How To Remove Lead Paint Safely

It’s not always easy to think of everything. But keeping your family safe is always easy to remember because it is the top priority. So when it comes to your house, that will also be what you think of first.

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You may have removed the asbestos in your ceiling insulation but have you thought about lead paint? Many old homes have walls painted with lead paint that has begun to chip and just may cause severe health issues.

What Is Lead Paint?

Lead paint has been around since the 1600s. It was first used because people learned that adding lead to paint made it very durable. This is all good and fine but today, we know much better. So we don’t allow lead paint to be made.

By the time the 1900s rolled around, health officials realized that lead paint may be causing some issues. Then by the mid-century era, they learned exactly how dangerous lead paint could be to humans.

Not only could it cause minor problems but it could also lead to brain damage and organ failure. Finally, in 1978, lead paint was banned and wasn’t allowed to be sold to the public anymore. Which was amazing.

However, many homes still had lead paint in them, leaving many worrying for their families. People began testing their paint for lead soon after so they would know if their paint should be removed or if it was safe. 

When Is Lead Paint Dangerous?

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Although lead paint is known to be dangerous, most people don’t understand that having lead paint in your home doesn’t necessarily mean that your family is in danger. It is more complicated than that.

If the paint is in good shape, if it is sealed and not peeling, it probably won’t cause any problems. The problem occurs when the paint starts peeling, creating chips that turn to dust. The dust is then inhaled and lead poisoning occurs.

It’s always a good idea to test your paint for lead if it was applied before 1978. However, sometimes, it’s simply best to paint over the lead paint instead of removing it. As removing it poses its own risk if done improperly. 

Your best bet is to hire an EPA-certified lead paint removal service. They will remove the paint in a very safe way. however, this does come with a cost. If you can’t afford it, then removing it yourself can work. Just be very careful. 

Signs Of Lead Poisoning 

There are many signs of lead poisoning that can be attributed to something else. But if you fear that you have been exposed, here are some signs that you yourself can look for to know if you should see a doctor.

Mild Signs Of Lead Poisoning

  • Pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Paraesthesia (sensation of “pins” and “needles”)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss

Severe Signs Of Lead Poisoning 

  • Loss of short-term memory or concentration
  • Depression
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of coordination
  • Numbness and tingling in the extremities
  • Fatigue
  • Problems with sleep
  • Headache
  • Stupor
  • Slurred speech
  • Anemia
  • “Lead hue” of the skin with pallor
  • A blue line along the gum, with bluish black edging to the teeth, known as burton line
  • High blood pressure
  • Declines in mental functioning
  • Memory loss
  • Mood disorders

How To Remove Lead Paint

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Lead paint removal isn’t as difficult as it may seem. The most important part is doing things safely. Otherwise, it is just labor that anyone can do. That said, please never let children help with lead paint removal. 

Step 1: Remove Furniture

Before you begin removing lead paint, it’s important to clear the room. Take away the furniture, the rugs, and everything else. If the paint chips get on the furniture, you won’t be getting rid of the problem.

After you remove everything, then lay out a thick plastic sheet or even better, drop cloth on the floor. Drop cloths are simply better than plastic sheeting because there are fewer accidents involved with a cloth. 

Step 2: Ventilate and “Unventilate”

Turn off your heating and cooling systems so that the lead paint chips aren’t spread around. Then, cover all vents with plastic or duct tape that are in the roof. You can also close the door and put a towel under it.

Finally, it’s a good idea to open a window and put a fan pointing out of it. This will help prevent closing you inside the area with all of the lead paint while offering air circulation. But it isn’t necessary if you clean up after. 

Step 3: Prepare Yourself 

Protecting yourself is probably even more important than protecting the room. So wear a lead-rated respirator mask, not a construction mask or medical mask. It needs to be fitted and with a HEPA filter.

You should also wear protective goggles and rubber gloves. Wearing old clothing that you can toss afterward is a good idea too. Finally, get a bucket of warm soapy water to have close by for accidents. 

Step 4: Wet Paint

As in, the verb wet rather than the adjective. Spray the paint that is chipping or peeling with a spray bottle of water. Work in very small areas at a time and only work on wet paint. Spray and then work.

Working dry may feel better but so will leaving the HVAC going. But neither is a good idea. Protect yourself by working with the wet wall in order to keep things contained and prevent lead dust from floating around.

Step 5: Scrape And Sand Paint

Now, after you wet an area, scrape away the paint with a hand scraper. Just scrape away any paint that will peel up when wet. You don’t need to get it all because the lead paint won’t hurt you unless it is loosened. 

After you scrape an area, then spray it again and sand it with a sanding sponge. This will take longer than if you were dry sanding but dry sanding can be dangerous with lead paint. So stick to this method. 

Step 6: Clean Area

As you go, take that bucket of warm water and wash away the area after you sand. You want to repeat the process of scraping and sanding until the paint will no longer peel up without effort. Then you can move on.

When you do, clean the area with warm water using a fresh cloth or sponge. Have someone on hand to replace the bucket of water regularly, disposing of it properly while also wearing a mask and protective gear. 

Step 7: Clean The Room 

After you are finished, leave the gear on and vacuum up with a certified HEPA vacuum. Even though it may seem silly, you want to use this special vacuum, not the one you vacuum your house with.

It might also seem silly to say that you should vacuum your drop cloth. But vacuuming the drop cloth or sheeting should be done in order to contain the lead paint chips as much as possible even afterward. 

Step 8: Finish Up

Remove the drop cloth and duct tape and immediately put them in a garbage bag. Before you dispose of everything, ask around to find out how you should do so. Some dumps won’t allow lead paint disposal.

You may have to get a specialty team to remove it for you. If this is irritating remember that it is probably for the best. You protect yourself when removing the paint so do your part and protect others as well. 

Painting Over Lead Paint

Sometimes painting over lead paint is better than lead paint removal. What you want to do is whatever is the safest option. But knowing what that is isn’t always easy. Let’s talk about when to remove the paint and when to paint over it.

Always test for lead in your paint before doing anything to it at all. You can have someone test it or test it yourself with a DIY kit that can be purchased at the hardware store. If you are careful, either option works. 

When you do decide that painting is the better option, then still wear protective gear just as if you were removing it. On top of that, never ever chip or peel the lead paint. This is what causes it to be disturbed and causes problems. 

If the paint is already chipped or peeling then don’t paint it. Hire a company to remove it or remove it yourself with the steps provided above. You want any loose bits removed as soon as possible to prevent health conditions. 

If you have kids, have them stay over at a friend’s house when you are working with lead paint, even if painting over it. Because lead poisoning is much more dangerous to kids than to adults, so keep kids away. 

Lead Paint Removal Service

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We’ve already talked about the EPA-certified paint removal services that you can hire, but they really need to be mentioned again. This is by far the best option because it is the safest option and safety is always worth it. 

You may think that you know how to remove lead paint safely but you will never be able to do so as well as those who have the proper equipment and have been trained for the job. So never cancel them out. 

Most of the time, you won’t pay more than a few hundred dollars for lead paint removal, but some companies charge more because of the health hazard. So get a quote before you decide if it is worth it or not.