How to quickly test for lead

November 17, 2009

How to easily test paint, furniture or decorative items for lead. 

It's VERY easy to test for lead and important to know, especially if you'll be removing paint from an item. I received a comment back on my post on gold and red fall decor about the plates I bought from Goodwill that concerned me. The reader mentioned the dishes were recalled years ago for possible lead content. 

I usually have a lead testing kit handy around here -- I've used them a few times over the years. Although our crib was brand new, when the Bub started gnawing on it like it was a chew toy, out came the lead test. When every. single. toy. seemed to have lead in it, out came the lead tests. 

You can test just about any product for lead content. 

First, check out your home improvement store and look for this lead testing kit (affiliate):easy lead testing kit I usually find them near the paint section. 

I think this kit was about $5, and you can get two tests out of each swab, as long as you do the tests within two minutes:
quickly test paint for leadWhen I did some research on the recalled plates, I read that if there are any chips to check that area for lead especially. Because I chipped this bowl pretty much as soon as I got it home (fists shaking in air!), I figured I would check that, as well as the bowl.

After the swab is activated, just squeeze the fluid onto the item you're testing:
easily test old decor for leadThe instructions say to wait for 30 seconds or so, but in my experience, the immediate result is the result. Both the surface of my bowl and the chipped area were negative, whew. (Meaning no color change.) The sites I found about the recall didn't have pictures of any of the recalled sets, but it did mention the lead leached when the plates were heated. I plan on sticking this in the microwave for a bit to test it again just to make sure.

Since I could get two tests out of the one swab, I figured I would check out an antique architectural piece I got a while back as well. I was pretty sure there was lead in the piece, due to it's age. I was right -- it started out light:
positive lead test old paintAnd got darker with time:
positive lead result old paint The swab will turn as well as the item:
how to read lead testAccording to the test, the darker the color, the more lead -- this was a dark pink, not red. So it's not a ton of lead, but enough that I put it up high on a plant shelf so none of us will touch it. (The pink on this one did not come off, so beware of that.)

Especially with the holidays coming up, it is worthwhile to have a test around, just in case. It's quite possible some older or antique Christmas decor has lead in it. Obviously, even items with lead in them aren't necessarily harmful if left alone and aren't handled often -- for adults. Anything babies or children can get to are fair game. ;)
It's cheap to do and too easy not to!
Email subscription form header
Your email:*
Please enter all required fields Click to hide
Correct invalid entries Click to hide


  1. That is a wonderful tidbit of knowledge I need to file away (esp as I have five children under 10)...

    Thanks for the heads up (and I don't think it was boring, not at all). :-)

  2. Nope, not boring! Very informative. I have thought about getting some testing kits to have around, but have never followed though with it. Now I will! My little guy is into everything, so I really need to make sure nothing with lead is where he can get it.

  3. Thank you for writing about this subject. My grandson was exposed to high levels of lead as an infant. The lead poisoning was caused by particles released while remodeling an older house. He is now three years old and has been under a doctors care since the exposure. Luckily he has not shown any long term effects from the lead so far. Please always check for lead before tearing out walls, cabinets ect in older homes.

  4. Thank you so much for another great post. I picked up a cute little table at Goodwill, and was wondering if it had lead in it. Now I can find out. I am planning on repainting it, but in the mean time I need to make sure my little man is safe. Thanks-

  5. I think your post was quite interesting, didn't really expect a :) lead post...but very good information.

  6. Thank you for this post. I knew tests were out there, but i didn't realize how inexpensive and simple it is. Will definitely test some of my mexican pottery i'm afraid to use, and maybe my old house too, lol.

  7. Great post, and very timely. I had just read an article on the internet regarding lead being found in toys/children's items despite the new regulations! My children are older, but it still concerns me as I have friends with young children and pets can be affected as well.

  8. That is good to know, I have a few things in my house that I've wondered about. I'll have to test them. Thanks!

  9. Awesome! Thanks for blogging about this tester. I had NO clue this was out there and so now we're gonna run to the store and grab a few! Thankee!

  10. this is so incredible; I've never even thought of testing for lead. As I get into buy more antiquities, I think I will do this; I wonder if I could test before I brought something home? Thanks again for sharing this.

  11. I actually saw an article in the news today about modern-day toys with illegal amounts of lead in them! Yikes! Great post.

  12. A very important subject... we bought an older home this summer and I've been on lead patrol ever since. I read that the #1 place lead exposure comes from are old painted sash windows that are opened and closed, which releases lots of lead dust into the air. We're getting our windows replaced next Spring because of that.

    And since we're on the topic of Christmas decorations, don't forget that light strands have lead in the wire coating -- there are warnings next to the plugs. So if you let your kids "help" or if they touch the wires, make them wash their hands!!

  13. What great tips-I love to go to estate sales and never think of stuff being recalled. Great ideas!

  14. I recently purchased a little artificial tree that had a small tag on it which I would normally just toss, but for some reason I read it (glad I did now) and it said that the tree contains lead which has been known to cause birth defects...YIKES!!! I am pregnant, so that definitely scared me. Who would have thought???

  15. Thank you. I never knew one could do this themselves. Great post. I'm going pass this on and these would make great housewarming gift basket add-ins.

  16. This subject is big for me, as I unknowingly lead-poisoned my oldest son while remodeling years ago :-(.

    Sadly, the kits you refer to are unreliable from all I can determine. Here is a statement from the Consumer Product Safety Commission: . It is from 2007 but the kits have not changed.

    I wish this weren't true! But I'd hate to have someone trust the kits and lead poison a little one like I did.


  17. Very good reminder, we had to do that this summer when I was sanding down a door way and we thought there might be lead paint. I do have a question for you. There is a post with a picture of a room in your house (don't remember which) and you are talking about the paint. It's a neutral color and you mention that that particular color would look good in any room. I wrote down the paint color, it's from Home Deopt, but I lost it and can't find that post anymore. Would you happen to know what paint color I'm talking about? If so, could you just click on my blog and leave it in the comments. I would appreciate it. Thanks!

  18. I'm so glad you posted about this -there is NO level of lead that is considered safe so it's wise to pay attention to anything that might contain lead including paint, toys, water, food, etc.

  19. I've always wanted to know where to pick these up. Thanks for sharing !


  20. I am so glad you posted this!! With our move coming up I might have to buy a bunch of those and run around the new house using them!!

  21. Thanks so much for posting this. I have the same dishes as you. Did you ever end up testing them again? If they have lead please let me know. Thank you!!! I love your blog. :)

    mothertojustin at


If you have a specific question I will do my best to answer you back here!

You can find our paint colors and links to items at the "Our Home" tab at the top of my site.

THANKS so much for reading!