Top tips on how to tackle lead painted surfaces

Painted surfaces that contain lead can be very hazardous to health, especially to young children and pregnant women. However, by the early 1980’s lead had been completely removed from decorative paints in the UK. Whilst we no longer use lead in paint today, old painted surfaces such as windows, doors and radiators may still contain traces of lead so it’s important to approach these redecoration projects in a safe way. 

If you are decorating an older property built in the 1960s-70s or before, you should be mindful that there is potential for the surfaces to still contain lead paint.  It’s always best to use a lead testing kit in these circumstances.

If the surfaces do contain lead then follow our top tips on how to approach the project: 

1. If the surface of the paint is in good condition, then simply paint over with a modern water based paint as normal. Don’t disturb the surface in any way.

2. If the surface is not in good condition and sanding is required:

    a. Cover all surfaces with plastic sheeting and seal with tape

    b. Ensure you use personal protective clothing – especially a filter mask

    c. Use waterproof sandpaper and rub the wall down wet. This will ensure dust is not produced, minimising any potential  dangers.

3. If the entire paint film needs to be removed then follow steps A and B above before using a standard paint stripper:

    a. Wet the entire area before using a scraper and/or abrasive paper. Ensure the entire area is kept moist at all times.

    b. For stubborn areas hot air guns may be used with caution. However, you must ensure you do not burn the paint or create paint fumes.

4. Once you have prepared your surfaces then wash them all down thoroughly using dishwasher detergent (not washing up liquid).

5. Then vacuum all exposed surfaces to remove any remaining debris. However ensure the vacuum you use has a HEPA filter.

6. Carefully dispose of all debris, including protective face masks and all filters in a heavy duty plastic bag. It is important to ensure this does not get torn or ripped when you are disposing of the waste.

Our top do’s and don'ts

·  Don’t eat, drink or smoke in the same room you are redecorating.

·  Don’t create dust clouds when sanding.

·  Don’t wear protective clothing in other areas of the property as this is likely to spread lead particles.

·  Don’t smoke, eat or drink in the work area.

·  Don’t ever use dry sandpaper.


·  Do check that the vacuum used for clean-up is fitted with a HEPA filter.

·  Do wear protective clothing and filter mask at all times.

·  Do dispose of all debris in heavy duty plastic liners.

·  Do ensure surfaces are wet at all times if removing damaged paint films.

·  Do use dishwasher detergent and not washing up liquid when cleaning up.

·  Do wash protective clothing separately from any other items.