How to remove lead paint in your home

Before you simply start scraping lead paint, there’s a guide that you may very well want to consider reading. We’re in the business of ensuring that people don’t suffer from irrevocable damage from exposure to the material, and the truth is that if you aren’t very careful, you may very well end up having your health suffer where in fact you were simply trying to protect your family with various initiatives.

So, you just purchased one of the lead testing kits that we offer on this page, and you ended up figuring out that things in your home look bad. In fact, they look so bad that while you may have thought that your family was protected against all the potential toxins that could be an issue with old homes. 

The same way that you don’t want to exposure your family to mold and you take various steps to make sure that you won’t be finding it in your home, you may also want to take steps against lead. 

It is only natural, as well as a good thing that you are taking various measures that will help protect your family, and we are very much of the belief that limiting the exposure to lead paint is a good thing. We have written extensive articles on the topic that we also encourage you to read, including articles on what is going on in the Melrose Housing in New York, how buyers of a home may demand various things including that common repairs are handled before they wish to buy the home. If you look at the various articles on this site, you can see that lead paint is a serious issue that many states still suffer from greatly, and that it is especially those people that are already very exposed that suffer more, meaning people that are often forced to stay in public housing, most of which was built before the use of lead in paint was banned. These are additionally places that aren’t usually maintained all that well meaning the paint starts deteriorating over time. 

Should you be concerned? 

There are some things that we do want to clarify to make sure that you better understand the real danger that you are living with. Yes, you can live perfectly safely in a home that contains the material, but it does mean that you will need to stay on top of it and make sure that it doesn’t deteriorate. It is only when paint starts deteriorating that the particles are let out into the air where they are ingested by the people living in the house. As the paint deteriorates, paint chips may fall on the ground, but it can also be absorbed in the ground outside, why you would want to be careful in what you plant if your home is old as there is a very high probability that the soil is in fact contaminated.

Although it obviously takes a long time before paint starts deteriorating to the point that it becomes a health hazard, you have to go all the way back to 1977 at which point the material was banned in residential paint, meaning these homes have had the paint on them for more than 40 years now, probably meaning that most homes that are contaminated with it will no longer have paint that is in good condition, in which case you need to start doing something about it, as the metal will accumulate in your body as your exposure continues. When the meta accumulates, you get all the bad reactions and health consequences that you can read about on various different websites, which include developmental delay for kids, among other things, although cognitive responses are to be expected. What that means is that you should be especially both careful in doing the work the right way if you live in a household that has kids living there too, if you’re doing the job yourself, since it causes irreversible damage. 

Is paint inside homes the only source that you should be looking out for? 

While this article focuses on the home, you should know that it isn’t just on the walls that this type of damaging metal may be showing its dangerous face, and that there may be other places, too, where you ought to be careful of what lingers beneath the layers of paint. While the situation may be a lot better than it was back in 1977, the wall paint probably isn’t the only thing that contains the dangerous material. It actually wasn’t up until 1992 that the amount of lead that was allowed in consumer products was vastly limited, and there are still toy recalls among other things where kids get exposed. For instance, if you Google “amazon lead paint recall”, you will find various stories of their suppliers not having the necessary testing done to the products they’re importing and as a consequence, these often end up having various types of bad materials included in them, one of them being lead. What that also means is that you should be careful when you go abroad as there aren’t the same strict manufacturing and testing requirements that US producers are exposed to. If you go to a foreign country, especially in the third world, you may therefore want to reconsider whether you bring home a toy for that sweet little niece you have, as it may be filled with all sorts of chemicals that you don’t want them to be exposed to. While most countries in the first world will have pretty strong testing requirements, especially when it comes to consumer products, there are still countries that add the material to their gas, at which point you will effectively be inhaling it the whole time visiting those countries.

If you do want to bring home something from that trip abroad that you have been looking forward to for so long, we do encourage you to look into their local legislation to make sure they have a strong stance on avoiding exposure with their relevant laws. 

Why was it added back in the day? 

