Epoxy resin is fun to use, enjoyable to work with, and a great hobby. Whether you are just a beginner or an experienced artist, there are some epoxy safety rules that you should follow at all times when working with epoxy resin.
Taking these extra steps will make the difference between enjoying your artistic journey with resin for a lifetime or dealing with annoying allergic reactions.
In this article, you will discover some tips that will help you succeed in every aspect of this fascinating creative activity - definitely starting with safety first!
Let’s see what epoxy resin is (for those who are new to this hobby), how harmful epoxy actually may be, and what epoxy resin safety precautions you should take when working with it.
What is epoxy resin
Epoxy resin is a material that can be used for many different purposes and is created by mixing two components of resin and hardener.
After the components have been mixed together, the heat is radiated, and the material is transformed from a liquid state to a solid/hardened state. Usually, the mixing ratio between resin and hardener is 1:1 or 1:2, so the material can cure perfectly.
Different epoxy resins or casting resins, each with other individual properties, can be used for various applications, such as flooring, wood, and boat repair countertops, applications for home improvement projects, paint pouring art, and even jewelry.
A wide range of resins differs considerably in curing time, hardness, and durability of finished transformed surfaces. Other important factors considered in choosing the epoxy resin are the maximum thickness of the layer that can be formed with the material or its heat resistance.
Epoxy resin vs. UV resin
While the epoxy resin is a two-part mixture composed of resin and hardener, the UV resin is a 1-part resin that is instantly ready for use, that cures in a shorter time using a UV torch or lamp.
The UV resin is:
- not resistant to scratches or heat
- limited to half a year of durability
- more pricey
- curing in a matter of minutes
- perfect for small, flat projects such as jewelry
- is perfect for a durable, long-lasting result
- cures without any aids
- is less expensive
- can be used for more complex DIY arts & crafts
- is scratch-resistant, water-resistant, and long-lasting
Is epoxy resin safe?
In general, it can be said that pure epoxy resins are considered non-toxic, the risk of damage caused by ingestion of epoxy resins can be regarded as very low. Most hardeners used today have some toxicity. But it takes a relatively large amount of damage that occurs precisely because of toxicity.
However, epoxy resins and their hardeners are complex chemical compounds that, in some cases, can cause injury if mishandled.
Epoxy resin dangers
Exposure can happen in three ways:
- by mouth
- through the skin
- by inhalation of vapors or dust
The most common health effects stemming from overexposure to epoxy are:
Contact dermatitis or skin inflammation
Acute contact dermatitis is caused by both epoxy resin and hardeners. It can create severe discomfort, which usually disappears after stopping contact with the irritant. Chronic dermatitis may appear after repeated skin contact with the two components and lead to eczema or sensitizer.
Warmer temperatures and unventilated rooms make the epoxy vapor levels increase. One important thing to keep in mind is that epoxy chemicals remain active until they have cured completely. If a highly concentrated epoxy vapor or sanding dust is inhaled, it can be toxic to breathe, causing sensitization, severe respiratory irritation, and other respiratory allergies.
Irritation and chemical burns
Even though it may happen, irritation and chemical burn are uncommon. Generally, the time it takes for a hardener to cause a chemical burn depends on the concentration and area of contact. Although mixing the resin with hardener dilutes the hardener, making it less corrosive, make sure you never leave it on the skin, as it hardens quickly and is difficult to remove.
Safety precautions to take when working with epoxy resin
Always wear gloves
Protect your skin from resin, hardeners, mixed epoxy and sanding dust from partially cured epoxy. Nitrile gloves are the best option. They are stronger than latex ones and are least likely to react with your skin.
Here’s what you should do in case you get hardener, mixed epoxy, or resin on your hands:
- Resin and mixed epoxy are not water-soluble, that’s why you need to use a waterless skin cleanser or baby wipes to wipe it off your skin.
- Never use solvents or vinegar to remove resin from your skin because they can make overexposure more likely, causing a severe resin reaction.
- Hardener is water-soluble so you can wash it with warm water and soap.
Increase ventilation in your work area
Your crafting room needs to have good ventilation. What does it mean? That you need a complete air exchange of the room every 15 minutes. It may not always be possible, so here’s what you can do to keep your work space well ventilated:
- Place a fan in the area to increase air circulation.
- Keep the windows, door or hatchway open.
Use a proper respirator to protect your lungs and respiratory tract
“Why do I need a respirator if the room is well-ventilated?”, you may ask. Well, many resin products are not dangerous and don’t require an air-purifying respirator when applying them. However, as I mentioned in the paragraphs above, they are still chemicals. So better safe than sorry!
Regardless of the situation, you should wear an approved respirator for fumes with an organic vapor cartridge. Here you can find more information about different types of respirators and how they can protect you.
In case you ingest or swallow epoxy, drink large quantities of water and go out in fresh air. Call your doctor if you experience symptoms of difficulty breathing.
Wear safety goggles
Protective glasses should be a part of your equipment. They’re inexpensive, quite comfortable, and keep your eyes safe from contact with resin, hardeners, mixed epoxy, and sanding dust. My recommendation is to use goggles with polycarbonate lenses as they are shatterproof and scratch-resistant.
If by accident you get epoxy in your eyes, rinse in running water under low pressure for 15 minutes. If you feel unwell, seek medical attention.
Cover your clothes with a plastic apron
If your clothes get dirty because of epoxy resin, they become contaminated and should be immediately changed. A PVC apron will protect your entire body from spills and drips and can be easily cleaned up or peeled off once the resin cures.
Use a product that is approved for DIY projects
Any resin in the United States that is made for human use in order to create arts and crafts must conform to ASTM D-4236. On the other hand, this certification doesn’t mean the resin is non-toxic or food-safe. It means that a toxicologist has reviewed the resin kit components and determined they are safe for use for DIY projects. More information on this topic can be found on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.
- Don’t touch door handles or other pieces of furniture if you have epoxy residue on your gloves.
- Wash hands thoroughly before doing any activity such as eating, drinking, or toileting.
- Clean up resin or mixed epoxy with acetone, lacquer thinner, or alcohol.
- Use a scraper, to clean up epoxy spills. Try to collect as much material as possible.
Properly dispose the epoxy resins and hardeners
Never throw away liquid or uncured epoxy in your trash or pour it down a drain. Instead:
- Store them in original packaging to avoid contamination of transportation and storage facilities.
- Throw away the solid epoxy mass after it has completely cured and cooled.
- Dispose the material in containers intended for epoxy resin.
- Throw away the solid epoxy mass after it has completely cured and cooled.
- Don’t get rid of all the unused resin and hardener. You can save it for future projects.
Spraying epoxy – not recommended
When epoxy comes out of the gun nozzle, it’s reduced to a fine mist which is too easily inhaled, the health hazard that may appear being similar to any spray-painting operation. It can settle on your eyes, skin, causing serious injuries, as well as lung damage if inhaled.
Safe alternative to epoxy resin
- The most common alternatives to epoxy resin include the following products:
As I have already said above, epoxy resin is usually a non-toxic product to use, being completely safe after the curing process. Nevertheless, it’s necessary to remember that these alternatives may not be more harmless than epoxy resin, requiring the same safety precautions as epoxy resin during the application process.
Working with epoxy resin is a great way to unleash your creativity, relax, and preserve items attached to a particular memory. Despite the fact that this substance is generally considered non-toxic, your health should always come first, and it’s better to stay informed about the product you use and appropriate hazard warnings.
Make sure you always take proper epoxy safety measures, so you can enjoy this fun activity without worry.