The Dangers of High Moisture Levels in Wooden Pallets
07 Nov 2016
Wooden pallets are favoured for both transportation and storage solutions by a variety of industries. They are lightweight in comparison to many materials, durable, affordable and easy to stack in order to maximise space. However, facilities that have used wooden pallets have become increasingly aware of the dangers and disadvantages of high moisture levels in wood pallets. Not only can moisture cause the wood to attract mould and decay, but it can warp the overall size, structure, and integrity of the joints.
Plastic pallets, paperboard pallets and metal pallets are all alternatives and have created a competitive marketplace. The demands placed on the performance of the wooden pallet are higher than ever before. Moisture is one of the greatest threats to the effectiveness of the otherwise highly stable and reliable wooden pallet. An improved awareness of these dangers ensures that companies and consumers feel empowered to prevent the damage, and in some case to correct any damage that has already occurred.
Mould and Mildew
The presence of water or moisture in pallets increases the risk of mould and mildew forming if left untreated. Mould and mildew are not only unsightly – they are unsanitary too and can contaminate the products, storage facility or the interior of the vehicles in which they are transported. Frequent checks, dry conditions and cleaning areas prior to placing wood pallets there are all needed for the prevention of mould and mildew formation.
Heightened Risk of Splitting and Warping
As moisture can cause wood to expand, moisture within wood pallets can result in a heightened risk of the wood splitting or warping over time. This can lead to a reduction in the overall stability of the pallet, as well as making it appear old and untidy when on view. A pallet with high moisture levels will also have additional weight. Coupled with reduced strength and stability, this can quickly become unreliable and unsafe.
As wood is dried, it can shrink. This can affect the effectiveness of the wooden pallet and cause miscalculations in storage area and transportation, as well as how much weight and what dimensions the pallet can accommodate. The amount of shrinkage experienced can vary depending on a number of factors. These might include the species of wood, how much moisture has been absorbed and the length of time the moisture has been present. Wood will also shrink tangentially rather than radially, with minor or unnoticeable changes in a longitudinal direction (from end to end). Although wood that has absorbed moisture should be dried to maintain its shape, strength and structure, the best practice for avoiding wood shrinkage is to ensure no moisture enters at the outset.
Product Damage – Corrosion of Metal Products
Not only can high moisture levels damage the wood pallet itself, but it can also damage the products supported by it. Wet conditions can lead to the development of mould and mildew. Metal products can be corroded or rusted. Paper products can be destroyed, and other products can be compromised by moisture levels too. A ruined batch of products can have serious financial and organisational repercussions for a business, leading to delays, recalls and poor performance. Preventing moisture in pallets can be key to ensuring the products remained safe and pristine.