I love vintage Pyrex, you will see it on my page and social media a lot. However, there is something to be aware of when it comes to most vintage dishes and cookware, including Pyrex. It can contain lead.
Vintage Pyrex has gained a lot of popularity lately. You used to find it really cheap in thrift stores from when people were clearing out old family dishes but now it seems like everyone is collecting it and it’s getting harder and harder to find.
I see my friends post vintage Pyrex and it’s a common item to discuss in any vintage groups I’m in on Facebook. I collect it as well. I love all of the colorful items, especially the turquoise sets. The photos in the post are actually of my collection.
The fun color ware pieces people love started in the fall of 1945 with even more great patterns and styles being introduced through the 1950s and 1960s. Sadly these fun colorful dishes were discounted in the 1980s.
With more and more people starting to collect vintage Pyrex again it’s important to know if they are actually safe to use.
Does Vintage Pyrex Contain Lead?
The short answer is most likely. The thing is this isn’t limited to Pyrex. Lead standards for dishes start until the 1970s. Because of this, it’s really hard to know if our vintage dishes contain lead.
You may wonder why I’m using it if this is the case. The reason I still collect vintage dishes, including Pyrex is, I have done a lot of research on this issue and have found that it’s the outside of the item that is of concern and the biggest concern is when it’s damaged.
How to Safely Use Vintage Pyrex
I’m not a lead expert or doctor, please do your own research as well. These are just my thoughts with the research I’ve done.
If you don’t want to risk having lead in your home at all, and this is a reasonable choice, it’s best to not collect vintage dishware. This is something you will have to decide for yourself.
The Smithsonian actually has talked about this issue and reached out to the FDA about lead in vintage dishware. This is what they said.
“We do not recommend not using old ware unless it shows signs of deterioration such as cracking or pitting of the glaze. This could be a sign that the glaze is disintegrating and could allow lead to leach into food. In addition to using a home test kit, consumers who want to be cautious might choose to avoid storing foods in older holloware (bowls), consuming hot and acidic liquid beverages such as coffee or tea out of cups, and heating bowls, cups and plates in the microwave. Again, these are qualified recommendations; the ware is not necessarily unsafe because it is old, but it may not comply with current FDA standards.”
Personally I’m very careful with my pieces and use them in a very limited way. The only time I use the bowls for food is if the food is packaged (like candy) or as mixing bowls. And I never use them with acidic or hot ingredients. Almost all of the time I just use them decoratively.
I also always hand wash my Pyrex, which is important to keep them in good condition. I also do not have children. I’m not sure I would use my vintage Pyrex if I did as they are far more susceptible to lead poisoning. This and if you are planning on having children is something to consider when deciding what you feel comfortable with.
Safer Dishware and Food Storage
I do recommend for most of your food use, especially long-term food storage, that you use new, clear glass containers or stainless steel. Both are the safest options. I love to use modern Pyrex for most of my food use. It’s affordable, good quality, and very safe.
Pyrex did briefly make a line called Vintage Charm that was inspired by the vintage pieces but would fit under new FDA standards. It’s hard to find now but if you can this is a great option. I have a few pieces and I use those most of the time.
They also are often coming out with cute designs on their glass storage contains. Many of these have that fun vintage feel but are very safe for food storage.
Remember I’m not a lead expert or doctor, this is just what I have found. I do want to stress again that vintage Pyrex often does contain lead, that is not the question, the question is if it’s accessible under normal conditions. There isn’t a clear answer so you need to decide for yourself and your family if you feel comfortable using it or not.