3M Lead Check Swabs (48-pack)

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  • EPA-approved to comply with the RRP rule.
  • Easy to use
  • Convenient for both homeowners and contractors
  • Include instructions on using the swabs for painted surfaces, lead chromate, stucco, red surfaces/red lead, plumbing solder and metal alloys.
  • Disposable & non-toxic for finding out the state of your home.
  • Instructions also included below.


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Suppose you will do any renovation or repair work over a pre-1978 building anytime soon. In that case, the 3M LeadCheck Swabs instant lead test kit with 48 swabs is perfect for you!

This lead-based paint test allows you to check various surfaces and materials for traces of lead and get results in as fast as less than a minute.

Other features of the 3M LeadCheck Swabs are:

  • It’s capable of detecting lead at 600 parts per million or 1 to 2 micrograms.
  • Its tip will change color when lead is detected. That is why 3M says, “red means lead.”
  • It’s an EPA-approved lead-based paint test kit, which means you can rely on it to get accurate results.
  • It contains chemicals known to detect and react with lead immediately, such as rhodizonate. You can get the quick results you need.
  • It’s designed to be safely used. It does not emit any dangerous fumes, and all the chemicals required for testing are safely housed in vials inside the swab.
  • The perfect at-home test kit, as it is easy to use and is non-toxic. The chemicals present in the swab are not dangerous, even if touched by bare skin.
  • It will not leave a mess when used, nor will it cause damage to the tested surface.
  • Each kit comes with instructions for its proper use and a confirmation card that allows you to test if the swab is active and working.
  • A swab only costs less than $5, making it a very inexpensive but useful tool for your projects.

This 48-pack kit is perfect for testing multiple surfaces, enough to cover and thoroughly check the entire house or facility for lead. It’s great if you work on the entire structure. But if this seems too much or too little, the LeadCheck swabs also come in 8-swab kits and 144-swab kits.


The EPA developed the RRP Rule to safeguard those working on a home or facility constructed before 1978 and their customers from the health risks associated with lead.

Before the residential use of lead-based paint was officially banned in 1978, it was widely used in homes all over the country. About 38 million homes are suspected of having lead-based paint present, putting their inhabitants at constant risk for lead exposure.

The ban was imposed due to the discovery that lead exposure can cause different health effects. It ranges from headaches to brain damage and even death. Because lead is invisible to the eye, it can easily enter the body through inhalation and even via skin contact or ingestion.

The main principle of the RRP rule is that anyone who will disturb paint in pre-1978 homes should be safe. Facilities that children live in or stay for long periods must be knowledgeable and observe lead-safe practices while renovating or painting.

One of those requirements is to test for lead on the different surfaces or materials affected. It’s done before working or assume that the structure contains lead and immediately follow lead-safe practices.

For the peace of mind of both contractors and their clients, doing a lead test is still ideal. However, you cannot just get any test kit available because their accuracy is questionable. If you are testing for lead, you should only use EPA-approved test kits.

The 3M LeadCheck Swab instant lead test kit is among the only three EPA-approved lead-based paint test kits. This means that it meets the criteria of the EPA in terms of:

  • The negative response criterion of the EPA requires the occurrence rate of false negatives to be less than 5%. A false negative means that the test kit did not detect lead in a tested area that contains lead.
  • The 95% minimum level of confidence in correctly detecting lead in paint is beyond the regulated limit. It is 1 milligram per square centimeter or 0.5% per weight of the paint formulation.

Conducting the lead test using these swabs will ensure that you follow the RRP rule. This leads to more business. Customers trust contractors who show concern about their well-being, not just the business they can get out of them.

With the 3M LeadCheck Swabs, you can immediately show your clients the test results and educate them about the seriousness of the situation. Because they know that you are following the standards set by the EPA, you can easily justify your rates and even get more clients.

Surfaces They Can Test

The 3M LeadCheck Swab can be used to test various surfaces at home or any other facility, both indoors and outdoors. And in 2012, it finally gained EPA recognition to test even on plaster and drywall surfaces.

