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July 16, 2018 3 min read

We've all seen those adorable wooden and metal letters at every retail store in America and all across social media for that matter.  But did you know that reclaimed wooden and regular letters (not to mention those rusty metal letters with the sharp edges) can carry fumes, chemicals, toxins, and microscopic pests?  

There's a process called "Kiln Drying" which uses high heat under controlled conditions to kill off mold, microscopic pests, bacteria, etc., but it's a costly process that not many lumber mills do-- let alone salvage yards, really old barns (lead paint anyone?), and anywhere else someone may find reclaimed wood at. While it sounds super cool, I'm not sure the potential hazards are worth it. I haven't even mentioned the weight of the letters! Some letters weight in at 2 pounds each depending on sizing.  With most babies being born being between 6-9 pounds-- um, yeah, I'm not sure about putting that over my baby's head while they sleep.

With the increasing nursery related injuries rising in the United States, its more important that we make conscious decisions about what we decide to put inside our nursery.  While nothing can beat the look of real, authentic, decades old lumber, we can at least make educated decisions on what, where, and who we buy from.  We can still benefit from repurposing reclaimed lumber--let's just minimize the risks.

Below are some helpful articles that will help you navigate the world of reclaimed lumber but here are some easy to remember guides to help you in your journey if you insist on using wood:

  1. Cleaning and sanding the wood is not enough!-- If you must use it, clean it (plenty of how-to's online), sand it (maybe even plane it), plug your eyes, ears, and noses, and use it for other areas of the home besides the nursery and kitchens.  Even then, sadly, it doesn't eliminate all the dangers associated with reclaimed wood but it definitely helps to minimize it.
  2. Don't forget to take off your top layer of clothing after working with reclaimed wood before you come back inside the house and immediately drop in the washer.  You should also take a shower yourself to make sure you get all the sawdust off your skin and hair.  Don't forget to to clean your shoes too! You'd be surprised what can accumulate in those things!
  3. Try to buy your wood from mills that use kiln dried wood. Don't be shy or embarrassed  about questioning sellers on where and who they get their lumber from and how it's been cleaned and sanitized. Reputable sellers will always gladly let you know!
  4. Use new wood and make it look old-- that's my number one pick! Use new wood that's been kiln dried and use non-toxic paints and stains to create the old worn look you want.
  5. Make sure you work with the wood in a well ventilated area and use gloves. 
  6. Make sure you clean up your workspace completely before leaving your work area for the day.

Any other alternatives you ask? Why yes! House of Crazi uses all non-toxic paints and recyclable materials for their decorative letters.  We create a safer alternative to wooden and metal letters.  Our letters look like real wood and metal but aren't! It's about as close as you can get to the wooden and metal look without it being actual wood and metal.  You can find our products here.

Here are some articles that I promised you but a simple search on Google, will provide you with a TON of informative articles:

The pros and cons of reclaimed wood

The risks of reclaimed wood

The Consumer Product Safety Commission on nursery related injuries

Know where your reclaimed wood comes from

Reclaimed Wood: Trendy or Toxic

Using gorgeous reclaimed wood with stories etched into every grain is stuff of Pinterest dreams.  Just be safe about it and do not use it in nurseries or around areas where members of your family eat. 

Photo byAlexandre Godreau

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