How To Tell If A Pallet Is Safe For Reuse?

With an estimated 2 billion pallets being used every day, and many more sitting around, no wonder so many projects have been done using pallets. At 1001Pallets, we present you 1001 ways to recycle, upcycle, reuse or repurpose wooden pallets! But many of you have questions about pallet’s safety and if the pallets they found are safe to use or not.

We tried to summarize the information we found. The first issue is to be careful of what has spilled on the pallet! If there are any spills on it, either oil, food or unknown substances, you should not use this pallet. It is much safer to use only clean ones and not try to identify what might be on your pallet.

For the clean ones here is what we can tell you :

WHEN THERE IS NO STAMP OR MARK ON THE PALLET?

It means that it’s a “national pallet” that is used for domestic transport (wherever you are located)! Most of them are not treated with chemicals, so can be totally safe. But you may still be careful. I know people who use these pallets safely but it’s better if you can trace where they come from.

FOR INTERNATIONAL PALLETS

IPPC-logo

There are 2 main things to watch for on the stamp :

  1. 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!
  2. The treatment code : [HT] = Heat treatment / [MB] = Methyl Bromide / [DB] = Debarked / [KD] = Kiln Dried.

The IPPC logo is for the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) pallets that are used and shipped internationally. These pallets are required to be made of material that will not carry invasive insect species or plant disease through different countries. In order to meet the IPPC standards, a pallet can not be made of raw wood that has not been treated, in other terms, all pallets are treated. These pallets must be treated by one of the following methods, and the treatment will be under the supervision of an official agency approved to do this. Without this stamp, the pallet may be safe or not, so you should only use pallets whose source can be traced for a safely use.

[HT]: Wooden pallets manufactured in Canada or the US undergo a pest control treatment called heat treating (HT) which involves heating the pallet to minimum core temperature of 56°C for softwoods and 60°C for hardwoods for a minimum of 30 minutes in a kiln.  HT pallets are not harmful to your health.

[KD]: The purpose of kiln-dried lumber is to reduce the moisture content of the wood (19% or less).  This is a means to control warping, fungal growth and other quality features. The kilns or “ovens” the lumber is put into, doesn’t necessarily reach the sustained temperature of 133 degrees Fahrenheit (56 Celsius) that would qualify as heat treated.  Many lumber mills are processing their lumber to meet the heat treatment requirements thus you will see “KD-HT” incorporated in the lumber grade stamp. With cherry and oak wood, it’s important to note that at this temperature sap will be released from within the wood. The sap will coat the wood with a dark stain, making the pallets or crates appear old and worn. In fact, the pallets and crates may actually be quite new and their strength or durability has not been compromised in any way by the HT process. KD pallets are not harmful to your health.

Note: 2013-13 CPM-8 adopted revised Annex 1 to ISPM 15 to include heat treatment using dielectric heating. When lumber or used, previously assembled, repaired or remanufactured wood packaging material is heat treated using dielectric heating the treatment code mark shall be DH.

[MB]: Methyl-bromide fumigation, this is a powerful pesticide (that has been linked to human health problems and ozone layer depletion) used to treat the wood to kill off invasive species like pine beetles.  This type of treatment is banned in Canada and in a lot of countries because it poses a health risk to workers handling the pallets. But, you can still find it in some places. If you find a MB pallet, please do not use it for your craft projects or as firewood, find a waste-removal company who can dispose of it properly.

[DB]: These two letters means the pallet was debarked, and many pallets have this stamp. Concretely, this means that the wood was debarked under IPPC regulations, but it does not matter if your pallet does not have this stamp as many of them do not have it. This stamp will not give you any indications for your safety, you should only check for the three codes above: HT, KD or MB.

Sometimes you could see also the letters [PRL], it means that the pallet was verified by the Package Research Laboratory (PRL).

