? ›

Moisture

In order for mold to grow on pallets, crates, and other wood packaging, it must have moisture. In general, pallets stored in a location with 60% humidity or greater have a better chance of becoming contaminated, but it's not impossible for mold to grow in conditions with far less humidity.

Does pallet wood have mold? ›

First, many pallets are constructed using green or wet wood. The wood will eventually dry below 20 percent MC, but mold fungi can grow into and sporulate on the pallet while this process occurs. In addition, pallets can be rewetted when stored outdoors, allowing other mold fungi to colonize the wood.

Is there formaldehyde in pallet wood? ›

Wood pallets made with "engineered wood" components also contain urea formaldehyde – a known carcinogen – which may come into contact with food under a variety of scenarios when it is stored and shipped on wooden pallets.

Are pallets treated with arsenic? ›

Chemical Treated Wood Pallets

The official stamp is usually in black and found in an oval or square border. Handlers of chemically treated pallets are required to wear gloves for their safety. An important note: Arsenic poison was used to treat pallets before 2009.

Does pallet wood need to be treated? ›

Most pallet wood is not chemically treated if intended for domestic use. If it doesn't carry a stamp or marking, then it was used only within the U.S. and is most likely already safe to use indoors.

How can you tell if wood is treated with chemicals? ›

Chemical treatment markings typically show up as abbreviations such as Bor, FDN, or ACQ. All of these abbreviations stand for different forms of chemical treatment that show that the lumber is treated. Lumber tags on the other hand are usually clearly marked if present.

Can you use pallet wood for raised garden beds? ›

Raised beds are great for keeping your garden neat and tidy, and using wooden pallets makes building them as easy as laying them out on the ground and adding soil, compost and plants. Even strawberries grow well in pallet planters, helping them stay clean and easier for you to pick.

How do you tell if your timber is treated? ›

Treated timber is used by builders for things such as fencing, decking, outdoor furniture or cladding. It's usually identifiable by a green tinge, although this can be difficult to see if the timber is old or weathered.

How long do wooden pallets last outdoors? ›

In addition, the average lifespan of a wooden pallet is between 3 and 5 years, with a number of significant variants. Depending on how frequently you ship, the weight and type of goods, distance traveled and so on, the usable lifespan of your wooden pallets will vary.

How do you protect a wooden pallet from termites? ›

WOODLIFE CopperCoat can be used to treat wood that's below ground as well as cut ends that are most at risk. You can also use a borate spray like Bora-Care to keep termites and carpenter ants away from wood. All you have to do is dilute the formula with water and spray it on the wood surface.

Why are pallet beds toxic? ›

When pallets are moved across state and national borders, they sometimes require fumigation. Often, this process is performed with methyl bromide, a highly toxic chemical. Even if much of the toxin has been scrubbed off the pallet by the time you sleep on it, even small traces could be harmful in the long run.

How do I make sure wood doesn't have bugs? ›

Borax and Water Spray

Mixing a little bit of borax and water and throwing it into a spray bottle is a great way to spray the wood for bugs. It will not only kill any insects that are currently living in the wood, but it will also prevent any new bugs from taking refuge in your reclaimed wood.

What wood do bugs not like? ›

Woods that are natural insect repellents include redwood and cedar. They have oils that protect them from getting gnawed on, and they can be used for indoor projects. It's best to choose heartwood grades when using these woods because they are the hardiest and have the highest concentrations of the oil.

How long do pallets last on the ground? ›

Wooden pallets struggle to withstand humid environments and harsh weather conditions. They crack, splinter, and absorb water – causing them to deteriorate much faster. The typical lifespan of a wooden pallet ranges from 3-5 years, but plastic pallets have a durable design that can last for up to 10 years.

Do pallets get ruined in the rain? ›

Rain and wet weather can have a visual effect on your pallet quicker than snow or ice. It can cause wooden pallets to stain, increase the rate of mold growth or even damage the product on the pallet. This could obviously be very serious depending on the product.

What is the lifespan of a wooden pallet? ›

A wooden pallet is in many respects, just like any other product, it has a lifespan. The average lifespan of a reusable wooden pallet is noted to be between 8 and 10 years.

Are all pallets treated with chemicals? ›

Some, but not all, pallets have toxic chemicals on them or have exposure 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.

Can you leave wood pallets outside? ›

Storing Wood Pallets Outside

Moisture can cause pallet boards to swell (displacing nails) and rot prematurely. Rotten pallets can fail unexpectedly and may result in injuries, inventory damage, and operational inefficiency. Using tarps to protect wood pallets from rain can help.

Are plastic pallets better than wood? ›

Using Plastic Pallets

These pallets have a much longer lifespan than wood pallets as well. They're more durable and less likely to break down on repeated trips. It is the ideal platform for re-use. How plastic pallets are constructed helps to account for their durability.

Are blue pallets safe to use? ›

should avoid pallets which are painted (the blue, red and brown ones are usually collected and reused by the pallet company which supplies them). You should also avoid any pallets with a MB stamp. This stands for Methyl Bromide which is a harmful chemical used to prevent wood eating insects consuming the pallets.

