Unfortunately, lead is common in hardware including knobs, pulls, and door knobs. Based on testing from Tamara Rubin, we have learned that so many knob materials contain lead that it’s impossible to make generalizations about which metals will be lead-free.
However, through her testing, through the reputation of a few select companies, and with a couple of select materials that are unlikely to contain lead, I have a few options to recommend.
A Prop 65 warning could indicate lead (usually found in brass and also in many other metals as well as ceramic/porcelain), nickel (found in nickel finishes and stainless steel), cadmium (found in brass and ceramic glazes), mercury (found in some metals), antimony (found in leaded crystal/glass), or chromium (found in chrome).
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Home Depot Defiant Brandywine Collection Stainless Steel Finish Door Knob Set. Tested lead-free in all accessible components by Tamara Rubin in 2019 (source).
Defiant Doorknob Lock & Handle Set, Naples Collection. Tested lead-free in all accessible components by Tamara Rubin in 2019 (source).
Kwikset sliver-colored door handle, no SKU or way to precisely identify it. Tested lead-free by Tamara Rubin in 2019 (source).
Not Likely To Contain Lead (I would use these)
1. IKEA has been lead-free with all their products for a long time now (based on XRF testing by Tamara Rubin and Natural Baby Mama and the company’s statement). They seem to be really reliable on this matter. I would trust all knobs/pulls/hardware from IKEA (though I’m not sure about their brass).
2. Acrylic Plastic Pull from Signature Hardware, and other acrylic plastic options would not likely contain lead.
3. Wooden Cabinet Knob from Signature Hardware, and all other wood and rattan options would not likely contain lead.
4. Wood and Rattan drawer knobs would not likely contain lead.
5. Waterstone‘s “Eco Brass” is made without lead, arsenic, and bismuth, says the company. They have lots of hardware made of their Eco Brass.
6. Defiant brand doorknobs – based on the testing of two of these in 2019 (above) there is a good chance this brand’s door knobs in nickel and stainless steel are all lead-free.
7. House of Antique Hardware makes a couple of lead-free crystal knobs, according to the company. However, the brass components would very likely contain lead.
8. Hardware International says “We guarantee that all of our cabinet hardware products are made from lead-free solid bronze.”
9. Oak And Forge (UK) makes lead-free pewter knobs and handles, according to the company.
Can Contain Lead
1. Brass – it’s possible to make brass without lead but the vast majority of brass out there does contain high amounts of lead. Coatings on the brass can stop the transfer of lead but they do also wear down with time.
2. Chrome – chrome doesn’t usually contain lead but if the metal is not 100% known it can. A knob that looks like chrome from the photo can contain low levels of lead (source).
3. Nickel – does not usually contain lead but “nickel-plated” products can have brass underneath which tends to contain lead, often in high amounts (source). It’s also possible for something just labeled nickel to contain lead (source).
4. Stainless Steel – stainless steel is often lead-free but it can contain lead.
6. Glass Crystal Knobs – leaded glass is still used for knobs, and it’s not necessarily only in the vintage style (source). It’s also possible that the metal or brass components could contain lead (like this one).
7. Ceramic/Porcelain– as I saw in my own XRF testing of tiles, ceramic coatings can definitely contain lead. Tamara has also tested a few ceramic knobs that tested positive for lead. It is also possible for ceramic to be totally free of lead. Bright colors like blues and reds are more likely to contain lead.
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist Practitioner with 8 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.