Thinking about undertaking a project using epoxy but wondering whether it’s OK to tackle the project indoors? Well, the short answer is – you should be fine, but you must make sure that you take adequate steps to protect your own health while you do work with epoxy. Don’t worry, we’ve got everything you need to know, right here.
Is epoxy safe to use indoors? 6 precautions to take include:
- wearing gloves,
- making sure the workspace is properly ventilated,
- wearing a safety apron,
- wearing safety glasses,
- using a respirator (if necessary) and
- using a resin approved for art use.
If you take all of these precautions, or the necessary ones given your situation, then yes, epoxy is safe to use indoors.
Is Epoxy Safe To Use Indoors?
There was a time when the answer to this question was a straightforward “no”. That was because early epoxy products gave off a lot of fumes and because early safety protection gear wasn’t very good.
Today, it’s a little more complex. Most epoxy products are now completely safe to use indoors and, in fact, if you take the appropriate precautions you will have nothing to worry about at all because the safety equipment on the market today is excellent and more than good enough to deal with the minor perils that epoxy presents.
6 Precautions To Take When Using Epoxy Resin
The good news is that you don’t have to go mad when it comes to taking precautions when you work with epoxy resin. There are 6 basic steps to taking care of your safety and none of them is hard to take or even particularly expensive to take. Some (like opening your windows) are completely free of charge.
- Wear gloves
- Create adequate ventilation around your workspace
- Wear a safety apron
- Wear safety goggles (always)
- Wear a respirator if necessary (don’t worry – this isn’t as dramatic as it sounds)
- Buy an approved epoxy resin for art use
So, let’s take a look at each step in more detail and how you go about selecting the right items for your woodworking workshop.
Wear Gloves (How To Choose Your Gloves)
Wearing gloves is an obvious precaution and one that ought to be taken whenever you work with wood. After all, it’s not just the epoxy that can harm your skin – splinters, etc. are never pleasant either.
A Wide-Range Of Material Choices?
In most cases, we recommend that people who are looking for gloves for woodworking choose something that they like, in terms of material, that is hard-wearing enough to offer the protection that they need.
This can vary from task-to-task. For example, if you’re working on a tricky project in the depths of winter – you might opt for a latex covered set of gloves that give you the most versatility in the way that you work.
Whereas in the middle of the summer – you’re probably going to want to work in something lighter and more comfortable which will reduce the amount of sweat that you produce while you work in gloves.
In most woodworking shops – you’ll find a choice between a leather, canvas, and metal mesh is the most popular option. However, none of these are ideal choices when you are working with epoxy.
Epoxy can react with the material that the glove is made from. So, we would recommend keeping a box of nitrile gloves on hand for when you need to work with epoxy. This is a chemically inert material which will not react with the epoxy if you end up with it all over your hands.
Latex should be avoided wherever possible as they may react strongly with epoxy and can prevent the epoxy from curing properly.
What Do You Do If You Get Epoxy On Bare Hands?
It’s OK, don’t panic, epoxy isn’t going to cause any real harm as long as you wash it off quickly. We like to keep a box of baby wipes on hand so that you can wipe away any epoxy without fuss. Once you’ve got rid of the bulk – soap and water should handle the rest (if you’re still sticky – use a pumice stone).
What Should You Not Do With Epoxy On Your Hands?
If you have epoxy on your skin, you must not use acid or solvents to try and remove it. They can cause harm to your skin in their own right and there is a possibility that they might react badly with the epoxy and cause you more trouble than they solve.
Creating Ventilation For The Workspace
Whenever you work with any product that gives off fumes (you can usually tell if this is the case by the fact that you can smell the product you are working with – if you can, it definitely gives off fumes, though if you can’t, you should still check the instructions), you need to pay attention to ventilation.
If you were an animal kept in a laboratory, they would insist (by law) that you got a complete change of air in your room every 15 minutes. Now, we appreciate that you’re not a lab animal, but that’s because you’re more important, not less important.
So, when you work with epoxy – you want to pay attention to the ventilation in your workspace, this will help you from becoming overwhelmed by fumes.
- Get the windows open. The more windows that you can open, the better. We understand that in the middle of winter this may not be the most appealing prospect but it’s still better than choking on fumes. At a minimum open one window on either end of the room, this will allow air to flow through the workspace.
- Turn on a ceiling fan. This is the easiest way to stimulate the flow of air in a room and it’s cheap to do. If you really can’t open your windows, a ceiling fan can help draw the fumes away from where you work too.
- Set up other fans around you. You want to set up a couple of desktop or standing fans so that they’re blowing directly across the workspace and pushing the fumes away from you.
- Don’t use the air-conditioning. Air-conditioning will help move air around but sadly, the smell of the epoxy is likely to get caught in the system and it may take a long time to leave.
Wear A Safety Apron (How To Choose The Apron)
We love woodworking aprons; we think they can be the most useful assistant that you don’t have to pay. You can store tools and materials in the pockets, and they protect your body from getting covered in epoxy and from the occasional accident in the workshop.
Some people swear by a plastic apron when working with epoxy and we tend to agree. A disposable plastic apron that goes over your usual apron can be a great idea. Firstly, because epoxy doesn’t react with plastic and that means you don’t need to worry about adverse reactions.
Secondly, because it just means that you’re not going to end up with lumps of epoxy stuck to your favorite woodworking apron.
However, there’s no good reason that you shouldn’t wear a wax-coated canvas apron, instead, the minor downside of this approach is that your tools and other work gear in the pockets are also at risk of getting covered in epoxy. This means you may need to react quickly in the case of a spill to prevent everything you own getting stuck to each other.
