Bluestain in two month
old pallets

Although in its early stages bluestain (also called sapstain) has no strength reducing effect, pallet purchasers rarely like to receive new pallets or boxes like the one in the illustration. Also, since bluestain is often accompanied by a musty smell, pallets to be used for food or drink may actually be rejected by customers. The illustration shows a typical attack in a pine species such as Scots pine or French maritime pine which are known for developing bluestain in warm weather when moisture is trapped between close piled boards. Banded packs of ready cut boards are particularly likely to be affected since almost every finished timber surface is in contact with another and will exclude the air and retain the moisture - a recipe for bluestain at all times except when the air temperature is very cold.

Assembled stacked pallets have many open surfaces allowing good ventilation and rapid moisture loss allowing ready drying. However, there are vulnerable surfaces on the outside of each pallet. These are the top deckboards that are in tight contact with the bottom deckboards of the pallet immediately above, as clearly shown in the illustration. The worst bluestain patches in the illustration coincide with the positions of the pallet spacer blocks which take all the compression load of those pallets in the pile above. This means that even during a period of dry weather, permanent 'local' high moisture exists which may cause bluestain.

The spruces also suffer from bluestain so users of all species need to be aware of how the trouble starts and how to avoid it, moisture ignored is often the culprit. We have many enquiries from members on the subject and as a result have built up a range of Datasheets on the subject to help avoidance. The Forestry Commission sometimes send enquirers our Datasheet 81h in responding to enquiries received on the frequent problem of bluestain in part-dried wood that has been heat treated (HT) under the UK Phytosanitary Marking Programme. HT timber is frequently not dried down to the critical 20% moisture content that is known as the 'decay safety line' because that is not part of the ISPM 15 requirement.

Well dried, close piled timber stored outside is vulnerable and we give an explanation of why, the difference between HT and sterile timber and how to avoid pitfalls - in various Datasheets on this website.

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PDF75e Wood Equilibrium Moisture Content Table (EMC). (PDF 61kb)
PDF81a New timber pallets and packaging - hygiene issues. (PDF 118kb)
PDF81b Used timber pallets - pallet hygiene (PDF 59kb)
PDF81g Kiln dried timber - development of mould fungi after drying - pin moulds. (PDF 305kb)
PDF81h The causes of bluestain in packaging timber. (PDF 83kb)
PDF81j Issues with mould and stain appearing after kiln drying of pallets. (PDF 72kb)
PDF81k1 Mould and stain issues under shrink wrapping (PDF 80kb)
PDF81m Dry rot - does it apply to wood pallets and packaging. (PDF 67kb)
PDF82d2 Dew point in storage areas (PDF 207kb)
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