Ask Tamara: Could you recommend a colander?

AskTamaraAsk Tamara

Question:  Could you recommend a safe colander?

Answer:  Many of my readers find me by following the Facebook page for my documentary film.  While the film is not primarily about lead in consumer goods it does touch on that subject – so on that page I post pictures of items I have tested with an XRF (read more here) along with the readings that I found for toxic heavy metals were in those items.

One item I have tested and shared recently is a common vintage household colander (pictured here). This vintage colander is probastrainerbly similar to what your mother (or grandmother or great-grandmother – depending on how old you are!) may have had in their kitchen.  The main problem with a lot of vintage cookware items is that they are obviously chalking, pitted or deteriorating in some way (from decades of heavy usage) and if they contain heavy metals (even traces of heavy metals) that could potentially get in to your food while cooking, that is a great concern.

This particular colander tested positive with an XRF for 26 parts per million (ppm) lead (very low and considered safe by all current standards for modern, newly manufactured cookware) and it also tested positive for 221 ppm cadmium.

While I am a lead expert and not a cadmium expert, I do know that cadmium is a toxic metal that has been shown to cause cancer even in trace amounts.

I will not go so far as to tell you that your particular vintage colander is going to poison you.  To my knowledge there is no evidence to support this – specifically because no studies have been done on the impact of toxicant-containing vintage dishware on their users (who would fund such a study?  Not the antique industry that’s for sure!).  However I will state that from a philosophical and practical perspective neither lead nor cadmium belong in our cookware, in our kitchen or on our dining table – even in trace amounts.

As a result (especially given the age of this piece and the texture and pitting of the older bare metal) I would highly recommend replacing a vintage piece like this and not using it for cooking at all.

tcolOn the upside… new high quality stainless steel colanders as a rule test negative (or non-detect) for the following toxic metals: lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic. These new stainless pieces will last you a lifetime and are a relatively cheap “upgrade” to your kitchen.  (And you won’t feel guilty about passing it along to your children or grandchildren when the time comes!)  I bought mine (pictured here) about 14 years ago and it is still in like-new condition even though I use it pretty much every single day – and often several times a day.  [While some people may have chromium sensitivities (and therefore choose not to use stainless steel) for me new high-quality stainless kitchenware is among the best and least toxic choices for my family.]

Here are some good options to take a look at if you are in the market for a new stainless colander for your kitchen! [Prices may have changed since I originally created this post.]

Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links where a purchase made
after clicking will support this website without costing you extra!

There are a lot of great/ lead-safe options out there.

Things to avoid:  Please get rid of/ stop using any plastic or aluminum strainers or colanders in your kitchen, especially if you regularly use them with hot or acidic foods.  Also avoid colanders with any kind of coating, especially colored painted or enamel coatings or markings.  Colors often are the source of heavy metals in our kitchenware and they colored coatings are the first part of the cookware to wear.  While the coatings may test as “safe” by today’s standards when the item is manufactured there is no guarantee that they will remain safe once they start to wear (or after years of repeated use and washing.)  Read more about that here.  If you want bright and festive colors in your kitchen, make sure your food is bright and festive (fresh veggies and fruits) and maybe add a bouquet of flowers every now and then.  Colorful cookware is not worth the risk.

Thank you for reading and for sharing!

As always, please let me know if you have any questions.

Tamara Rubin
Environmental Activist
Unexpected Lead Expert
Mother of Four Boys

Affiliate link disclosure: If you choose to purchase any items after clicking the Amazon links above, Amazon pays me a small kick back as a thank you for sending business their way. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps support this website, allowing me to keep sharing information about childhood lead poisoning prevention (as well as making it possible for me to keep sharing about safe products for your home and family) ... Sharing this information in turn helps families everywhere protect their children from potential environmental toxicity in their homes. I only link to products that are the same as (or very similar to) ones that I either have direct personal experience with in my home or that I have personally tested with an XRF Instrument and found to be lead-safe or lead-free. December 2016

7 Responses to Ask Tamara: Could you recommend a colander?

  1. Vanessa March 9, 2017 at 9:04 pm #

    I was wondering if the colander you put the link to on this article to buy are brands that you have tested- I want to order a brand that you’ve tested:)

  2. Jennifer October 21, 2018 at 4:02 pm #

    The over-the-sink colander you recommended has rubber coverings on the handles. Have you tested those for lead before? There are a few similar products from different brands that I have been looking at but I am concerned about the rubber parts, as similar materials (e.g. in tools from OXO) have had lead.

  3. Y.C. December 24, 2018 at 1:25 am #

    I have purchased one of the colanders you recommend above which is ExcelSteel 242 5-Quart Stainless Steel Colander. The label says Made In China. I would like to make sure that if this is the right one you are recommending. Please let me know as soon as possible because I don’t want to use this if I received the wrong item.
    Thank you!

    • Y.C. December 26, 2018 at 7:38 pm #

      Update: I just found out that the seller sent me the wrong colander which looks exactly like the one you are recommending, but the label says a different brand name and made in China. I am now in the process of return and refund. I will reorder the one you are recommending from another seller on amazon after the refund is done. I think we consumers need to be careful and make sure that a seller does not trick us with a wrong and unsafe product that looks just like the safe one Tamara recommends. I very much appreciate Tamara’s sincere and helpful work!

      • Tamara December 26, 2018 at 11:40 pm #

        Thank you!

  4. Camellia May January 5, 2019 at 8:40 pm #

    So is there also lead in plastic colanders? (“Please get rid of/ stop using any plastic or aluminum strainers or colanders in your kitchen, especially if you regularly use them with hot or acidic foods.”) Because I use Tupperware colanders, are they unsafe too?

    • Tamara January 5, 2019 at 8:42 pm #

      Hi Camellia,

      Tupperware colanders I have tested (new Tupperware) does not generally have Lead.


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