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How to Easily Test for Lead Paint

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How to Easily Test for Lead Paint

How to Easily Test for Lead Paint

Good morning boys and girls! Today I have a tale with a moral for you. Go ahead and gather around and put on your listening ears.

This is the story of a woman named Mrs. Noggin.

She moved into an old house built in 1940. A friend told her that old homes could contain lead paint, so she turned to the yellow pages to find someone to check her home for lead paint.

First, she called Mr. Nose. Mr. Nose claimed to be the most knowledgeable expert in the field. He could sniff lead paint from a mile away.

He spent about 15 minutes with his snout held high, then pronounced her home safe. But, she didn’t feel safe. So she called Mr. Tongue. He claimed to be the most professional expert lead paint detection service in the area.

He spent 20 minutes licking every painted surface in her home and then gave her a licked stamp of “lead-free” approval for her home.

She was still a bit concerned so she contacted Eyeball Lead Paint Detector. He told her to rest easy because he could spot lead paint in a snowstorm while blind-folded!

He spent only 10 minutes searching her home. His eyes blinked quickly as he scanned each room. Then he told her that he hadn’t seen a speck of lead paint.

Mrs. Noggin felt better and settled down for her coffee and some YouTube browsing.

That’s when she stumbled upon this video:

Poor Mrs. Noggin. She should have watched the video before calling the “so-called” experts.

She had no idea that lead is not detectable by sight, smell, or taste (although lead paint does have a sweet taste making it attractive to kids and pets when they lick or chew on it).

The moral of the story boys and girls is to use your head to detect lead! Spend a few bucks to purchase your own 3M LeadCheck Swabs. You’ll have the results in seconds and avoid costly testing.

If the area you are testing has multiple layers of paint, the top layer may be clear, but underlayers may still contain lead. If you are going to disturb the paint, it’s best to use a razor blade to cut through all the layers of paint and then test with the LeadCheck swab.

In all seriousness, if you test and the results are positive, you should definitely proceed with caution. One teaspoon full of lead dust can be enough to contaminate your home. If lead paint is used on a surface in your home (doors, windows, trim molding, floors, etc.), it’s best to hire a certified lead paint abatement specialist. Lead paint professionals are trained and certified to handle lead paint removal safely.

For items that can be thrown away like toys, furniture, or other items, contact your local solid waste management facility to determine how to properly dispose of the item.

I contacted our county’s solid waste management department and was told that our landfill can accept lead-painted furniture as long as the lead paint is not in liquid, fine chips, or powder form. They told me I don’t need to bag it, but I did anyway because I don’t want anyone to accidentally be exposed. Plus, I am fearful that a curbside treasure hunter may unknowingly take home my lead-laden pedestal.

I also called the National Lead Information Center and asked about my green cabinet that had tested positive for lead paint (where the paint wasn’t chipping.) The representative told me that I can coat the cabinet in a few coats of a topcoat (like polyurethane or polyacrylic) to protect myself and my kids. I will definitely not sand it, which would cause the lead particles to become airborne. Instead I’ll gently clean the surface with a disposable wipe. Then once it is dry I will coat it with multiple layers of polyurethane.

She did recommend having my children tested for lead in their system. Unfortunately, the most accurate test requires a blood draw.

For more information about lead paint contact one of these resources:

National Lead Information Center: 1-800-424-LEAD
Consumer Product Safety Commission: 1-800-638-2772
EPA Website

27 replies
  1. Andrea Skeens
    Andrea Skeens says:

    I participated. Here is my translation.
    He says: (After a successful project) I can’t believe you thought I couldn’t fix this.
    He means: Thank goodness my crazy fix actually worked because I’m tired of you being right all the time.

  2. Lizzy Bradbury
    Lizzy Bradbury says:

    I’m not going to attempt the competition as I don’t have that much time, but I’ve been mooching round your blog and it’s interesting reading!

    I shall have to remember when buying my first house, that if it’s 1940s -ish then I should check for Leadpaint with a proper kit! Well done 🙂

  3. Cherie
    Cherie says:

    She says,

    WE are going to make this, it is really easy – I saw it on TV

    Translate to:

    Wow, that is cool. I have no clue how to do it, but we are going to do it anyway – Stay out of my way!

  4. Tricia
    Tricia says:

    This was perfect timing. My husband’s grandma recently passed away & we are in charge of cleaning out her house. Grandma had many treasures that I would like to fix up and keep. The possibility of lead paint was a concern of mine. I will definitely be getting some of those test sticks.