These swabs can be used to test:

  • Cement
  • Wood
  • Brick
  • Brass (including keyrings and inner fixtures, such as in faucets and well pumps)
  • Metal and Metal Alloys
  • Drywall and Plaster
  • Vinyl
  • Steel
  • Plastic
  • Stucco
  • Surfaces with Paint

While most people think that testing for lead is limited to walls, you can also use the swab to check:

  • Doors and Door Frames
  • Windows and Window Frames
  • Floors
  • Shutters
  • Lead Chromate
  • Stairs, Handrails, and Railings
  • Baseboards and Moldings
  • Cabinets, Closets, and Cupboards
  • Ceramic Tiles (like those in kitchens, hearths, and bathrooms)
  • Solders, including those on stained-glass windows and plumbing pipes made of copper
  • Electronics
  • Fabric, Rugs, and Clothing (particularly to detect lead deposits present)
  • Fixtures with Porcelain Enamel (such as sinks, toilets, and bathtubs)

The 3M LeadCheck swabs can also be used for dust screening to determine if the dust you are dealing with is just ordinary or the toxic lead dust. This is helpful because the body typically absorbs lead through the inhalation of lead dust.

3M LeadCheck Swab Instructions

Each swab contains two vials that contain the reagent that reacts to lead and the activator solution, which must be mixed to activate the swab.

When the liquids are mixed, you only have 2 minutes to apply the swab on the surface you want to test. A swab is only active for that period. On the other hand, an unused swab has an unlimited shelf life.

These general instructions will work for most cases when testing via the 3M LeadCheck Swab:

  1. Look for the points marked ‘A’ and ‘B’ on the swab, as these are the breakable points of the vials. Crush those points with your fingers to release the liquids.
  2. Shake the swab to mix the two liquids.
  3. After shaking, squeeze the swab and check if the yellow liquid starts coming out of the porous tip. If so, this means that the swab is activated and can now be used for testing.
  4. Rub the swab tip on the surface to be tested. Make sure to squeeze the swab while rubbing so that the solution will be released and interact with any lead present.

After rubbing, check whether the swab tip has changed color or not. If lead is present, the swab’s porous tip must show a red or pink color.

But if it remains unchanged, you need to confirm whether the swab is active and did not really detect lead or it was not properly activated.

Checking the swab is done by placing the tip of the used swab onto one of the circles present on the confirmation card. These circles contain traces of lead, so both the swab and the circle on the card should immediately change color. If not, the swab was not active when you used it. You need to retest using a new swab. You never reuse a swab because it may give inaccurate results.

Certain surfaces may also require different or additional steps to test for lead accurately.

Testing on Painted Surfaces

Before testing on a painted surface, it must be wiped clean using a mild cleanser and allowed to dry. Maybe the paint is undistu,rbed or any signs of damage do not completely penetrate the surface. If so, make a notch that is deep enough to reach it to expose all the layers of paint. Afterward, follow the general instructions.

Testing on Red Paint or Red Lead

Testing on these surfaces is not a straightforward process because of the possibility of red paint bleeding onto the swab. You need first to check if the paint will bleed. Only crush vial ‘B’ of the swab and rub the swab tip onto the surface while squeezing to let the liquid flow out. Afterward, check if the tip shows any signs of red color. A clean tip means that the paint does not bleed, and you can test the red paint following the general instructions.

But if working with a red steel primer, follow the general instructions and immediately check the tint of red that appears. Red primer typically contains lead, and the swab tip should show a bright cherry red color if lead is detected. If it is a deep red, it may be paint bleed.

Testing on Lead Chromate

Lead chromate may be present on paint, especially that colored orange, red, yellow, and green. And because the lead chromate is water-insoluble, it is usually added to marine or industrial paints. Testing on lead chromate takes longer than usual and does not follow the general instructions.

Start by checking if the swab is working after activation by squeezing the swab until some of the solutions drip to the confirmation card’s circle and detect lead. Do not let the tip touch the card.

After confirming that the swab is active, you can either:

  1. Gather some of the paint chips to be tested and crush them. Then, either place these chips over the swab tip or rub them directly. Afterward, store the used swab and the chips inside a plastic bag. Or,
  2. Directly test the paint and place the swab inside a plastic bag.

