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Are Shipping Pallets Safe To Build With

Updated on January 7, 2013

HT Stamped Shipping Pallets Are Safe To Build With

Heat treated, or HT, pallets are safe to use for pallet projects.  They are not fumigated and contain no harmful chemicals. They are also all made of hard wood, a bonus for lumber recycling.
Heat treated, or HT, pallets are safe to use for pallet projects. They are not fumigated and contain no harmful chemicals. They are also all made of hard wood, a bonus for lumber recycling. | Source

MB Pallets Are Not Safe For Projects

Some pallets are treated chemically with Methyl Bromide, a know toxin. Pallets that are fumigated with MB are not safe to use for pallets because they can release harmful chemicals into the air.

Chemically Treated Pallets Are Marked With An MB. Pallets fumigated with MB are not acceptable in some parts of the world like the European Union and Australia.

Methyl Bromide is a naturally and industrially created organobromine compound that has been used as a pesticide for decades. The use of the chemical has been phased out in many areas.

Pallet Projects And Building With Pallets

Building with pallets is a growing grass roots up-cycling and repurposing trend with legs. The more I look for pallet projects on line the more I find. Projects range from simple garden fences constructed from whole or partial pallets to fine furniture and decorator items made from the reclaimed lumber. Sometimes I even find cool pallet projects without looking for them. Just the other while I was driving home from a trip I saw an awesome pallet table in the back of a pick up. Unfortunately I was not able to get a picture of it, it was really sweet, but I will be attempting one of my own soon.

One thing that many of the websites and articles I find have in common is that they don't address the safety issues involved with recycling pallets. I myself have had questions about the matter and have had a hard time finding the answer to my questions. After giving up my search for definitive answers it came to me out of the blue. I was reading an article and it laid out the answers I had been looking for: Shipping pallets are safe to build with but you have to know what to look for.

How To Choose The Right Pallet For Your Project

  • Clean - look for clean, new, pallets. These will be very obvious in a pile and will have easily identifiable HT or BT markings. For some projects older pallets are ok, or even desirable for their weathered or aged look. Just make sure the pallets are free from dirt, grease or food.
  • Whole - look for whole pallets. Shipping pallets are used for moving and protecting merchandise and often shield items from damage. This is great for shippers but bad for pallets because they are often damaged, broken, cracked or missing slats and rails.
  • Construction- depending on your needs the construction of the pallets could have a big impact on your finished project. Look for pallets that are well constructed and do not contain any plastic or manufactured parts.
  • Nails- look for pallets without any loose or protruding nails. These can be very dangerous and send you to the ER. Remember my mantra "no trips to the ER".

Some Shipping Pallets Are Chemically Treated

Once I began building my own pallet projects the question arose; Are shipping pallets safe to build with. The only answers I could find were not very reliable. There were a lot of discussions about them being dirty, covered with insects and excrement and chemical additives. This raised a red flag for me and I decided to keep all my projects outside the house. Eventually I learned the whole answer and have now been able to choose the right pallets for my projects.

  • Heat Treated- Shipping pallets are required by federal law to be treated. This is to ensure public safety and to prevent the spread of unwanted plants, animals and germs across state and national borders. What many people don't know is that there are two kinds of treatment allowed by the government; heat treatment and chemical treatment. Heat treated shipping pallets are heated to intense temperatures in order to kill off unwanted hitch hikers. Heat treated pallets are marked with a prominent HT and are the only kinds of pallets you should be using.
  • Chemical Treated- Some shipping pallets are chemically treated. These are marked with a MB and should be avoided. Some websites will tell you they are OK if you only use them for outdoor projects but there are so many pallets available that you should have your pick.

Some Good Ideas For Pallet Projects

I have made a few really neat projects with reused pallets over the last year or so. The one I am most happy is my pallet chair, which can be viewed in the picture below. I have also made some bird houses, a compost container and am now in the process of creating a raised floor in my basement. I have also seen a number of other really cool pallet projects including:

  • Sheds
  • Flower Boxes
  • Saddle Stands
  • Fences
  • Dog Houses
  • Tables

Heat Treated Pallets Have More Than One Attractive Quality

Heat treated pallets are attractive sources of building materials for more than one reason. First, the pallets are treated at high temperatures according to international regulations. Pallets are heated to a minimum of 54C for European bound pallets and to a minimum of 74C for Australian bound pallets. In the US, particularly the east coast, it more common to encounter pallets treated to 54C. These temperatures are very effective at completely eradicating insect infestations and from preventing their return. An added bonus to an HT certified pallet is its construction. Because of the high temperatures needed to treat pallets only hardwoods are used. Softer pine and coniferous woods do not hold up to the process.

  • HT pallets are heat treated, not fumigated, and are certified for use in any industry that requires zero insect presence.
  • HT pallets are not fumigated and pose no threat to workers, materials or machinery.
  • HT pallets are certified for export to Europe and Australia.
  • Federal and International regulations mandate the treatment of shipping pallets. Some are treated with bromine, a known toxin.

HT Pallets Are Safe For Pallet Projects

HT stamped pallets are preferable for pallet projects. They are free of toxins and are made from hardwoods.
HT stamped pallets are preferable for pallet projects. They are free of toxins and are made from hardwoods. | Source


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    • Kelsey Farrell profile image

      Kelsey Elise Farrell 2 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Very informative hub, I wasn't aware of the chemicals that can go on some pallets, though it makes complete sense. I have such a love affair going on with pallet furniture right now, this hub makes me glad I can still do so just so long as I'm mindful. Up-vote!

    • Pamela Bush profile image

      howtopam 3 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Very interesting hub. Lots of innovative recycled pallet ideas. Thank you.