how safe are decanters

How Safe Are Decanters? The Dangers Of Lead Poisoning

how safe are decanters

Almost everyone seems to go gaga over the lead in decanters and other crystalware. The reason? Well, lead is dangerous to your health.

But exactly how safe are decanters? Lead crystal decanters are not safe to use because of possible lead poisoning. And if you ingest lead daily, it can accumulate to toxic levels before you know it, so it is best to stay away from lead decanters.

However, people are still enticed by the beauty and functionality of decanters. To finally end the debate regarding decanters’ safety once and for all, we have laid out all the facts.

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What is a Lead Crystal?Crystal

First of all, let us clear the path for crystalware, such as decanters and stemware used for drink storage. Lead crystal is a misnomer since these are not crystals. 

Crystals are more common than we know - sugar, table salt, and gemstones such as diamonds. So technically, crystalware is not crystal but a type of glass. For this article, we use the word crystal to mean something that contains a lead oxide, which gives it brilliance from its high reflective value.

Before anything can be called crystal, it has to have the following attributes:

The European Union (EU) standard is at 24% lead oxide. Aside from that, it has to have a density of more than 2.9 and a reflective index of more than 1.545. These particular requirements make it easy to classify as crystal. 

However, the US Federal standards label anything with more than 1% lead oxide to be crystal. The EU standard is currently used to classify crystals in the international arena, so anything that satisfies these criteria is considered crystal.

Are Crystal Decanters Safe?

Research shows that keeping wine in a crystal decanter shoots up the leached lead into the wine in just 4 months. This results in more than 5,000 mcg/L of lead in wine. The US FDA has set a standard of 50mcg/liter. Although the half-life of lead is low, just 36 days, consuming it daily can be dangerous.

Is it Safe to Use Lead Crystal Decanter? Lead in a test tube

No, it is not safe to use a lead crystal decanter for any liquor or spirit. 

Lead poisoning can result in worsened conditions in adults, especially if you have aggravating illnesses like paralysis, kidney disease, or hyperthyroidism. It can also be aggravated when a woman is pregnant, lactating, or in the menopausal stage. 

The lead deposits in adults reside in the bones and teeth. These lead reserves are released into the bloodstream when a person has the aforementioned aggravating issues. Lead is removed from the body at a much slower rate than it is accumulated.

In adults, treatment is recommended in persons with more than 80mcg/dL of lead in the blood. The safe level is 10mcg/dL.

Is it Safe to Store Liquor in Crystal Decanters?

Wine decanter and wine glass

No, you should not store liquors or water in crystal decanters. Although water is less aggressive in coaxing the lead to leach out, the lead still leaches out. Taking pipe fittings and faucets that leach lead contaminating the water.

Acidic liquids like vinegar, wine, and other liquors react with the lead in the crystal decanter, making it leach more than leaching when filled with water. 

Is it Safe to Store Whiskey in a Decanter?Whiskey decanter and whiskey glasses

Granting that it is made of glass and there is no threat of lead leaching into the whiskey, it is still not advisable to store whiskey in a decanter. 

Some pro tips tell us that whiskey can flatten out after a decanter since these are not airtight. When the alcohol dissipates from the whiskey, the aromas and flavors leave with it, resulting in a dull taste.

Are Waterford Crystal Decanters Lead-Free?

Waterford Crystal Decanters

Not all Waterford decanters used lead crystal. The Linsmore collection uses the lead crystal for their decanters and drinkware, but the Elegance and Marquis collections use lead-free crystals. These collections use crystalline, which is also a high-quality glass with the sparkle of crystal but without the threat of lead intoxication. 

Only those familiar with real crystalware’s nuances can differentiate the crystalline between the crystal in the Linsmore series. The biggest tell is the lower price of these glassware and decanter series.

Are Waterford Decanters Safe?

Waterford is very upfront with its crystalware’s lead content, containing over 33% of lead oxide, higher than the standard 24% for the full lead crystal. Given this fact, Waterford or any crystal decanters, for that matter, are not safe to use.

Do All Decanters Have Lead?

For the sake of this article, any mention of crystal equates to having lead oxide in it. However, not all decanters made of crystal have lead. For example, if you read the product description for decanters on Amazon, it is normal to read phrases like “lead-free crystal.”

Does My Decanter Have Lead in it?

Here are a few tests you can do to know if your decanter has lead in it.

  • A simple test to know if a decanter has lead is to hold it against the light. If rainbows form on it, it means that it works like a prism, giving it a high reflective index that indicates lead oxide. 
  • Lead crystal decanters are also heavier than a glass one of the same or larger size. 
  • Price is also a good indicator since crystals are pricier than glass ones, even if the glass is as elaborate as the crystal.
  • Tap the decanter with a metal utensil - knife, fork, or spoon. The sound has a good and clear ring compared to the slightly dull sound from a glass decanter.
  • Crystal decanters also do not have visible seams. Because they are more malleable and more comfortable to work with than glass, the edges are smoother, and the seams are well-hidden.

If you already have a decanter that you are not sure if contains lead, you can use a lead test kit. Although the test can be a bit of an expense, it is still less expensive than a laboratory lead test, and you can see the result in just seconds.

Decanter Safety Tips

The most basic safety tip is the shortest: Stop using crystal decanters and other wares and furniture with lead paints.

If you still prefer to use lead crystal decanters, one way to lessen exposure is to wash it with a 1:1 water-vinegar solution. Soak it overnight and wash it with dishwashing detergent and rinse well the following day.

Do not leave your liquors and wine in a crystal decanter overnight. If some are left after you and your friends have drunk your fill, transfer it to an empty bottle. Do not pour it back into its original bottle to prevent contaminating the contents.


Crystal decanters can be touted as “beautiful death in a bottle.” On their own, they are not evil, but caution should not be thrown to the wind when it comes to health. Keep using crystal decanters and other crystalware to a minimum to protect yourself. 

Alcohol can have harmful effects on the body, and you don’t want to take it a notch further by adding lead to it. Check out our monthly free samples or sign up for our free VIP club to avail of our exclusive rebate program. No credit cards are required—no need to purchase anything. We just want to say thank you.

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  • I will gladly take all of your dangerous Waterford crystal, I have a killer collection 😜



  • Thank you! I have five gorgeous crystal decanters displayed on a silver tray. They are beautiful to see but are never used! I was glad to reaffirm that they are deadly by reading your informative and valuable article! Thank you! By the way, there’s a full page ad for decanters on page 20 of the Octagon 2021 issue of Southern Living magazine.


    Patt Robles

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