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How to Know If A Pallet Is Safe to Use

Have a great pallet project you want to make, don't know if it is safe to use the pallets you find?

How do you know if your wood pallet is safe to use for your project?

Recently, a reader drew our attention to the possible dangers using of shipping pallets, especially in DIY projects like our smoker, where the pallets will be used near food. Some, but not all, pallets have toxic chemicals on them or have been exposed to a chemical treatment that makes them inappropriate for use in home projects. We spent a lot of time finding the best, safe pallets for our use, and we wanted to share with you some tips that will help you find good, usable pallets.

Even a brand new wood pallet could be treated with chemicals. We did some research to figure out how we can assure that you can use a wood pallets safely. Pallets are great for building things and DIY crafts, but we want everyone to be able to stay safe doing so.

Any pallet you find may have been:

1) exposed to chemicals and/or toxins. These can include toxic bacteria from food or animals, chemicals and/or drug residue.

2) fumigated with toxic insecticides to prevent insect infestation.

There’s no way for us to be able to tell how much danger there is in using pallets, but we can tell you what we do know.

We also put together an article on how to find the best pallets, with free ones being our favorite.

Where to Find Free Pallets? Check out the post:

Free Wood Pallets and Reclaimed Materials-Where To Get Them

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Check out How to Know If A Pallet Is Safe to Use at

How to Know If A Pallet Is Safe To Use

Any shipping  pallet you find at the on the side of the road or at a local source needs to be inspected for a few things.

Step 1 : Determine that the pallet is relatively clean

  • No signs of spills or leakage of items

    If there are any spills on it, either oil, food or unknown substances, you should pass on this pallet. It is much safer to just stick with clean ones and not try to identify what might be on your pallet.

         **If the pallet has spills on it, do not use it**

Step 2 :  Look at the stamp and markings on the pallet

Almost all pallets will have a stamp, found somewhere on one of the sides.

There are two main things to look for on the pallet stamp:

  • The IPPC logo :

    This is the logo for the International Plant Protection Convention ( IPPC) Pallets that are shipped internationally are required to be made of material that will not carry invasive insect species or plant disease. To meet IPPC standards, a pallet can not be made of raw wood that has not been treated. These pallets must be treated by one of the two following methods, and the treatment will be under the supervision of an agency approved to do this. Without this stamp, the pallet may be safe, but we would rather use pallets whose source can be traced.

         **If you do not see an IPPC logo stamp on your pallet, do not use it**

  • The Method of Treatment and code: 

    • Heat Treatment [HT] The wood has to heated for at least 30 minutes to a minimum core temperature of at least 132.8 °F /56° C. A Pallet treated this way will be stamped with [HT], and it should appear near the stamp of the IPPC logo
    • Chemical Fumigation [MB] The wood was fumigated with a chemical called methyl bromide. A pallet treated with this should be stamped with the letters [MB] and it should appear near the IPPC logo. Altough the use of methyl bromide was banned in March 2010 as an acceptable treatment under IPPC, you may still find a pallet that was treated using this method.

         ***If you see the letters MB stamped on a pallet, do not use it**

    • Debarked [DB] This means the pallet was debarked, and many pallets have this stamp. This signifies that the wood was debarked under IPPC regulations, but it does not matter if your pallet does not have this stamp. Many of them we found do not.


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The things you will find stamped on a pallet and what they mean:

Wood packaging materials must be debarked prior to being heat treated or fumigated to meet regulations . These regulations prevent the re-infestation of insects while lumber is waiting to be manufactured and also after it has been manufactured. These items will likely be seen on a pallet stamp:

  • IPPC certification symbol- The IPPC regulates wood products like pallets and ensures that they meet specifications for international shipping.
  • XX: Two letters that represent the two letter ISO country code (e.g. US for United States, CA for Canada, AU for Australia, GB for United Kingdom).
  • 00: represents the unique certification number issued to agencies that regulate and oversee the individual wood packaging manufacturers. This certification number allows the wood packaging material to be traced back to the NPPO/auditing agency.
  • 1111: represents the unique certification number issued to the  manufacturer and/or treatment provider. This certification number allows the wood packaging material to be traced back to the provider who treated the wood.
  • Compliant stamps may include further information as producers and suppliers may choose to include additional information for identification purposes.

Note: All stamps on pallets may not be clear.

When we first inspected a few from the ones we found, the logos and stamps were not as clear as we expected, and did not exactly follow some of the guides we found online.

