HOUSEHOLD, Test for Lead


How to test for lead paint or lead in your home using homemade methods? You buy lead test swabs or use a homemade method of checking for lead described below.

How to test for lead paint or lead in home

Why Lead is a Concern?

Lead is a heavy metal and a neurotoxin that negatively affects the nervous system. Frequent exposure to lead can cause it to accumulate in the body and may cause lead poisoning.

Lead poisoning can reduce children’s cognitive abilities and cause many other health issues for children and adults.

Lead is commonly used in batteries, construction, and electronic components.

The use of lead in home construction was not regulated prior to 1978.

40% of US households still contain lead paint. Many toys and dishes still contain a high amount of lead according to independent tests (

Lead can be found in these common items:

  • Drinking water
  • Toys
  • Paint
  • Windowsills
  • Ceramic dishes, mugs, china
  • Make-up (lipstick, kohl)
  • Gasoline
  • Contaminated soil


Lead detection instructions:
  1. Wear safety glasses and disposable gloves.
  2. Lightly soak a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol.
  3. Rub the soaked cotton swab against the item you wish to test for 1 minute.
  4. Let swab air dry.
  5. The indicator solution: In a plastic cup mix a pinch of the lead indicator with a 1/4 cup of water. This solution will be the Indicator solution. The indicator solution must be prepared fresh as it lasts for only 6 hours.
  6. The Drop solution: On a small plastic plate mix a drop of the indicator solution with a drop of vinegar. The mixture will be colorless to yellow. This drop solution needs to be used up within 5 minutes after mixing.
  7. Dip the dried swab into the drop solution mixture allowing it to soak up the liquid. If the lead is present on the swab it will turn to pink-red within 1-10 minutes depending on the lead concentration.
  8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 with a clean untreated cotton swab to compare the color change.
  9. If you are going to test several items, check each surface with separate swabs and drop solution mixtures.
  10. Dispose of the remaining solutions in a drain with flowing water.

The above lead screening procedure is based upon NIOSH (US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) method #9105. This method is able to detect Lead content down to 0.1%.

Courtesy of Home Health Chemistry.


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