by Captain James R. Watson
It has probably happened to us all once or twice. You’re all dressed up and just before going out the door you swing through your shop to check on the project. Sure enough, a dab of epoxy finds its way onto your best pants. Believe me, it has happened to me plenty of times. My poor mother grieved with all the school clothes I carelessly ruined in my sloppy days as a kid boatbuilder.
There is no excuse for carelessness. I learned the hard way to work neat, not only for better finished products and saving clothes, but for safety. If you are walking around with epoxy all over you, it’s downright bad housekeeping and unsafe. You should always wear protective gloves while working with epoxy. When doing a task that could get messy, wear a plastic apron and something to protect your shoes.
Nevertheless, this article is meant for the poor, unlucky soul who gets some epoxy on his clothes or spills it in the back seat of his Eldorado.
There are three basic kinds of epoxy spills, each requiring a special approach to save the day when an accident happens.
1. Epoxy resin alone
Resin should be removed with a rather aggressive solvent, such as one that is MIBK (methyl isobutyl ketone) based . Acetone or lacquer thinner also work, but are extremely flammable. Never use solvent directly on your skin. Remove clothing first before treating a spot of resin with solvent. Thoroughly wipe the spot with a paper towel dampened with solvent, then wash with hot, soapy water. Be advised, solvents can permanently change the color of some fabrics, and melt others.
2. Epoxy hardener alone
Hardener is the more hazardous of the two epoxy components, but is easier to remove. Hardener by itself is best cleaned of with hot, soapy water. Solvents are not effective on these spots. When removing hardener you must take necessary precautions to it keep off of your skin. Using a solvent, even something as “mild” as vinegar, to remove hardener can actually drive it into your skin. Stick to soap and water.
3. Mixed resin and hardener
Believe me, if you allow mixed epoxy to cure, it will. The spot will eventually crack and then you’ll have a hole in your pants. When you get mixed epoxy on fabric, get at it immediately. First, place a piece of plywood behind the stained area, apply a dab of waterless skin cleanser to the spot, and scrape with a coin. Repeat four or five times. Then scrub with dish soap and a stiff fingernail brush. If there is still epoxy in the fabric, it will usually show up as a white spot. Repeat this procedure until the spot disappears, then rinse thoroughly. Be careful, as this approach can produce wear spots in some fabrics.
Work clean. You’ll waste less epoxy, the project will go better, and your clothes won’t get ruined.