The swab may take some time before it shows signs of changing colors. Check it after 30 minutes, every hour, or even the following day. If 20s hours have passed and it shows no signs of changing, it likely means that it did not detect lead.

Testing on Solder and Metal Alloys

Before testing solder and metal alloys, the surface must be roughened up using emery cloth or fine sandpaper. Remove any dust produced and allow to dry if cleaned with a wet cloth. Activate the swab and lightly brush its tip over the surface. Never rub the swab tip on the surface, as this can create a metallic film that will prevent you from seeing any color change.

Immediately check the swab. If lead is present, it should show a pink color. You may have to repeat the test if you only see a purple color, as it may have overshadowed the pink color of the swab.

Testing on Plaster and Gypsum or Drywall

Plaster, drywall, or gypsum are other surfaces that do not follow general instructions when using LeadCheck Swabs. The swabs should only be used on the paint and not the surface. The drywall sulfates and plaster dust can interfere and give you inaccurate results.

Because of this, testing must be done using this method:

  1. While holding the knife or cutter at a low angle, create a semicircle cut on the plaster or drywall about the size of a nickel. It must be deep enough to penetrate all layers of paint and expose the bare surface of the drywall or the plaster’s core.
  2. Create a flap using the cut you created by folding it downwards to make a pocket.
  3. Activate the swab and allow the solution to drop over the exposed paint layers. Avoid touching the tip to the drywall surface or plaster core.
  4. Rub the swab tip only on the periphery of the exposed layers where the solution was applied to. Again, avoid letting the swab tip get to the plaster core or drywall surface.

A change of color should appear on the exposed paint layers that the solutions were applied to if lead is present. If not, do the confirmation test to see if the swab was active when you did the lead test.

Testing on Vinyl

Lead may be found deep under layers of paint. That is why you also need to expose all layers on the vinyl before you can test for lead. Afterward, you can follow the general instructions rub the swab tip hard on the exposed surface.

It may also take some time before any color change appears when testing on vinyl. Once it does, the color may be uneven. It’s because the lead salts clumped together, and they may also darken over time. It is also possible that the swab will show an orange color, but this does not indicate lead.

Testing for Lead on Electronics

Electronics can also be tested for lead, particularly circuit boards. But before doing so, you need to make sure that the surface is clean and dry. It has to be without any dust and fingerprints present. Do the test following the general instructions, vigorously rub the swab over the solder.

After testing, immediately check if the swab tip shows a pink color. But if a metallic film is formed, you need to retest to get the result.

Detection of Lead Deposits on Fabric, Rugs, and Clothing

Lead deposits may accumulate on different kinds of fabric, and the LeadCheck Swabs can detect these deposits. Testing is also done a little differently, as it involves the following steps:

  1. Wet the swab tip first and place it over a paper towel to absorb excess water.
  2. Place the damp swab over the material to be tested and rub vigorously, carefully doing so to prevent the swab’s vials from breaking.
  3. After rubbing, activate the swab by following the general activation instructions.
  4. Get a piece of plastic wrap or a white plastic dish. Gently squeeze the swab until liquid comes out of the tip and rub it onto any of those surfaces.

The pink color will confirm the lead deposits present on the fabric.

Dust Screening

To determine if the dust present in the structure is just ordinary or toxic lead dust, you can also use the swabs for dust screening. Note that the testing procedure will depend on the surface where dust is present.

If the surface is negative for lead, you can immediately follow the general instructions. Suppose the surface with potential lead dust is also positive for lead. You need to place some of the dust on a plastic dish or wrap before following the general instructions to test.

If it is lead dust, the results will immediately appear. If not, you need to do the confirmatory test. But if the dust sample is dark, it may be difficult to see any color changes. Instead, you must place the dust sample on a paper towel or any other porous material and drop some of the solutions over the dust. After doing so, a red or pink color may appear on the towel to indicate that it is indeed lead dust. If not, this means you are dealing with ordinary dust.

3M Lead Test Kit Colors

“Red Means Lead” is what the manufacturer proudly proclaims regarding the 3M LeadCheck swabs test kit. If the swab detects lead on the tested surface or material, its tip should show a red color. Pink color may first appear before darkening and turning into red, or it may stay pink.

