How to Sand & Remove Lead Paint

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Lead-based paint contains small traces of the metal lead and was generally manufactured prior to the 1970s. Lead paint is harmless in small amounts but can cause serious health problems if the paint dislodges and is ingested or inhaled through flaking paint dust. Lead-paint exposure is particularly dangerous for young children and pregnant mothers, as the lead can cause potentially fatal damage. Lead-paint exposure causes only slight health complications in most adults.

Things You'll Need

  • Paint solvent or abrasive compound
  • Liquid paint remover
  • Sand paper or electric sander with HEPA filter
  • Misting spray bottle
  • Vacuum with HEPA filter

Alert all children or pregnant women to leave the building. Lead dust is especially dangerous to small children but only slightly hazardous to adults.

Select a single room or area. Close off this area from all other areas; seal ventilation or heating ducts. The area should be sealed using 6-mil plastic sheets.

Remove all objects and furniture from the room. If some furniture cannot be moved, cover in two sheets of 6-mil plastic and seal every opening. Seal the floor plastic to the baseboards using duct tape.

Put on protective clothing. Ideal protective clothing is disposable. Coveralls and shoes will provide adequate covering for the body. A hair covering such as a hat or hood will prevent lead dust from getting on your head, and goggles should be worn to protect your eyes. Only a respirator that is NIOSH- or MSHA-approved with a HEPA filter will remove lead dust from the air.

Apply a non-flammable solvent or abrasive compound to the lead paint to loosen it from the surface. Use liquid paint remover on smaller areas such as windowsills or doors.

Sand the lead paint using sandpaper or an electric sander. Sanding lead paint using an electric sander without a HEPA filter is illegal.

Mist the surfaces and debris with water to reduce the amount of lead dust in the air. Vacuum the area with a HEPA vacuum occasionally to remove paint chips and lead dust.

Mist all remaining debris with water when finished sanding and place in doubled 4- or 6-mil plastic bags. Mist all surfaces before wet-dusting and wet-mopping.

Vacuum the entire area using a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Mop the floor with a heavy-duty household cleaner.

Double-bag lead-contaminated debris in 4- to 6-mil plastic bags and throw away in small quantities in normal trash collection. Liquid materials should be filtered through a cloth before being poured down a drain or in a toilet. Use contaminated equipment only for lead-based removal.

Tips & Warnings

  • Once you have worked in an area, do not eat, drink or smoke until fully cleaned.
  • Never dry sand lead paint by hand. This increases the dust exposure and can be extremely hazardous.

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