How to Handle Lead Dust Cleanup (And Who You Should Call to Do It Properly)

Ben Kissam
Written by Ben Kissam
Updated November 4, 2021
Person looking at renovation progress

Oh, if only your home was built in 1979

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If you own an older home that just underwent renovations, there’s an unnerving side-effect you should be aware of: lead particles floating in the air. Yes, you read that right: lead dust is a thing. When a contractor cuts, saws, or demolishes parts of an old home built before 1978, lead can sometimes find its way into the air, leaving behind lead paint chips and lead dust.

So whether you suspect there are lead particles floating around your home or you’d just rather be safe than sorry, here’s how to handle lead dust clean up properly.

Take Precautions If You Suspect There’s Lead Dust

Exposure to lead can lead to health complications over time, especially to young children, so be proactive if you suspect lead dust is circulating in your home.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states that 50 µg/m3 per eight hours for adults is safe. This measurement is tough to figure out on your own, but a certified dust sampling technician (see below) or local lead removal specialist can take it for you.

However, no safe blood lead levels have been identified for children, so treat even minor exposure seriously if you have small kids in your home. It may be best to keep your children or family out of the home while contractors remedy the situation.

Do a Clearance Dust Sampling

The best way to set your mind at ease is to bring in a certified dust sampling technician to determine the level of lead in your home. They will perform both a visual and series of dust wipe tests, as well as look for unusual sources of lead in your home, to determine if your home is safe.

It’s likely best to do this first even if you only suspect lead dust, as it can help you come up with an appropriate game plan going forward. 

Homes built before 1978 are subject to different lead laws when it comes to buying a home. Educate yourself on these and ask the right questions when a pro visits your house.

Inspect and Clean the Renovated Area

Person cleaning up home renovation
Kadmy -

If an inspection uncovers lead dust, you can either hire a pro to handle the lead dust issue (if warranted) or tackle minor clean-ups yourself. 

The source of lead dust in your home will most likely be at or around the area you’ve recently renovated. Remove lead paint chips and obvious pieces of lead that may have been left behind. To limit your exposure during clean up, consider using:

  • A pair of gloves

  • Long pants and long sleeve clothing

  • A trash bag

  • A set of goggles

Lead paint cleanup safety guidelines issued by the EPA change often, so read up on those first.

Use a HEPA Filter Vacuum

HEPA vacuums (HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air) use a pleated filter to remove allergens, toxins, and chemicals from the air in a variety of settings. Buy or rent a HEPA filtered vacuum to help suck up any excess lead dust in your home.

HEPA filters are guaranteed to trap 99.7% of all airborne particles. Run it slowly across carpets and surfaces to ensure as much lead dust as possible is removed from fabrics.

Keep in mind, no vacuum can remove all lead dust in your home. A clearance evaluation is the most reliable to test for lead after you’ve cleaned your home.

Sanitize Household Items

Cleaning household items that may have come in contact with lead is also important. A mixture of household detergent and water (1 teaspoon of detergent per cup of water in a spray bottle) is a good ratio for counters, doors, handles, etc.

When cleaning, keep two piles to ensure that any items that touch lead dust end up on the contaminated side.

Wash Floors and Furniture

Sofas, floors, and absorbent fabrics on walls or ceilings (such as tapestries) should also be cleaned after possible lead exposure. Fiberlock and D-Lead surface cleaners make effective surface wipes and lead dust cleaning solutions you can use.

Dispose of Contaminated Items and Cleaning Supplies

To ensure you get all the excess lead dust out of your home, seal cleaning supplies you used to remove lead dust in a trash bag. Remodeling debris, as well as items that touched lead-based paint, can be disposed of as general waste and go in a landfill safely.

Basically, when drowning in lead dust doubt, call a pro. Lead exposure (in low quantities) may not be harmful to you as an adult, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry when kids are in the mix.

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