The tint also indicates the amount of lead present – the deeper or more intense the red color, the higher the lead content. Because of this, the pink color that appears means lead was detected. The amount is not that high, hence the lighter color.

Other elements can react with the chemicals found in the reagent, and these can cause other colors to appear on the swab. And in some cases, multiple colors may also appear on the swab tip. Fortunately, the solution reacts first with lead. It means the red or pink color will appear first before any other color.

This is why it is important to check the swab immediately after testing, as another color may eventually cover up the red or pink that appears on the swab tip.

3M Lead Test Turned Orange

One possible scenario is that the swab tip will turn orange after lead testing. It doesn’t end up red or pink. The orange color alone that appears does not indicate that lead is present. Instead, this means the paint extender barium was detected.

The swab will turn pink before orange if both lead and barium are present. Typically, the orange color will overlap with the pink over time. But in some cases, the swab tip may show both orange and pink.

3M LeadCheck Purple

LeadCheck swabs can also react with tin. If the solution detects high levels of this element, the swab tip will show a purple color.

If the surface or material is positive for both lead and tin, pink or red will appear first. It’s then followed by purple. Purple can quickly cover up the red or pink that may appear on the swab tip. That is why retesting is needed when it happens, especially if you cannot check if red or pink appears before the purple color takes over.

3M LeadCheck Turns Red After Sitting

The 3M LeadCheck swab is an instant lead test. Some instances will cause the swab to turn red only after sitting for extended periods. It can also take as little as 5 minutes to 20 hours before the swab shows a reaction.

Lead chromate is a lead compound known not to cause an immediate reaction to the swab. That is why when testing paints that have yellow, red, orange, or green shades, it is recommended to allow the swab to sit for as long as 18 to 20 hours before declaring the result.

3M Test Kit Lead “Dark Orange.”

When mixed, the liquids inside the vial will normally create a yellow solution you can see on the swab’s tip once you start squeezing the swab. In some instances, the liquid may be orange or dark orange.

This is considered normal. You can check first if it is a malfunctioning swab by dripping some of the liquid onto one of the dots of the confirmation card. Do it before you use the swab for testing. If it does not react, you may have a faulty swab. Use a new one to test.

And if the swab only shows a dark orange color after testing, it may have just reacted with barium. You can opt to retest using a new swab to be sure. It’s important because the dark orange color may have hidden any traces of pink or red that appeared.

3M LeadCheck Swabs on Metal

The 3M LeadCheck Swabs are EPA-approved to work even on metal surfaces. Often, industrial paint that contains lead chromate is used on metal. That is why lead testing using the swab may not immediately show any result.

When using metal, it is important to make a notch deep enough to get to the bare surface of the metal. Expose all layers of paint because the primer used may also contain lead.

Are 3M LeadCheck Swabs Effective on Concrete Too?

The 3M LeadCheck Swabs are also known to be effective on concrete. Their porous nature may make it difficult to test using the normal way, especially if you are working on textured concrete. You may use the swab directly on the surface, but it will not penetrate the paint layers underneath. You may have to create a deep notch that will expose other layers of paint for testing.

3M LeadCheck False Positive

Because the LeadCheck Swabs are EPA-approved, it meets the agency’s standards regarding the possibility of having false-positive results. A false positive happens when the test kit has declared the presence of lead on a lead-free surface.

It is still possible that these swabs will give an incorrect result, particularly when it comes to false positives. The color-changing feature of the swabs makes it seem to consumers that this is not likely.

This occurrence is more possible on specific paint colors, especially grey, red, and white. It’s because the rhodizonate that reacts with lead can also react with those paint colors. White lead and yellow lead are also known to cause false positives using the LeadCheck swabs. False positives may also appear when testing on drywall and plaster walls.

A positive result may also be considered a false positive. It’s because the amount of lead detected by the swab is lower than the minimum limit set by the EPA, 600 ppm. This means that the swab was accurate in detecting lead. However, the minuscule amounts of lead present still fit the criteria of the EPA for a lead-free surface. That is why it is technically lead-free by EPA standards. The result is considered a false positive.

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3M Lead Check Swabs (48-pack)
3M Lead Check Swabs (48-pack)


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