It’s time to have a little chat about lead paint and vintage decor my friends. You all know I love my vintage goodies. And I’d guess if you’re here reading my blog you’re probably a fan as well. (High five to that.) But as much as we all love vintage, the truth is that lead paint is something to be concerned about–especially if you have cute little people running around your home like I do. So I figured it was past time to get my booty in gear and check my favorite vintage decor for lead paint–something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. Today I’m sharing the results of my lead tests, showing you how easy it is to do, and also sharing my tips on protecting your family if any of your items do have that nasty lead paint.
So I’ve done quite a bit of research on this topic and here’s what you need to know about lead paint:
- The federal government banned consumer use of lead-containing paint in 1978.
- The danger lies in ingesting paint chips and inhaling paint dust, not in touching, so chipping surfaces pose the greatest threat. (source here)
- DO NOT sand or scrape on items with lead paint.
- Lead paint isn’t dangerous unless it starts to deteriorate, shedding lead dust and chips into the atmosphere. (source here)
- Clean items with lead paint using a rag and soapy water to remove any loose pieces of paint.
- Make sure to wash your hands and clean up really well after handling any item with lead paint.
- If you find that an item does contain lead paint, you can either display it in a place where your children do not play, or you can varnish it to seal in the harmful paint. (source here)
- The EPA has lots of great info on lead paint, check it out here.
How to Test for Lead Paint
First you’ll need a lead test kit. I use the 3M LeadCheck Swabs, they’re very cheap and super simple to use. Buy a few packs if you have lots of vintage decor like I do. Follow the directions on the package, but the basic gist is this: if the swab rubs red, it has lead paint. If it’s yellow, you’re in the clear. I tested out a variety of items in our home and the first was this old door in our front room.
I’ve always worried about this door–it’s by far the most chippy piece I own.
Yep. It showed up red almost immediately. And red means lead paint. Such a bummer, but I’m not surprised. This girl is old. Next up was the old crib we converted into a couch.
This is another piece that is really old and I know it’s been painted because it’s chipping in a few places.
Thankfully this one was negative for lead, you can see the yellow patch there under the swab. Good news!
This old door in our living room is another one I’ve always wondered about.
It was a little tough to see initially, you can barely spot the faint yellow circle on the door, but after a few minutes it looked liked this:
All clear on this one!
Next up is my vintage porch railings. This one I converted into an apron rack, but I also have several old spindles scattered around our home from the same railings.
And no lead paint here. Cue happy dance!
Last up is my beloved toolbox that belonged to my Grandpa.
Boom. It’s red. I was so sad to see this one show up. And it was immediate–as soon as the swab touched the toolbox it was turning red. I actually decided to try this one on a whim. I have never, ever thought this old toolbox would have lead based paint on it. Such a bummer.
To clean the yellow and red spots off I used a wet paper towel and they rubbed right off.
How to Safeguard Items with Lead Paint
One of the tips I came across a lot in my research was the importance of sealing items with lead paint. The idea is to apply a protective coating that will prevent any further chipping or dust. For a while now I’ve been using the Bulls-Eye Clear Shellac Spray, which is super fast and simple to use. But I recently switched to the Bulls-Eye Clear Shellac Sealer because I wanted something a little more heavy duty and thick.
Simply paint the sealer on the piece to lock in the lead paint and keep it from chipping any further. After using both, I’d say I much prefer the liquid sealer over the spray version. I applied two coats and I honestly didn’t notice it change the color of the door at all. I’ll definitely be doing this on that old tool box.
I will warn you, I could not get this sticky stuff to wash out of my brush, even with mineral spirits. So take my suggestion and use a foam brush so you can just throw the darn thing away afterwards!
I know that’s a lot of info about lead paint, but I think it’s something to be educated on if you have vintage decor in your home. Some of my fears and concerns were lightened a bit after reading the real danger comes from inhaling the dust or eating the paint chips. However I still think it’s a good idea to go ahead and seal those items you know have lead paint just to be extra careful–especially if you have little ones in your home. And even better, do your best to keep those pieces out of reach or in low traffic areas.
Keep in mind my friends, I’m no expert. Not even close. But I do feel confident that the information I’ve researched and shared today is accurate. I hope this helps motivate you to check for lead on the vintage decor in your home. Let me know if you have any questions and I’d love to hear if you have any tips of your own to share!