If that’s a risk that you’re willing to take, then go right ahead – you’re not risking anything regarding your own health by wearing your normal woodworking apron.
Wear Safety Goggles (How To Choose Safety Goggles)
We don’t recommend that you ever do any woodworking without wearing safety goggles. Your eyes are a precious gift and putting them at risk is simply foolish.
Safety goggles/safety glasses are designed to stop particles and other materials from getting into your eyes and thus prevents them from damaging your eyes.
It is very much worth a little discomfort to keep your vision but given the amount of effort that has gone into safety glasses’ design over the last few years – they no longer have to be uncomfortable if you’re willing to invest a little cash into protecting your eyes.
According to Prevent Blindness America (PBA), more than 125,000 Americans do an injury to their eyes at home each year and another 700,000 hurt their eyes at work. That’s nearly a million people who wish they’d been wearing safety glasses.
ANSI Standards for Safety Eyewear
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) lays down specific standards for quality safety goggles and that means:
- They must endure high-impact testing. This means that the glass is typically thicker than that used in standard prescription eyewear.
- They no longer have to be a minimum of 3mm thick at the lens. New developments in glass design mean that it is possible to make thinner lenses that are still safe for use.
- The basic impact test is that a lens must endure a 1” diameter ball being dropped on it from a height of 50 inches. It must not chip, break or crack or the lens fails this test.
- For high impact tests, a lens must not chip, break or crack when a ¼” steel ball is fired into the lens at a speed of 150 feet/second.
How To Check The Standard When Buying Safety Goggles
A pair of safety glasses or goggles that have passed the high impact test will be marked with a “+” symbol on the body, somewhere.
The frames will be marked with a “Z87” if they have passed the low impact test and with “Z87+” if they have passed a high impact test.
It is glasses that bear these “+” marks that we recommend when working with epoxy while woodworking.
We would note that being plastic, these lenses will not react with the epoxy, but you must wash any epoxy which gets on them off as soon as you can because epoxy can bond to the surface if left for long enough.
Polycarbonate frames are the lightest and most comfortable to wear. They also come in a wide variety of styles – enough to fit everybody’s personal fashion requirements.
If you are working outdoors on a regular basis, you might want to opt for an anti-reflective coating on the lenses which helps stop glare interfering with your ability to see while you work with safety glasses.
Wear A Respirator If Necessary (How To Choose A Respirator)
Now, before you rush off to Amazon to buy your first respirator and before you rush off in a panic at the thought of buying a respirator of any kind, we need to stress – most epoxy resin does not require that you work while wearing a respirator.
You should get the documentation out that came with your epoxy resin and go through it and see if the use of a respirator is recommended or mandatory before you buy a respirator.
However, we do know several people who think that any risk is too much risk and who opt to wear a respirator whenever they work with chemicals – you can do this too if you want, it is always better to be safe than sorry, right?
Important Factors To Consider When Buying A Respirator
- The field of view. It’s important that you can still see when wearing a respirator. We’ve found that some brands offer excellent protection for your lungs but leave you feeling like you’ve lost the ability to see. A low profile, half-face style respirator can make working much easier.
- Should protect against all airborne contaminants. You don’t want to be buying a bunch of different respirators for different jobs, make sure that whatever you buy can deal with anything that you throw at it.
- Lightweight but robust. Don’t cheap out. Some cheap and cheerful Chinese products are cheap because they break easily. You want a respirator that’s comfortable to wear but not so flimsy that it becomes worthless.
- Easy to breathe while you wear it. We’ve found that some manufacturers have designed special airflow systems for their respirators which just make it easier to get a lungful of air. We find that if you struggle to draw breath in a respirator, you’re unlikely to wear it and you may even find that it triggers panic.
- Easy to remove. You want a respirator that you can put on and take off easily. The last thing you want when you’re covered in epoxy is to struggle for 10 minutes to get your respirator off so that you can get washed up.
- Non-slip design. You don’t want the respirator to fall off while you are working. A mask with a non-slip design can help keep it in place as you want it to be.
- Anti-fogging design. If you wear glasses under a respirator, you want to be able to see through them. Many manufacturers have an anti-fogging approach that can make this easier.
- Changeable filters. If you want a model with changeable filters, then you should make sure that it takes a standard filter size. Some cheaper models are cheap because they require you to buy expensive bespoke filters for them – this is a false economy.
Buy An Epoxy Resin Designed For Art Use Where Possible (Standard: ASTM D-4236) (400)
Our final tip is to make sure that the resin you buy is suitable for art use. That is that it complies with the standard ASTM D-4236. This ought to be easy because any epoxy resin sold within the United States must comply with this standard by law.
However, many people choose to order products online nowadays and that may mean you’re ordering from an overseas supplier – which has no such legal obligations.
What Does This Standard Mean?
The standard means that the epoxy resin has been tested by a toxicologist and it is considered to be safe for use in art projects. That doesn’t mean that you can abandon our safety protocols – it doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat or rub on your skin. It just means that it is safe to use in art projects, that is the hardened resin is going to be safe while in use.
If you’re not sure whether your resin is compliant with this standard, ask for a data safety sheet from the manufacturer – if it doesn’t explicitly state compliance, you should buy a different resin.
We hope that our guide to “Is epoxy safe to use indoors? 6 precautions to take” has been helpful and that you now feel confident to tackle epoxy projects inside. Fortunately, as you’ve seen the precautions you need to take are simple and easy to put into action. They won’t cost you a fortune, either.
This means that you can always work safely with epoxy and that means there’s never a bad time to tackle your next project!