How to Test Paint for Lead

Zach Zach (248)
10 minutes

I'm getting ready to paint my 1926 bungalow and, like many people used to do for some reason, the previous owners decided to paint the brick pillars on my porch.

I plan on removing the paint from the bricks when I paint my house to restore them to their former brilliance, but I want to test the paint first for lead so that I can take the necessary precautions should lead be detected.

According to Toxipedia, lead paint was banned in 1978 but I have no way of knowing when the brick was painted (there are actually several layers of paint on the bricks).

Paint scraper ×1
Lead testing kit ×1

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A house paint lead test kit

3M makes an instant lead test product that has great reviews and is under $10. I've linked to the product above.

Scraping paint off a house using a paint scraper

This is optional but highly recommended; if your house was built before 1978, chances are there are several layers of paint. To ensure you are testing all layers for lead, you'll need to scrape a small amount down to the base layer (plaster, drywall, brick, wood, etc.)

Squeezing a lead paint test applicator

Squeeze and crush the applicator at both the A and B points. This will break the glass capsule contained therein and allow the two testing components to mix.

Shaking and squeezing a lead paint tester

Gently squeeze and shake the applicator, with the tip pointing down, until yellow dots appear on the applicator tip. Now you're ready for testing.

Rub the applicator on the scraped paint area

Rub the applicator tip on the affected area for 30 seconds, being sure that all layers of paint make contact.

Analyze the results

If the tip of the applicator turns pink, lead is present in the paint. If you've tested positive for lead paint, The Family Handyman has a great DIY guide on lead paint removal.

My paint is lead-free!

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