If it wasn’t for the laws that have been put in place to limit the exposure consumers have to this metal, it would probably still be added to a bunch of the things that you interact with on a daily basis because of the various good things that it does provide, including making paint very durable. Fortunately it was discovered in the mid-1900s that this type of material, when being exposed to it and ingesting it, has a bunch of health consequences including brain and organ damage, and authorities started pushing to have it limited in its use. However, although it may have been banned back in the day, there are many of the leftovers in those old houses that still contain the material, especially including things such as door and window frames & trim, as well as stairways. Old radiators could additionally very easily contain the material. These are often things that are painted by those living in the houses, yet often not replaced very often why they end up being there for the entirety of the house’s life, and as a consequence, if you have either of those things in your home and your house was built before 1978, there is a very high chance that your home has lead paint in it. As a matter of fact, the older your home is, the higher the probability that it is in your home. If you haven’t tested already, it is really quite easy to either get a contractor to do it, or do it yourself. While we do sell the various kits that you need in order to do the job, we mainly sell packs that are intended for contractors, meaning that the kits we sell are usually in bulk. There are, however, other websites out there, where you may be able to find smaller kits, as they can be found in variants that include as few as 2 test kits, although those test kits can literally only test 2 surfaces. If you  want to test more surfaces than that, you will have to buy the adequate amount of tests for the purpose. We do offer other kits that don’t include 48 tests, and this D-Lead paint test kit is great  as it is very user friendly, even for people that don’t have the existing training. When you’re owning an old home and you start seeing that the paint is failing, we encourage you to take the necessary action and address the situation. The tests that we sell on this site are approved by the EPA, so you won’t have to be concerned that they don’t provide you with accurate results, unlike a bunch of the other tests available online. The two types of tests that we sell on here are also the only recognized by the EPA, so if you are testing with the intention of having professional remodeling work done, they’re the only ones that are acknowledged to provide the accurate results necessary. Pros sometimes use XRF machines for the purpose, but if you are just reaching out to a contractor, they are more likely to be using one of the test kits that we sell on this site. 

Other interesting read you may want to continue with: The Massachusetts Standard Purchase and Sale Agreement: A Comprehensive Guide

As pointed out, there are situations where you may not necessarily want to remove the old lead paint because it is still in good condition, where an alternative can be to encapsulate it instead, however if it starts peeling or otherwise showing signs of aging, that is when you will want to take action to avoid lead dust in your home, sprinkling and contaminating both soil and other things that will cause unnecessary exposure. If you are doing any sort of work that affects the paint, whether it is repainting or removing it, you will need to test it.

Our recommendation is clear: We really urge you not to do this type of work yourself as improper handling of this material can be devastating to your health, and could in theory cause both kidney damage and death – the reasons why contractors that do work on this type of material are required to have the necessary training and certificates to properly handle all the waste, and ensure proper protection throughout the duration of the job. Well, as well as being able to properly clean afterwards, as you can’t simply use the normal vacuum to remove the dust that will inherently exist afterwards. However, we do recognize that there are people out there that are very good at all sorts of handyman work, and you could in theory save a lot of money by doing this type of work yourself. We cannot urge you enough to properly understand the possible consequences as you are otherwise exposing yourself and those you love to unnecessary danger. 

Make sure that you educate yourself on the various lease clauses, whether you’re a tenant or a landlord.

If you decide to go about the project yourself, it’s important that you do a couple of different things. Remember how we said that you can’t just use your normal vacuum when you are done? Instead you will have to get a HEPA vacuum, as these are actually designed to remove the dust that goes everywhere when you are removing lead paint. They’re not all that expensive to buy, and you can generally find them starting around $300, but you can also go to construction rental places where you will be able to rent one. They’re usually $45 or so if you are just trying to rent one for a day. There are also some communities where you in fact be able to simply borrow one without having to pay for it because there may be a remediation program, where they will let you borrow one as part of their efforts to minimize the exposure for the people living in the community. For example, if you live in Kansas, try searching for the lead remediation programs around there and get on the phone with the people you can get in touch with to see if it is a thing that they offer. 

It’s important that you follow the various steps that we have included below so that you can keep ensuring the safety of your family when removing lead paint. It will obviously be a good feeling afterwards knowing that you have done what needed to be done in order to ensure the safety of your family.

Step 1

The first step is to make sure that anything that is in the way is removed, which will include area rugs, furniture and other objects included in the room that could both be collecting the dangerous dust, but which would also make it more difficult to operate in. It’s easier to just move it rather than having to workaround it. The best solution is also that you work in a vacant house because it will mean you won’t have to worry about others being exposed to the dust in the process, but if that’s not possible, you should only work on a room at the time, while taking the necessary steps in order to make sure you’re not contaminating the other rooms.

