What is epoxy resin?

Understanding what epoxy resin is, and a little of the chemistry is important for using epoxy systems safely and effectively. Ready for a basic science lesson?

Resins are used in all sorts of industries from jewellery-making, artwork and sculpture to boat-building, construction and engineering. Epoxy resins are essentially plastic adhesives made from thermosetting polymers, with unique mechanical and resistance properties. Thermosetting refers to a substance that sets permanently when heated; Polymer means a substance made up of loads of molecules all strung together to form a really long chain.

Once cast/poured, a thermosetting polymer does not soften when heated and it cannot be reshaped - ideal for jewellery, artwork and castings. Where does the heat come from to set an epoxy resin? Well, that's the clever bit - when you mix an epoxy resin with the relevant epoxy hardener a chemical reaction takes place called "curing".

Curing is an exothermic reaction (it gives off heat), which is why it's important to only mix the recommended quantity of resin in one go, to avoid it overheating in the mixing cup! Read the Technical Data Sheet for the specific resin you're using to find out what quantity this is.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The epoxy resins we sell at Resin8 are safe for using at home provided proper and adequate personal protective equipment is used.

However, no matter what you read on the inter-web... ALL epoxy resins and hardeners are liquid chemicals!

9 times out of 10, it is the hardener that contains more chemicals than the resin. So while the resin may claim to be eco, the hardener won't be - and you can't set resin without hardener. On some resin bottles you might see "the safest resin" or "no need to wear a mask". At Resin8, we are not in the business of providing misinformation so this is our advice:

It goes without saying that you should keep food and drink AWAY from your work area, you should wear an appropriate barrier cream or nitrile gloves, have adequate ventilation in your work room, and if sanding resin you should do so with wet wet and dry paper, making sure you wear a respirator and safety goggles. Keep your hands away from your face and other parts of your body when working with epoxy resin and always wear an apron and long sleeves.

It is ESSENTIAL to wear nitrile gloves or a suitable barrier cream when working with epoxy resins.

  • Why nitrile gloves and not vinyl or your marigolds? Well, not only are nitrile gloves relatively thin (so you can feel what you're doing) they are also puncture and chemical resistant. Vinyl gloves are not resistant to liquid chemicals.
  • Why barrier cream instead of gloves? Nitrile gloves will always be our first recommendation. However, some people just do not get on with wearing gloves. In this instance an appropriate barrier cream can be used. Lindesa skin defense cream is specifically designed for providing protection when working with resins, oils, adhesives and sealants and a bonus is that it is lanolin-free!
  • We recommend that you wear long sleeved tops and an apron when using epoxy resin to minimise the chance of resin coming into contact with the skin.
  • Should resin get onto your skin wash it off immediately with plenty of water.
  • Should resin get into your eyes rinse immediately and seek medical advice.
  • Should resin be ingested DO NOT induce vomiting and seek medical advice immediately.

It is ESSENTIAL to wear a respirator, and recommended to wear safety goggles, when pouring large quantities and sanding epoxy resin.

  • Resin dust can cause serious health problems. Avoid breathing in the dust created from sanding partially-cured epoxy resin. You should ALWAYS wear a respirator when sanding partially-cured epoxy resin, and we also suggest to wet sand with wet and dry paper.
  • The respirator we recommend is the 3M 4251 organic vapour & particulate respirator, available here.
  • When sanding, ensure you have adequate ventilation - work outside or near an open window.
  • Individuals with lung and respiratory conditions may find working with resin worsens existing problems.
  • We advise wearing safety goggles if working with resin in large volumes and when sanding partially-cured resin.

Health problems

The following are the most common health problems that can occur from using epoxy resins. Nearly all of these problems can be prevented by using appropriate PPE (see above). If you do develop a health problem from working with epoxy resin you should be able to continue using it with adequate precautions.

  • Dermatitis - the most common form of dermatitis that can form when epoxy resin (or epoxy resin dust) comes into contact with skin is contact dermatitis or skin inflammation. Both epoxy resin and epoxy hardener can cause this. Proper use of PPE (see above) can reduce the chance of skin inflammation and irritation.
  • Chemical burns - epoxy resin and mixed epoxy are unlikely to cause burns, however some of the hardeners that we sell are corrosive. If certain hardeners are left in contact with the skin they can cause severe irritation and chemical burns. Never leave epoxy resin, hardener or mixed epoxy on your skin.
  • Respiratory irritation - at room temperature our epoxy resins are unlikely to be concentrated enough to cause vapour, however if you are using resin in a hot room ensure you have adequate ventilation. Breathing partially-cured resin dust will cause respiratory problems. We advise wearing a respirator when sanding and using wet and dry paper WET to cut down on the amount of resin dust produced.

Should you develop any health issues that you believe may be linked to the use of epoxy resin, visit your doctor.

Technical Info & Safety Data Sheets

A technical data sheet (TDS) is an essential guide containing mixing, application and curing instructions as well as health & safety information, chemical properties and key benefits. A material safety data sheet (MSDS, or SDS in America) is a must-read document containing information on potential hazards (health, fire, environment and reactivity) and how to work safely with the product.

You can download each and every one of our data sheets below.

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