How to stay safe when using resin
When working with resin, you don’t need to go full blown hazmat attire, but you do need to exercise a few precautions to make sure you don’t do anything to harm yourself or others. Here are a few of my basic recommendations when it comes to resin safety: (On a side note — I see other resin crafters tutorials and videos where basic safety precautions are not taken. What I’m discussing here is what I do every time I work with resin.)
1. Have good room ventilation. Make sure there is fresh and/or circulating air in a room when working with resin. Open a window or use a fan if necessary. This is usually sufficient for many resins, including epoxy. If you’re working with a resin, though, that requires respirator use, you need to do it in an area where fumes can be evacuated or you can leave the room once finished (until the fumes dissipate).
2. Wear disposable gloves. I prefer nitrile gloves since they are the least likely to react with the resin. (Latex can inhibit curing of some resins.) Other types of gloves may also allow resin through the glove and contact your skin. If you have sensitive skin, consider coating your hands with a barrier cream (available at most pharmacies) before putting on your gloves. If you’re careful when removing your gloves, you can reuse them, but once they have a tear, you should start using a new pair. I also suggest being careful when putting the gloves away for future use; if the gloves have resin on them, they will leave resin on where you store them, which will either leave a sticky residue or will adhere them to the container.
3. If you’re working on a large scale project, wear protective clothing. Generally for small batches of resin I do not worry about this, but when mixing up large quantities, this would be essential. Also speaking from experience, wear something you do not mind getting resin on. Resin drips will not come out of clothing.
4. To avoid food contamination, designate items you use for your resin projects as ‘resin only’. Many household items, such as cups, spatulas, silicone baking molds and the like can be great tools for your resin studio. However, once they are used for resin, they should never be used for food or cosmetic purposes again.
5. If the resin manufacturer recommends a respirator, wear it! Some resins, including polyesters and some polyurethanes, can also emit dangerous and noxious fumes. Note: Just because you do not smell the fumes when working with these resins does not mean they are not there. When working with resins that require respirator use, wear one approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for fumes and make sure it fits properly. On a personal note, when I work with these resins, I make it the last thing I do for the day, then I leave my studio. I don’t have a ventilation hood that can draw the fumes outside, so I leave my studio overnight to give the fumes a chance to evacuate.
6. When sanding, grinding, or drilling resin, wear a particle mask or a NIOSH respirator approved for dust. It is important not to inhale the resin dust, which could potentially cause an allergic reaction.
7. Wear safety goggles. If you are wearing a dust mask or respirator, you need to be wearing goggles as well. They are also necessary if you are working with power tools and resin, such as when drilling, sanding or polishing.
8. Clean up spills immediately. Yes, I know this is inconvenient, but you don’t want yourself or some other unsuspecting person to find sticky resin later only to not know what it is. Acetone works well to clean up spills, but wear gloves while cleaning it up. Acetone can draw the resin into your skin and cause an irritation.
9. Clear resin spills on the skin immediately with a good detergent. If cleaning up a resin spill on the skin, do not use acetone or a chlorinated base product. This will only push the resin deeper into your skin. Use a good detergent (I like Dawn® dish soap) and water.
10. Dispose of resin products properly. Never pour them down a drain or sewer system. Follow the manufacturer instructions for disposal of unused product and empty containers, which may involve you disposing them at your local hazardous materials collection center.
11. Ask for Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for the products you are using. SDS information will include the chemical composition of the item, safety recommendations and first aid advice should you have a problem.
Now you may be wondering to yourself, “Isn’t this a little overkill? I see other resin crafters use the stuff all the time without gloves and such.” I can’t disagree that if you get some resin on your skin, you don’t need to panic. Where I hear and read about people having problems is repeated exposure that turns into an allergy. If this happens to you, stop using resin and consult your physician. Otherwise, if you follow these safety recommendations, you should be able to enjoy resin for a long time.