What if there is no stamp or marking on the pallet?

It means this pallet is likely used for domestic transport, and it did not require an IPPC stamp, since the pallet was not used for international transport. These pallets are likely safe, as most are not treated with chemicals. However, it is better to be careful. We recommend that you use pallets with stamps, as you can trace where they came from and know how they were treated.

Are colored pallets safe to use?

Check out How to Know If A Pallet Is Safe to Use at

We do not recommend that you use colored pallets, as they are often used by the pool industry and can contain chemicals.

Bottom Line:

You will be using any pallet you use at your own risk. Use your own judgement to determine what type pallet works for your project.

Remember, you can always buy new pallets:

If you are apprehensive about using pallets you find, you can buy new, chemical free pallets from a shipping supplier called Uline. This company specializes in shipping supplies and has an extensive catalog online. Uline sells pallets made from new wood (hardwoods, such as elm, oak, cottonwood or maple) and also recycled wood (a combination of elm, oak, cottonwood or maple).  If you need to be assured you can prevent insects (especially if you are using your pallets outdoors) you can buy pallets from them that are heat-treated (HT) This will mean the wood has been treated to a certain temperature without the use of chemicals, and this treatment will eliminate the risk of insect infestation.

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Ready to build cool stuff with pallets? Check out our other DIY pallet posts!

Repurposed Furniture | Make A Wood Pallet Coffee Table

19 Cool Pallet Projects | Pallet Furniture and More

Free Wood Pallets – Where to get Pallets and Reclaimed Materials

DIY Smoker How To Build A Smokehouse From Pallets for Less than $100

Compost Bin DIY: Quick Pallet Project

Make a Pallet Workbench in Under 2 Hours

Pallet 101: Types, Standard Pallet Size and More

The Easy Way to Deconstruct a Pallet

Let us know in the comments below! Your feedback matters. The more interest we get in posts, the more likely we are to do more like that.


  1. AvatarKen Giaccio says

    January 24, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    I own and operate a pallet company.
    The IPPC is only concerned with invasive spices (bugs) getting from one country to another.
    The “wood” is not treated. The finished pallet is.
    Heat treating 140 degrees kills bugs and larva, nothing else.
    Hardly anyone is the US uses MB to treat pallets, however all most all fruit and produce importers use MB on the fruit and produce.

    • Avatar says

      January 24, 2014 at 8:51 pm

      Thanks, Ken! We appreciate your feedback. Please let us know if you have any other tips you recommend to help people find the safest pallets. How would you go about finding the safest pallets?

  2. AvatarMike says

    January 26, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    Another thing to look for is how the tops and bottoms are separated; if they have blocks roughly 4″x4″x6″ between them, they’re good for pulling apart and making walls, floorboards and roof slats from. If they have 1″x5″ stringers that basically run the length of the forks that pick them up, they’re good for supporting weight for long periods of time- making good material for walls, flooring and roofing.

  3. AvatarJim says

    January 26, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    I work at a place where they use pallets every day. Some are the blue colored pallets that belong to CHEP, which is a place that rents thier pallets out. But most of them are wood and are made over using smaller scraps of wood. This means that the strips do not go all the way across and they use two strips rather than one. When a pallet is damaged beyond repair, it is usually thrown in the garbage.

  4. Avatarphillip says

    February 6, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    the project “build your own smoker from pallets for under 100.00. I don’t see where the heat/smoking source is for this project…can you elaborate?


  5. Avatar says

    November 5, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    These are all great tips, and things people need to be aware of. One thing I do strongly recommend is to just be 100% sure what those pallets were used for and where they came from. This will give you more insight to what they have been around. As well, ask how they were transferred. With all this being said, you mentioned colored pallets too. You really have to be careful with these because the colored ones are the most chemically treated pallets. DO NOT USE!

  6. Avatar says

    November 13, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Thank you for posting this, I was a bit sketched out about taking the pallets I collected inside, having no idea what they could have been used for or what could be on them. Found this as I was trying to find out about how to clean them and get any bugs off before the paint goes on. I live behind a garden center and there’s tons of those tiny little bugs that look like dots (usually red, could be a very small spider.) Do you know whether any spray or base that I could quickly get on it that would do something along the lines of killing any, sealing the wood, etc. I am going to paint my boards inside to avoid more bugs, I would want to spray or whatever I got to do and then bring it in to safety immediately. Thanks!


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