Here is an example:

ippc

This pallet was made in Slovenia (SI) by the supplier 341220, the pallet was Heat Treated (HT) and debarked (DB). The Pallet was made in July 2011. This pallet is safe to use. For international country code, visit ISO website.

The supplier number is a unique number (000) assigned by the National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO).

IPPC Stamp (fumigated)

This pallet was made in China (CN) by the supplier 003, the pallet was treated by fumigation with Methyl-bromide (MB) and debarked (DB). The pallet was made in 2012. Don’t use this one, this pallet is not safe!

FOR EUROPE

ippc-eur-epal

It’s basically the same thing but sometimes there are no other stamp than EPAL or EUR.  You should choose the one with EPAL. The one marked with EUR comes from an old system managed by railways companies. If they are EPAL approved too, then it’s OK! They are just heat treated (HT) the same way as described above. Europe does not allow chemical treatments. They are able to carry 1500kg.

You may find also pallets without any sign. They are made to be used a single time. The most robust are the one used for building materials (bricks, cement, etc…). They are not treated with chemicals and can be easily reused. Many people ask as where to find pallets! You may go to your nearest DIY store (or materials store).

WHAT ABOUT COLORED PALLETS?

Pallets usually last 4 to 5 years. 8 to 10 when they are the property of a renting company. Colored pallets are usually from these companies.

ippc-red-blue

  • Red pallets : pool LPR,
  • Blue pallets : pool CHEP,
  • Brown pallets : pool IPP.

I do not advise to use them specially for indoor use. You may find traces of formaldehyde and other resins used in the composite blocks.

Also, you have to keep in mind that pallets are often used for international shipping and while most countries use an NPPO/IPPC code, not all countries is doing it and such countries may not comply with the international standards.

If you follow these advices and don’t use unknown pallets as a food cutting board or a headboard or anything used in your house and near you, you should be safe to use pallets for your projects.

Take into consideration that like for any works involving cutting or sanding wood, you should always use a mask to keep you from breathing in particles and pollutants.

To be safe, one of the most important thing to remember is that when you cannot establish if the pallet you have is safe or not, DO NOT USE IT for indoor projects such as headboard, coffee table or other kind of furniture unless they came from a trusted source. In this case, only use it for outdoor projects where you will not be in contact with the pallet too often and avoid growing food on or near used pallet wood. For the health of you, your family and the planet, never burn pallet wood or treated lumber in your fireplace.

Some links:

That’s it, now you have all the necessary information to start you pallet quest ! If you have more information’s, please contact us and we will update this page !

And, if you want to learn more about pallets, do not hesitate to read our article on the history of pallets and how they play an important role in the history of our economy.

Need information’s on pallet sizes around the world? We’ve made an article on this also!

And if you need some tips and places where to find pallets, visit our page that will gives you some advice and some places shared by our readers.

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{ 13 Comments }

  1. Margarida Lopes says

    Thank you very much for all the ideas and information. Soon enough I hope to send you my own creations. Best regards from Portugal :)

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  1. […] SAFETY FIRST! If you intend growing edibles in your pallet garden, do your due diligence first. You can use pallets as support structures rather than planting directly into them. Heat treated (HT) marked hardwood pallets are safer to use rather than those that have been fumigated and marked chemically treated (CT) or pressure treated. See a HT stamp here. For US, Canada and Europe, see How to Tell if a Pallet is Safe for Reuse. […]

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    […] you repurpose pallets you use ones that are safe, in good condition, and untreated wood! Here are some guides to help you pick safe pallets to use), plenty of sandpaper, a drill, along with a hammer, and some […]

  3. […] you repurpose pallets you use ones that are safe, in good condition, and untreated wood! Here are some guides to help you pick safe pallets to use), plenty of sandpaper, a drill, along with a hammer, and some […]

  4. […] From 1001Pallets.com – “wooden pallets manufactured in Canada or the US undergo a pest control treatment called heat treating (HT) which involves heating the pallet to 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.” […]

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