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Lead Solder on Antique Copper-Lined Tub


I am remodeling a bathroom and putting in an antique copper-lined tub. The tub lining has a significant line of lead solder on it. I would not be so worried about it, but this will be the tub for my infant daughter and she is not old enough to understand the need to wash her hands after touching the lead. Is there a way to seal the solder and copper, maybe using epoxy or some other sealant? I really would like to avoid having to pay to re-line the tub interior if possible.

Re: Lead Solder on Antique Copper-Lined Tub

I wouldn't allow a young child do use this, regardless of what you do. Even some type of coating or sealant will wear off. Warm bath water (as opposed to cold) will result in a higher concentration of lead in it, which will be in direct contact with her skin. After bathing in such a fixture, she would need to essentially shower off her whole body and not just wash her hands (and would still get exposure to lead and possibly some inadvertent ingestion while bathing).

Surely the concentrations will be low, but why add any additional exposure over time for a child. Perhaps it would be best if the bath she is going to use has a more conventional tub in it?

Good Luck.


Re: Lead Solder on Antique Copper-Lined Tub

Since I tracked down an answer to my own question, I thought I would post it for future use by others!

To seal metal (including lead), you can use an epoxy called "West Systems". It's really versatile, waterproof and should be a permanent solution to my dilemma. I used the resin with the 207 hardner, which dries clear and worked on both the copper (with lead solder) and the oak tub ring. While I could have sealed just the solder, I chose to coat the entire tub interior.

To seal the tub, I used 3 coats of epoxy, and then 2 of polyurethane for UV protection. Since the expoxy recommends use on clean surfaces abraded with 80 grit sandpaper, I called their hotline to determine how to keep the tub patina while giving the epoxy something to bind to. Result: I sanded the first layer of epoxy with steel wool while it was still workable. This created minute scratches on the copper, and essentially lifted the patina from the metal into the expoxy itself. It looks great, plus the tub is really easy to clean now.

Another tip: the lead solder was too shiny for the old copper patina, so I used Novacan black lead patina (for stained glass) and mixed it with golden brown Transtint analine dye to create a nice patina on the lead before the epoxy was used.

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