In my garden there is a wall that was been constructed from old wooden railway sleepers. Several of these seem to be leaking tar which has then coated them, and in warm weather the tar becomes almost liquid and is easily transferred to clothing and skin.

Since I live in rented accommodation my options are obviously limited, but is there any treatment I could apply that would seal in the tar and prevent it from coming off the wood and onto my toddler?

(I have no idea what to tag this as, so please feel free to edit)

1 Answer 1


It's coal-tar creosote, which is hazardous to your child's health and most likely carcinogenic.

I'd get rid of them completely and replace them with something else. Wear gloves, yadda, yadda.

  • That's the thing, because it's a rented property I can't make changes like that. The best I can do within my contract is to treat/coat them with something, but I have no idea if a suitable treatment even exists. Commented Aug 6, 2011 at 13:19
  • 5
    I'd talk to the owner about changing them out, and if they refuse to replace them or let you replace them, then find a way to cover them... maybe with a fence or some sort of nailed/screwed -on cosmetic veneer... and if they don't allow that, I'd contact a lawyer about finding a way to weasel your way out of any contract that might exist. You could use a solvent to get rid of the creosote, but I wouldn't trust it to clean all of it off, which is to say that I wouldn't trust it at all.
    – Michael
    Commented Aug 6, 2011 at 13:24
  • Fair enough, thanks for the advice. I guess I'll have to speak with the landlord, I might be able to get permission to attach trellis or something similar that they could remove when my contract expires. Commented Aug 6, 2011 at 13:27
  • The creosote is inside the wood, so wiping it off won't help. According to wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railroad_tie#Other_uses you can sometimes buy untreated sleepers.
    – Lev Bishop
    Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 3:14

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