Whether you are brand new to resin or have worked with this substance a few times, you may have gotten stuck on one important question: Is resin toxic? It is a very fair question, especially if you frequently work with this material or are using it to create items to handle food and drinks.
Is resin toxic? Uncured liquid resin can emit toxic fumes when you are working with it and shouldn’t come into contact with your skin. Once completely cured, the resin is actually food-safe.
In this article, let’s learn all about resin and how you can effectively and safely use it in your next project.
What Is Resin?
Resin is the term given to a large class of unsaturated polymers that can be produced from both natural sources and synthetic materials.
However, when referring to resin, most people think of a hard-curing plastic-like material that can be a useful material for various applications, including sealing and casting. It’s commonly used in woodworking projects as a waterproof sealer or in craft projects to create jewelry, coasters, and everything you can think of.
This resin can be molded or cast into various shapes and incorporated into other materials to form a solid. The properties of these resins can vary widely depending on the type of polymers used in the process and the manufacturing method.
Resin has some very important properties that make it ideal for use in different industries: it dries hard and becomes a durable, waterproof surface. It’s a clear coat that can enhance and preserve the look of wood and other types of artwork.
In this article, we will mainly be talking about epoxy resin, which is a very popular type of resin used in woodworking and crafts. Epoxy resin comes in two compounds – a hardener and a resin – that you need to mix together to create a liquid that you can use to cast in a mold or seal a surface.
The reason they have to be in two separate containers is that the resin will start the curing process immediately when the hardener is mixed in, which means you only have so many minutes to work with your application.
Forms Of Resin
When we talk about resin, there are three states that you can find resin in, and each state has vastly different properties and toxicity.
First, when the resin is in its liquid form. This is when you mix the resin and the hardener. The hardener will react chemically with the resin to kickstart the curing process. This is where you can pour the resin into a mold or spread it around a surface to seal.
Then, you have the resin when it is completely cured. This is when it has become a hard, durable plastic material that you can then use.
Woodworkers are also familiar with another form of resin, which is resin dust. This is when the cured resin has been sanded down to even out the surface or even remove the resin from a surface. This process can create resin dust.
Toxicity Levels of Resin At Different Stages of Dryness
Why does it matter to distinguish between the different states of resin? That’s because each state has a vastly different level of toxicity. Let’s talk about each of them below.
Is Uncured Resin Toxic?
Uncured resin can be hazardous right after it is mixed with a hardener. This is when a chemical reaction occurs, and the fumes from liquid epoxy and the particles of resin dust can have harmful effects when inhaled.
The fumes from the resin can damage the lungs and other parts of the body. It can also cause chronic inflammation and cause issues in your respiratory system.
When it comes to contact with the skin, the resin can cause skin irritations and eczema. If uncured resin comes in contact with your skin, it’s important that you wash the area with soap and water immediately to prevent any issues.
Most uncured resin products are toxic to the environment. This is why it’s important to avoid throwing liquid resin into the garbage. It should be disposed of properly at a safe disposal facility near you, or allowed to cure first.
Is Cured Resin Toxic?
Most brands of epoxy resin will cure after about 48 hours, which is when it becomes a solid, hard, and durable clear plastic substance that is very abrasion-resistant, chemical-resistant, and long-lasting.
Cured resin is non-toxic; in fact, it is actually food-safe, meaning that you can use it to handle food and drinks after the resin is completely cured.
However, keep in mind that the curing process can actually be reversed, meaning that the cured resin can become toxic again when it is exposed to high heat.
This process is similar to plastic melting when you put it in the microwave – the high heat can activate the plastic once again, and at this point, the resin is no longer considered cured and non-toxic.
This is why if you have a cured resin, you should keep it out of the dishwasher, oven, and microwave. Resin cups and bowls are also not safe to handle hot food and drinks. If it’s exposed to high heat, the resin can become uncured and very toxic when you consume it.
Is Resin Dust Toxic?
Resin dust can occur when you want to sand down a resin surface or material. While the cured resin is completely non-toxic, resin dust particles are very fine particles that can cause respiratory issues when inhaled.
Respiratory effects will vary depending on your overall health and the concentration of the particles in the air. Some people seem to be more sensitive than others, so it’s important not to take any risks.
If you want to sand resin, make sure to wait for the resin to cure completely first before doing so.
The curing time is different for each type of resin, but just to be safe, you should wait at least 48 hours after application before sanding the resin. If the resin is not cured, sanding it may ruin your entire project!
Safety Tips for Working With Resin
Although resin is relatively harmless to work with, you should still follow some safety tips that can help you safely handle the resin.
1. Wear Safety Equipment (PPE)
Safety equipment is an important aspect of keeping yourself safe while using resin. Before working with resin, you should get yourself some safety gloves, safety glasses, and a respirator mask.
One of the most important items to keep in mind is gloves. You should get gloves that are chemical-resistant, so they would not interfere with the resin curing. Latex gloves, for example, can interact chemically with the resin and ruin your entire project.
Instead, we recommend getting nitrile gloves, which won’t react to the resin and can help you work with the liquid safely.