Can you use a pallet as a bed frame? ›

Connect all the floor pallets to each other with flat brackets and 1.5-inch screws. If you're adding a headboard, join the two headboard pallets together with two flat brackets, and then connect the headboard to the floor piece with corner brackets. Voila, you're finished making your DIY pallet bed!

Do Bedbugs live in wood? ›

Can Bed Bugs Live in Wood Furniture? Bed bugs don't eat or burrow into wood, like termites or carpenter ants. However, they can make use of the already existing cracks and crevices. Wooden furniture contains many joins, gaps, and hinges – tiny spots which are perfect for bed bugs to hide out in, away from prying eyes.

Are pallets toxic to humans? ›

Pallet Safety Comes First

Methyl bromide is highly toxic. Studies in humans indicate that the lung may be severely injured by the acute (short-term) inhalation of methyl bromide. Acute and chronic (long-term) inhalation of methyl bromide can lead to neurological effects in humans.

What does TP mean on a pallet? ›

TIMBER PRODUCTS Pallets

Since 1990, Timber Products Inspection (TP) has offered a comprehensive pallet auditing program.

What does Red paint on a pallet mean? ›

Red pallets manufactured in the US are made from high quality lumber, kiln dried, not chemically treated and undergo rigorous third-party inspections. They will be stamped with the letters PECO for the Pallet Exchange Company.

Are Lowes pallets free? ›

Are Pallets Free At Lowes? Lowes gives free pallets to its customers. However, not all Lowes stores provide free pallets as some recycle them as part of their sustainability program. So, you have to ask the store in advance if they can provide you with some.

What does a white pallet mean? ›

“White wood” is the nickname for a general exchange, non-rental pallet that is widely used in a variety of industries around the world. These pallets are sold to customers that then use the pallet as they see fit. The dominant footprint size is the U.S. consumer goods market is a 48x40.

How can I tell what kind of wood my pallet is? ›

The type of wood – Different woods have different colors, grain patterns, and densities. This can help you identify the type of wood used to make the pallet. The weight of the pallet – Heavier pallets are usually made of hardwoods, while lighter pallets are usually made of softwoods.

How can you tell if a pallet is toxic? ›

Markings on Unsafe Pallets

Markings to look out for include MB, which indicates that the wood has undergone treatment with the toxic chemical methyl bromide. A pallet may also be unsafe if it has the letters EUR but not EPAL as well.

How do I know if my pallets are safe? ›

Look for the IPPC stamp on the side of the wood to determine how it was treated. Pallets marked with an “HT” were heat-treated and did not come into contact with chemicals during the treating process. Avoid unmarked pallets or those stamped with an “MB” for methyl bromide.

What pallets should you not use? ›

There are some additional codes that can go on pallets but the main one to watch out for is MB. It means it was treated with Methyl Bromide. If you don't see an IPPC logo then you know not to use it. While a pallet may be perfectly safe without the logo, it could also mean it was treated with chemicals.

What does OSHA say about pallets? ›

Cargo, pallets and other material stored in tiers shall be stacked in such a manner as to provide stability against sliding and collapse.

What pallets are food safe? ›

The FDA has approved food-grade plastics, categorized by the following:
  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET): Code 1.
  • High-density polyethylene (HDPE): Code 2.
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC): Code 3.
  • Low-density polyethylene (LDPE): Code 4.
  • Polypropylene (PP): Code 5.
  • Polystyrene (PS): Code 6.

What do pallet markings mean? ›

There are four common treatment codes that tell what method of treatment the pallet has received: HT: Heat Treatment. MB: Methyl Bromide. DB: Debarked. KD: Kiln Dried.

What does a normal pallet look like? ›

The standard pallet size is 48" X 40" with each deck board being 3 ½" wide 5/16" thick. There are other pallet sizes that are standard across different industries but the above described GMA pallet is the most common and makes up more than 30% of all pallets used in the USA.

What does B mean on a pallet? ›

“Grade B” pallets have been previously used and typically have experienced damage to one of its stringers. To fix, or reinforce, the damaged wood, an additional runner is placed alongside the broken or cracked piece.

Is it an OSHA violation to leaning pallets? ›

When standing upright, the unstable pallet can fall over and injure a worker. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) clearly states “Cargo, pallets and other material storied in tiers shall be stacked in such a manner as to provide stability against sliding and collapse” (Standard 1917.14).

What does DB mean on a pallet? ›

DB – Debarked.

Just about all pallets are made from 'debarked wood' and all it means is that the bark of the tree has been removed from the wood used. This is done to ensure any other heat treatments can be applied efficiently to the wood.

Do bugs live in pallets? ›

You get a shipment of food or equipment and you set the palettes on the floor or up against the wall and in a couple of weeks you could have a roach infestation because wood pallets can bring in pests to your business.

Are pallets treated for outdoor use? ›

While most wooden pallets are designed to be stored outside when in use for commercial shipping, chances are they are NOT treated to the standards you'll need for long-term outdoor exposure. Chances are they will not stand up to wear by climate and weather without some additional treatment.

What is the most common type of pallet? ›

Wood pallets are by far the most common type of pallet in use today. The National Wooden Pallet and Container Association have put together a guide to develop quality measures and establish uniform standards for wooden pallets across all manufacturers, repairers, distributors, and users.

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