How Do I Protect Myself When I Paint?
Jordan Paul , null
May 26th, 2022
When we tackle a painting project, we should take the time to properly prepare for the job, which means protecting yourself. Describing all of the safety precautions you need to take is a very broad topic, so today we will discuss protecting your clothes and skin. However, before you start any painting project, always read the safety precautions on the can.
Paint is available in several mediums, better known as latex (water based), enamel (oil based), and acrylic (water based). Enamels dry extremely hard and contain chemicals that can harm the skin, but latex and acrylics are much milder. Today we will discuss how the pros protect their clothes and skin from everyday exposure to paint.
Protecting Your Skin
Generally, most house painting projects done in today’s modern world of construction uses latex and acrylic paints. Since both are water based, they are safer to use without the benefit of skin protection. Most homes use latex paint, which is water soluble until it dries. Acrylic paints are similar in design and are also water soluble.
Enamels, however, will require skin and eye protection as the caustic chemicals in the paint can burn the skin and eyes. You should also never use oil based enamels without adequate ventilation as well, because enamels emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). If enamels are used indoors, the painter should always wear a ventilator to avoid breathing the VOCs.
When using any paint, many pro painters will wear long pants and long sleeves, even in summer. Protecting your skin is important, because even dried latex paint can be difficult to remove without abrasives. Constant scrubbing can abrade the skin, causing irritation.
Most (if not all) professional painters carry a wet rag or towel with them at all times. As mentioned earlier, most house painting is done with latex or acrylic paints, which are water soluble. Pro painters simply use the wet cloth to keep wet paint off of their skin before it dries. Generally, latex and acrylics are harmless to the skin as long as they are promptly removed.
Protecting Your Clothes
Many professional painters wear coveralls over their clothes and covers for their shoes. Home improvement stores and local paint stores will have these and other protective materials available. Coveralls are one-piece suits that are very loose fitting and usually have a front zipper. Painters simply step into them, zip them up, and their clothes are protected.
Many coveralls are even disposable like the shoe covers and painter’s hats. These are not made from traditional fabric, but rather an inexpensive cellulose product that will not absorb paint. The occasional do-it-yourselfers may benefit more from these disposable coveralls than ruining old clothes since the coveralls do not need to be stored between paint projects.
Of course, you can always sacrifice an old t-shirt and worn out jeans and turn them into your paint clothes. If this option is best for you, try to select long sleeves and long pants, along with an old pair of shoes. Removing even latex and acrylics from your clothes after the paint has dried is chancy at best, so expect to sacrifice whatever clothing you wear.
Once you are finished, you can wash your paint clothes as usual, but you’ll want to wash them separately. Heat, water, and detergents can remove some of the paint from your clothes, but you don’t want it to get on your nice clothes. Pro painters that wear regular clothes tend to have several sets and wash them together at the same time for this reason.
Should I Wear Gloves When I Paint?
You should always wear gloves when the directions for the paint indicate it. In most cases, this will only involve oil based enamel paints, as they contain acetone, a caustic chemical. Most manufacturers recommend using rubber gloves in these instances, because leather and cloth can absorb the chemicals and allow them to contact your hands.
Latex gloves can be used however with latex and acrylic paints in an effort to avoid washing your hands constantly. However, latex gloves can also prevent air from reaching your hands, so it’s a good idea to remove them periodically to let your skin breathe. You won’t want to use latex gloves with enamel paints however, as they may simply dissolve.