How to determine if a wood pallet is safe for use

Picture of How to determine if a wood pallet is safe for use
I've noticed recently that there is a lot of incorrect or outdated information regarding wood pallets.

My company makes dozens of pallets each day so I thought I would clear the air in regard to new pallets in the U.S.
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Step 1: NPPO/IPPC Standars

Picture of NPPO/IPPC Standars
More companies are starting to build one-time-use pallets or using heat treatment rather than Methyl Bromide fumigation.

Pallets now require an IPPC logo which certifies that the pallet was heat-treated or fumigated with Methyl Bromide.

The standard is a 2 letter country code (xx), a unique number (000) assigned by the National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO), HT for Heat Treatment or MB for Methyl Bromide, and DB to signify debarked.

The logo in the first image shows that it was produced in the U.S., the material was provided by 11187 (Unique number assigned to the producer), it was heat treated (HT) and was verified by PRL (Package Research Laboratory)

Step 2: Things to consider

Picture of Things to consider
The logo in the second images shows that it has also been debarked

This pallet is about as clean as they get. It was heat treated, produced in the U.S. and debarked.

There are some additional codes that can go on pallets but the main one to watch out for is MB. It means it was treated with Methyl Bromide.

If you don't see an IPPC logo then you know not to use it. While a pallet may be perfectly safe without the logo, it could also mean it was treated with chemicals.

Another issue is what has spilled on the pallet. I'd be careful, personally, about oily pallets or ones that have clearly had something spilled on them.

Step 3: Reference

Here are some links to the laws:

Federal Mandate

IPPC Standards FAQ


Also, keep in mind that many pallets are used for international shipping. While most industrialized countries have an NPPO, not all do. That means the country may not comply with the standards of other countries.

For the most part, if you stick by these guidelines and don't make a food cutting board from a pallet, you should be safe using them for projects.

As with any project involving cutting wood, you should always use a mask to keep from breathing in particles and pollutants.
copperaxe3 years ago
Good job I love it when people on the inside of whatever drop some info to the public. Methyl Bromide, gonna have to look that up but I think thats what is being used now instead of the old (better working though) arsenic composition used years ago for preservative/ pest control in lumber.

**Never burn treated lumber in a fireplace, plywood and OSB/ particle included**

Unfortunately, out of 45 pallets I picked up in 2014, only 1 (one) had this certification.

For that readon, I ould stay away from using pallets for nything food related even growing food in the garden,

Wanted to post this information for those looking to use pallet wood for growing food, as I am hoping to...

soul_drop2 months ago

Great information...thank you very much for taking the time to share these details.

clintonspoutz3 months ago

I recently installed pallet wood in my home I did not research which kind of pallets to use. The boards are marked MB if I seal the boards are they safe? HELP!

As long as it is not a cooking surface and you put a couple layers of polyurethane on it, it should be fine. You will need to coat all of the surfaces with the polyurethane. If you only coat the top and the side it will still off gas the methyl bromide from the bottom and it can poison you. DO NOT USE THIS AS A FOOD SURFACE!!!

AgentRed12 months ago
Thanks for sharing your wisdom!
RenSingsToo2 months ago

It may be just my internet tonight, but 2 of your three links don't seem to work for me. Could you check it out for me? Thanks! Thanks for the info, too!

tim.henslee.53 months ago

Yes as a trucker i can tell you that just because it says something on the outside you cannot tell what it has been used to haul. Anything from just bare wire to make bearings to herbicides to toilet paper to hardware for caskets to Medicines. Almost everything is hauled on a truck on a pallet at some time of its life.I know because i've delivered to places that had RR cars that were used for hauling radioactive materials to be disposed of.

freqgirl4 months ago

Thank you. I had no idea that some pallets were treated with chemicals. Now I know what to look for and I feel safer.

DIRKFOUR4 months ago

100% phase out -except for allowable exemptions such as critical
use exemptions agreed to by the Montreal Protocol Parties

then there is this

Thanks so much. I can get free broken pallets for my kids to use but have always been concerned about safety. Really easy!

