Helpful Hints About Cleaning for Lead


These steps will provide a short-term solution for lead in your home. For more permanent solutions, you may contact the Michigan Department of Community Health, Healthy Homes Section at (866) 691-5323 (LEAD).

  1. Use the proper cleaner
    • Any household detergent
    • Cleaners made just for cleaning lead
    • You can use a spray bottle or bucket to hold cleaning solution
  2. Put on gloves. If you don't have rubber gloves, wash your hands when you are done cleaning.
  3. Pick up all paint chips first
  4. Use disposable paper towels. Don't use dish cloths or sponges to clean
  5. Keep water clean.
    • Use a new paper towel to clean each area
    • Never put dirty towels into the wash water
    • Put the used towels in a plastic bag and throw into the trash
  6. Pour wash water down the toilet. Avoid pouring it down the sink
  7. Rinse after cleaning.
    • Use clean water and towels for rinsing each area
  8. Repeat steps 1 - 7 often. Do these steps when dust and dirt appear.

Note: Major areas that should be cleaned include windows, doors, floors, porches, stairs and child play areas.

HEPA Vacuums for Lead Dust Removal

Vacuuming with a regular household vacuum will not remove the very small dust particles in the home that can poison children. Much of the dust that is picked up is blown back out the exhaust of the vacuum, which lands on toys, furniture, and floors where small children become exposed. A HEPA vacuum is a very useful tool that can help clean lead-contaminated surfaces in the home.

A HEPA vacuum is different from a regular household vacuum. It has a special filter that can trap very small dust particles that you cannot see. This type of filter is called a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter. HEPA vacuums are also beneficial for family members with allergies.

There are HEPA vacuums on the market for commercial and household use. You can search the Internet for "HEPA vacuum" and find many brands. Stores that sell household vacuums, like Target and Sears, will likely have them available.

The best kind to get for cleaning lead dust is one that has different attachments for different surfaces. It should have a canister style and a long hose for reaching high places. It should also have a beater bar (agitator head) attachment if you plan to vacuum carpets and rugs.

Many items in the home should be cleaned using a HEPA vacuum, including ceilings, walls, floors, windows, interior and exterior window sills, doors, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment (heating diffusers, radiators, pipes, vents), fixtures of any kind (light, bathroom, kitchen), built-in cabinets, and appliances. Porches, sidewalks, driveways and other exterior surfaces can also be vacuumed if you know there is lead dust.

If you are using a HEPA vacuum for the first time in your home to specifically remove lead dust and small paint chips to make areas lead-safe for children, there is a special cleaning method that is recommended for getting the best results.

First, use the HEPA vacuum; followed by wet washing with a soapy detergent and rinsing with fresh water; then after surfaces have dried, use the HEPA vacuum a final time. See above for notes on wet-washing. Use this three-step process to clean one room in the house at a time before moving on to another. Follow up with a regular cleaning schedule using the HEPA vacuum.

There is also a special method for using the HEPA vacuum itself. If the whole house is being HEPA-vacuumed for the first time, start in the room farthest from the main entrance/exit door. That way, dirt is not tracked into areas that have already been HEPA-cleaned. Vacuum from room to room working toward the main exit door and finish there. If only one room is being HEPA vacuumed, work from the farthest area from the door and finish at the doorway.

In each room, begin HEPA-vacuuming at the top of each room (ceiling, walls, and top shelves) and work down to the floor. Do every inch of the windows, especially in the window trough or well where the moveable part of the window rests when it is closed. Use the special attachments to clean hard-to-reach areas. The needle-nosed tool should be used to clean baseboards and cracks in the floor boards. Brush attachments should be used for walls and woodwork. Move the HEPA vacuum slowly and carefully over surfaces so it can pick up all of the lead dust.

If you own a HEPA vacuum, change the bag and filter using the manufacturer's instructions. Changing them outside will prevent lead dust from resettling on floors and furniture. In Michigan, some local health departments have a HEPA vacuum loan program. If you have borrowed a HEPA vacuum from your local health department, ask the staff about changing or cleaning out the filter.