    Thanks for such an informative post, Brittany!!!

  5. Laura
    Laura says:

    I participated…

    Her Statement: “I found this way cool idea on the Pretty Handy Girl blog and I know I can do it.”

    His Translation: “I don’t need to add Item #4,568 on the Honey-Do List. Thank you, Pretty Hand Girl!”

    Thanks, Brittany for all your awesome ideas that prevent me from adding another item to my poor husband’s never ending To-Do List because now I know I can do it myself! 🙂

  6. Megan E
    Megan E says:

    I “liked” the 3M Frameworks FB page. Unfortunately I don’t have a spouse to translate for.

    I would love to win this kit though. I just bought a 1920’s house and I’ve never actually tested for lead-based paint before.

  7. Susie Eckert
    Susie Eckert says:

    He says I’ll get to it soon,

    which means I’ll get to it in 6-8 reincarnations, and he isn’t referring to a bouquet of some new fangled carnations!

  8. Rhiannon
    Rhiannon says:

    thank you for sharing such great info on lead paint. the company i work for became abatement contractors aprox a year ago and i have learned soooo much during that time. its so important to know the dangers of lead paint and how to recognize lead containing items and proper disposal or removal.
    Kudos to you!

  9. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Great giveaway!

    I say: We need to do X, Y, Z project.
    He says: Sounds good. I agree
    Actual meaning: My sister and I will do X, Y, X project

  10. Patty S
    Patty S says:

    I “liked” the 3M Frameworks FB page also! I don’t have a spouse either, but I do enjoy your blog! Many helpful tips..thanks for posting this chance. 🙂

  11. Beverly Roberson
    Beverly Roberson says:

    I liked the 3M Frameworks FB page! And I love reading your blog – you really do inspire me to do more DIY, instead of looking for items in a store. Keep up the great work!

  12. Patricia C
    Patricia C says:

    I like the 3M Frameworks facebook page and participated

    My translation:

    He says – I’ll get to it this weekend

    He means – when football season is over

  13. Deb
    Deb says:

    I liked on FB. I say, “Sure would be nice to come home to the dishes being done?” He says, “Whatever.” Translation: There’s a 50% chance he won’t remember me asking him to do the dishes.

  14. metmom
    metmom says:

    Thanks for posting about lead paint. We bought a house built in 1838 and because I have 3 kids, am a nurse, and filled out all those pediatrician forms asking about lead exposure, I know it was dangerous. I did test all around our house…positive in several locations! Unfortunately, a professional is terribly expensive. I took a government mandated contractor’s class on lead abatement just to know how to handle it safely. Slowly stripping or using a lead barrier compound that is like paint to make my home safer! I did have my 2 year old tested when we first moved in and then several months later and his level is 0! Yah!!

  15. LinhC
    LinhC says:

    I liked the fb page and participated in the contest.

    He says: “Let’s have a party!”
    He means: “This house is a pigsty and it needs to be de-cluttered and cleaned so if we invite people over, you’ll do it instead of surfing the web!”

  16. An aspiring stripper
    An aspiring stripper says:


    I”ve already had my house tested for lead paint. The carport and front porch tested negative for lead paint, but the south side, windows (exterior only…there is NO lead paint inside, thank God), west side, parts of the north side, fascia etc tested positive.

    I’ve been doing research online…there’s a specialized stripper called Soy Gel…..it’s made for lead paint removal.

    After I use this stripper to remove lead paint, would it be safe to sand the wood with an orbital sander?

    A lead abatement company told me about other specialized strippers made for lead paint removal…they are called Piranha and Smart Strip. I can’t afford to hire a lead abatement company so I will have to do it myself with PPE.

    An aspiring stripper…


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] The easiest way to add some age to a piece of furniture is to expose layers of paint. Whether you paint a few contracting colors on yourself or you sand a pre-finished piece, sanding is one of my favorite ways to add age. A note of caution: Before you begin sanding, always check for the presence of lead paint. You can learn more about how to detect lead paint in this post. […]

  2. […] presence of lead paint.  My good friend, Brittany, of Pretty Handy Girl fame, did a great post on Lead Paint… including a video tutorial on how to test for it.  If you’re attempting to paint or […]

  3. […] with rocks for drainage. And my pothos plant. I used to have a chippy pedestal that sat there, but sadly I had to get rid of it. I’ll fill you in on the details next week. It is a sad story […]

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