Poopieloops11 months ago

I just brought home 2 gently used pallets that were used in the shipping of a solid wood, stained front door. The wood says HT (heat treated) from Canada and doesn't not have a stamp anywhere for the chemical MB. I plan on using these for a standing herb/flower/veggie garden. Do you think the wood would be safe? I don't need anymore contaminants in my daily consumption. The pallets themselves look pretty new, with the exception of minor rubbing stains from shipping. I would also like to possibly stain these an oak color. Should I avoid all stains period when growing food? Do they make food grade accepted stains that can use? Any comments are appreciated!

Hey Poopieloops - we've been using pallets for years to build various projects, personally I would say if you are going to use them for growing food - be extra careful about adding dyes and stains as those bad boys can have some nasty chemicals in them. Look out for pet/child/environment friendly stains if you use one at all, that way you know they have kept the nasties to a minimum.


niceday888810 months ago

Thank you for sharing. With knowledge, people can made informed decision.

HBU2 years ago
Thank you. this is one of those little pieces of information that can make all the difference. have a great easter
I agree! Thanks for sharing the knowledge ♥
jezabel331 year ago
Methyl bromide is a pesticide that has been mostly phased out under the Montreal Protocol due to its impact on the ozone layer. There are many, cheaper ways to fumigate and treat wood and another products. See:
MrBillG592 years ago
Yes, great, no chemicals were used in the making of the pallet. But you have NO idea what was transported on the pallet. Who knows what kinds of leaking barrels were carried on top of the pallet and what kinds of chemicals were in them.
And that is why he specifically said "Another issue is what has spilled on the pallet. I'd be careful, personally, about oily pallets or ones that have clearly had something spilled on them." He gave a very good amount of great information that can be used to a consumers benefit but in the end it all boils down to using pallets at your own risk.
Thx for the info. Have been considering making a furniture project out of reclaimed pallets, and this really helps clear the air.
eastol1 year ago
I have been trying to find our more info about pallets that have absolutely no markings on them. What I do know is that they come from a manufacturer in the US, they ship medical equipment on them, and they have zero identifiable markings on them. So should I avoid those because I don't know or assume that if they were treated with the "bad stuff" they would have to have markings. Once I am able to determine which manufacturer they are coming from, I can call them, but all the equipment has already been unloaded so I'm not sure. I usually don't see the pallets until the items are already off of them. I only planned to use them for a shelf project in the garage, but I would like to find one for a shelf project in the house.

Any input??
Beuna1 year ago
Thanks for sharing! Having worked with pallets I would recommend always using gloves. Protect yourself from splinters plus I have found black widows on them.
moonchylde2 years ago
Thanks for this info! I've seen so many panicky comments on every instructable that involves pallets, it's nice to finally see someone who knows what they're talking about.
RTD19542 years ago
Thanx. I typically use pallets for firewood. Can I assume that if it says HT, that it has no chemicals and can be used for firewood (open fire pit, back yard or camping... not indoors)
minnecrapolis (author)  RTD19542 years ago
If it says HT then, by law, that means Heat Treated and no chemicals.

I know many people burn pallets. I don't see why you couldn't. I guess you just have to hope the company producing the pallet is being honest.
kz12 years ago
Very useful information. Thank you for clearing that up for us.
ajdeb2 years ago
Cool thanks great information, wouldn't have even thought about the chemical treatment until now. Will be looking for the HT ones then, just googled Methyl Bromide and think best not to use for furniture or compost bins or anything that you touch.
heywood3 years ago
Great information. Thanks!
Lorddrake3 years ago
thanks for the concise information.
CementTruck3 years ago
When I was in the military we had wood pallets with a "P" either burned into the wood, or spray painted. I was told it was pressure treated with some really bad stuff. Stories circulated about an airman in one of the Air Bases in Spain who took pallets home to use in his fireplace and the fumes killed he and his entire family.
Think about the guys that had to burn the "P"s onto the pallets. I guess their jobs sucked!
oakback3 years ago
Well done! I'm no longer afraid to use pallets for projects.