Step 2

The next step involves making sure that you keep everything protected from the dust that will be released from the work that you are doing, and to achieve this you should use 6 mm plastic sheeting to cover everything up. Make sure that you use duct tape at the bottom of the walls in order to keep the sheeting from going back and forth. This keeps the paint chips and dust from going where it doesn’t belong, like the carpet, although it would also be vastly more difficult to clean afterwards if you have flooring where the paint chips can go in between the various cracks and gaps. It’s simply a better measure to keep everything covered in the process, why we recommended that you also remove any objects from the room that isn’t strictly necessary to have there. 

Step 3

It is not just your flooring or carpet that needs to be covered, but it is also vents and registers and any other place where the dust or lead chips might end up going. In the process you should also make sure that your HVAC system isn’t turned on, even if it means that you will be doing the work in a nice and warm spot. You definitely do not want the dust to be going into the ventilation system. Another important measure to avoid drafts that can carry the dust from one room to another is to make sure that both windows and doors stay shut in the process. 

Step 4

Did you know that water can help limit the amount of dust that goes in the air? Well, the next step is to find one of those large plastic buckets that you might have stored in the attic and put warm water so that it is halfway full. Make sure to also find both rags and a sponge, and put all the things next to the place where you will be doing the work. 

Step 5

Before starting the work, it’s important that you also cover the doorways with the plastic sheathing that you used previously, and tape it off so that no dust will be going into any other rooms.

Step 6

Find that lead-rated respirator that will make sure you don’t end up inhaling all the dust that comes from the job, and make sure that you are using a fresh HEPA filter as well. Both are incredibly important to avoid exposure. Don goggles and rubber gloves are necessary to avoid the dust going into your eyes and staying on your hands afterwards. While there are other websites that say you can wear old clothing, it is our recommendation that you wear a disposable suit for the purpose that you throw away afterwards. The more of your skin that is covered, the better. While you won’t be ingesting it through the skin, it is a good protective measure to just ensure you’re as covered as possible. 

Step 7

Step 7 is when that water comes into play that you put in the room, as you will need to ensure that the area you are working on is wet. This keeps the amount of dust down, and it keeps your lungs and exposure to the dust lower than it would otherwise have been. It’s important that you keep the area wet that you’re working on, which could include that you check periodically to make sure that that is still the case. Because of that, you shouldn’t just go ahead and make the whole room wet by the time you start with it. While you may be tempted to do so, that is also the easiest way to get water damage. Instead, constrain the area you are working on to a smaller one consisting of 2-3 feet, that will ensure that your area always has the necessary wetness, but that you don’t end up damaging other parts of the home. 

Step 8 

This is the time you start scraping the area that you are working on, which can be done with a hand scraper. While you technically only have to remove the parts that are peeling or damaged, you might be on a mission to rather remove all the paint at which point you will repeat the previous steps as you move over the different parts of the room, always ensuring that the part you are working on remains wet. If paint is still firmly attached and in good condition, you could paint over it, although you would have to address that part as well when it starts deteriorating. 

Step 9

Before sanding the area that has become somewhat uneven after the scraping, make sure that you are making the area wet again. This is the point when you can smooth the area again. This part of the process is no different from all the other parts and also require that you keep the area wet, even if wet sanding may seem more tedious than dry sanding. The amount of lead exposure is still minimized with these steps. 

Step 10

As you are progressing with the various steps, use a dampened sponge to clean the areas that you have been working on which keeps debris and residual dust from staying on the walls. Make sure that you are not just using the same water the whole time but that you change it out frequently and that you dispose of the contaminated water in a safe way. 

Step 11

With the HEPA vacuum, it has now become time to start the cleaning process. That is, of course when you are done with all the scraping. It needs to be a HEPA vacuum because these have the important HEPA filters that you need. Go over the plastic sheeting several times to remove as much of the dust as you can, and do not be afraid to do it once more. 

Step 12

Congrats, you have made it to the last step, which includes properly removing and disposing of the plastic sheeting. The edges should be folded into the center which helps make sure that any remaining dust and paint chips stay on the plastic rather than ending up all over your house. Rather than just throwing away this plastic, you will need to check with your local waste authority in order to make sure that is the right way to dispose of the material.

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