10 Painting Safety Tips Every Homeowner Should Know
Stay safe from the hidden dangers of painting! Here are 10 painting safety tips we think every homeowner should know.
Test for Lead
Originally, adding color, increasing durability and speeding up drying time were some of the reasons lead was added to paint. But unfortunately, the lead in paint also made paint dust and paint chips hazardous. Exposure to lead can cause many adverse health effects. Sadly, children are more vulnerable than adults and more likely to be exposed to dust or paint chips containing lead. Lead-based paints were banned from use in housing in 1978, so if you're planning a painting project in a house that was built before 1978, make sure to test for lead before you do any sanding or scraping. Lead testing kits are readily available at home centers and hardware stores. Here's how to test for lead paint.
Store Painting Products Carefully
Many commonly used painting products contain volatile organic compounds (VOC). These compounds evaporate at room temperature, creating fumes that can create a fire danger and health problems. To minimize the risk, look for products with low VOC content. If you have on hand or buy oil-based stain, paint thinner, paint stripper, or other liquids with high VOCs that are listed as flammable, make sure to store them in their original containers with tight-fitting caps or lids and store them away from gas appliances and all living quarters. It's also important to store gasoline safely. Here's how.
Add Ventilation When Painting
Painting projects usually require some patching and sanding which creates dust. And even the most benign water-based paint releases a lot of vapor as it dries. For these reasons, it's always a good idea to create extra ventilation when you're painting indoors. The easiest way to do this is to put a box fan in your window, blowing out. Then crack open a door or window on the opposite side of the room to create cross ventilation. This will help suck out unwanted dust and reduce excess humidity and a build-up of VOCs. Here are our best tips for reducing the amount of dust in your home.
Buy Top-Quality Dust Masks
Of course, you should always wear a dust mask to protect your lungs when you're sanding in preparation for painting. But some inexpensive dust masks don't seal well and will let dust into your lungs. When you shop for masks, first make sure the masks you're buying have the N95 certification. Then, look for masks with a foam seal at the nose and strong elastic straps. Masks with valves make breathing easier by allowing your exhaled breath to escape. And remember, these dust masks filter out dust particles, but don't provide any protection from VOCs produced by spray paint cans and other painting products.
Wear an Organic Vapor Respirator
Dust masks work great to keep dust and other particles out of your lungs, but they don't filter out VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that can damage your lungs, brain and other organs. For this, you'll need a respirator that can be outfitted with organic vapor cartridges. Anytime you're working with products like spray paint, organic-solvent based stain sealers, lacquer, or other "smelly" painting or cleaning products wear an organic vapor respirator. If you're not sure, check the label on the material you're using to see if a respirator is recommended. You'll find organic compound respirators online or at home centers, hardware and paint stores. Make sure to match the cartridge type to the type of chemical you're using. You'll find this information on the label. Carefully follow all of the instructions for proper use and filter replacement. And if you're planning to do some spray painting, here are more tips to keep you safe.
Use Ladders Safely
Ladder accidents account for more than 100,000 emergency room visits and hundreds of deaths every year. But you can avoid being another statistic by practicing good ladder safety. Start by reading and following the instructions included with your ladder. Then go online and search for "ladder safety." Start with these tips and techniques for extension ladder safety.
Cover Your Hands
Some solvents used when painting and stripping paint can penetrate your skin and cause nerve or organ damage. And of course, they can also cause more immediate damage to the skin itself. For these reasons, you should keep a supply of gloves on hand. Disposable latex, vinyl or nitrile gloves work well for tasks like staining and varnishing. But when you're using strong solvents like paint thinner, lacquer thinner, acetone, or paint strippers, thick chemical-resistant gloves are a better choice. Read the label on the glove to make sure they're resistant to the chemicals you're using. Here's more on protecting yourself with disposable gloves.
Be Careful With Paint Stripper
When scraping and sanding won't do the trick, and you need to get down to bare wood for the best paint job, paint strippers are the answer. There are several different types of paint stripper, some of them safer than others. But regardless of which type you use, the safety information is the same. Work in a well-ventilated area, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes and chemical resistant gloves to protect your hands and wrists. Cover any remaining bare skin with clothing. Another reason to work in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors if possible, is that some paint strippers are highly flammable. And of course, make sure to follow all the instructions on the container for safe removal of the old paint and disposal of the residue. If you're looking for more paint prep tips you'll find lots of great ones here.
Save Your Finger and Wrist
If you've ever sprayed a project that required several cans of paint, you already know about finger strain and wrist pain. For less than seven bucks, a trigger handle not only prevents the pain but also gives you better control of the can. Check out this collection of things to know before you start a spray painting project.
Dispose of Oily Rags Safely
If you're planning to apply an oil finish with a rag, be careful. Under the right circumstances bundled up oily rags can catch on fire without being lit. This is called spontaneous combustion, and it's a common cause of fires. Only certain types of oil undergo the chemical reaction that causes spontaneous combustion. But to be safe, never leave any oily rags piled up. When you're done using an oily rag lay it out flat to dry. After the oil is dry it's safe to dispose of the rag. And remember, oily rags are just one potential fire hazard. Here are more ways to keep your home safe from fires..
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