Wearing appropriate safety goggles is also important, especially if you are sanding epoxy. The safety goggles that wrap around your eyes completely can prevent the fine dust from getting into your eyes.
Similarly, you should wear a mask or a respirator mask to keep from inhaling the toxic fumes or the fine dust that can occur when you work with resin. You may think that it’s not dangerous, but frequent inhalation of the fumes and dust can cause serious issues to your lungs.
Since the liquid resin can cause skin irritations if it touches your skin, you should also wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to prevent the resin from getting onto your bare skin. Don’t wear your favorite clothes while working with resin, or you may risk ruining them.
2. Work In A Well-Ventilated Area
You hear this advice a lot, but it’s always a wise idea to work in a well-ventilated area. If possible, you should work outside. For indoor environments, you can pop open a window and turn on a fan or two to allow the fumes and dust to escape.
Keep in mind that you should still wear a mask to keep the fumes and dust out of your nose since the environment won’t eliminate the toxic fumes completely.
3. No Eating Or Drinking While Working With Resin
It’s nice to take a little coffee break or snack break while you’re working, but if you want to do so, you should take a break away from the resin.
The dust and fumes can get into your coffee or snack when you work, and you definitely don’t want to accidentally consume these things after investing in all the protective equipment to keep them out of your system.
That’s why you should keep your food and drinks in a separate area where the fumes and dust cannot get to, and take a break away from the resin to eat and drink when you are ready.
4. Keep The Resin Away From Children And Pets
Many of us share the same space with pets and little children. If the resin is toxic for adults, imagine what it can do to your pets or your kids if they accidentally eat or touch this solution.
That’s why it’s important to keep the resin, especially uncured resin, away from any pets or children so that they don’t accidentally get their little hands/paws on the toxic chemicals.
If you need to leave the resin to cure, make sure to leave it in an area where children or pets cannot reach.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also avoid working with resin altogether to prevent the fumes and dust from harming their children.
5. Don’t Use Tools In Your Kitchen For Resin
Resin is versatile because you can cast it in almost any mold and shape it with any tools you have. However, it’s important that you don’t use your kitchen tools – things that will touch your food – on uncured resin.
Once something touches the resin, it can’t be used on your food anymore because you may accidentally consume the resin. No matter how hard you clean it, it’s not safe to use with food, so it’s best to separate your resin tools and your kitchen tools to avoid mixing them up.
6. Use The Right Resin
Resin comes in so many different types that are suitable for different applications, with different thicknesses, durability, curing time, etc.
When choosing the resin for your project, take into account the type of work that you’re going to do and the thickness of the resin. For example, a clear protective coat for your wood is only designed to be applied in very thin layers and is not suitable for pouring.
Working with the right type of resin for each project and following the instructions can really make a difference in terms of safety and efficiency for your project.
7. Let The Resin Cure Completely Before Handling
The curing time of resin is much longer than the drying time. A resin object can feel dry to the touch, but if it still smells faintly like chemicals, then it is not completely cured and not safe to handle.
Different types of resin have different curing times. Some types are quick-curing, and you can safely handle it after it has dried overnight, while others require up to a week to cure completely.
You should always check the curing time for your specific type of resin before you work and wait the proper amount of time as instructed to make sure you are not using a resin that is still curing.
Non-Toxic Substitutes To Resin
If working with a toxic substance is out of the question for you; you’ll be glad to know that there are several non-toxic substitutes that you can use instead of resin.
ArtResin is a type of resin that’s made for artists. It’s a great non-toxic substitute to the traditional resin while still sharing many similar characteristics with traditional resin that allow it to work in casting and pouring applications for crafting and art.
Thanks to its non-hazardous formula (it should still be kept away from your skin to avoid temporary sensitization), ArtResin is very safe to use without having to follow the safety requirements mentioned above, which can be a huge plus since you don’t have to invest too much in protective equipment or work in a well-ventilated area.
In addition, the presence of UV stabilizers and other additives in ArtResin’s formula help prevent the resin from getting yellow over time. This is why it’s preferred by artists who want their artworks to preserve their looks over time.
The only downside to ArtResin is that it can be more expensive than other types of traditional resin. However, its non-toxic properties are still quite preferable to many people.
If you are looking for a waterproof sealant but don’t want to use resin, a good non-toxic substitute is Mod Podge.
Mod Podge resembles clear glue, and it can be used as a clear coat sealant or as an adhesive in small crafts projects. Although it is not as durable as resin, it can still provide a layer of waterproof protection.
If you just have a quick, small jewelry piece, then using Mod Podge is a highly convenient, non-toxic sealant. You don’t need to mix the ingredients together – Mod Podge comes in a tub that’s ready to go whenever you need it.
Mod Podge is actually a brand, and its products come in various formulas, including standard, glossy, or matte, that can make it easier to customize for each project. You can also find other convenient formulas like dishwasher-safe Mod Podge, which is useful too, as resin is not dishwasher safe.
Keep in mind that Mod Podge is not a strong enough product to protect outdoor surfaces since outdoor wood needs extra waterproof protection that Mod Podge is not designed to handle. However, it’s still a good sealant substitute for small items that don’t need much protection.
Up Next: Dyeing Epoxy Resin – Complete Guide