How to Get Epoxy Off Your Hands


Epoxy is so popular with homeowners because they’re easy to apply, harden rapidly and extremely resistant to scratches and damage. It’s ironic that these same qualities make them a concern if they happen to end up on your skin.

What if it never comes off?

What if you feel the residue every time you run your thumb and forefinger together for the rest of your life?

Worse yet—what if it’s poisonous?

Relax.

Getting epoxy off your hands—even after it’s dried—is actually really easy. By the end of this article, you’ll probably feel a little silly for ever being worried in the first place.


What Happens if You Get Epoxy Resin on Your Skin?

Epoxy resins are designed to bond permanently to smooth, non-porous surfaces. That means, they won’t bond permanently to your skin.

Your skin is far too soft, produces far too much oil, and recycles itself far too frequently for epoxy resin adhere to it. Even if you do nothing, the epoxy resin would eventually fall off as enough dead skin fell off.

Furthermore, the most epoxy resins, and most other adhesives, are non-toxic, at least in small concentrations.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the proper safety precautions when working with them. However, it does mean that it would take a lot of epoxy on your skin to do any real harm.

That said, it’s not ideal to let chemical adhesives linger on your skin.

With that in mind, let’s jump in to several ways you can get epoxy off your hands quickly & easily.


Method One: Using Vinegar

Did you know that vinegar is one of the best natural solvents known to man?

Its winning combination of effectiveness, safety, availability, and thrift makes it a sensible place to start.

All types of vinegar contain acetic acid, which is the substance that makes them so good at dissolving things. However, I recommend using distilled white vinegar for cleaning and sensitization.

White vinegar is more potent than other varieties. It doesn’t contain dyes or coloring additives, so it won’t stain your skin the way some kinds of vinegar do.

For most use-cases, there are very few downsides to using white vinegar as a cleansing agent. In fact, I make it a point to keep a bottle handy at any given time.

You may smell like a platter of fish and chips when it’s all said and done. But hey, at least your hands will be clean.

  1. Saturate a paper towel in pure, undiluted white vinegar. You can also use a soft cotton hand towel or throwaway rag if you prefer. It will probably be easiest to pour the vinegar into a small dish and then dip your applicator into it, but you can also pour the vinegar directly onto it.
  2. Drape the vinegar-soaked towel over the hand with the epoxy on it and let it sit for about five minutes. This is where the magic happens. Slowly but surely, the acetic acid in the vinegar will eat away at the dried resin until you can wash it off using ordinary soap and water. Pro tip: don’t guesstimate here. Set a timer so that you’ll know that the vinegar has had enough time to act.
  3. Once five full minutes have passed, use your towel to wipe away the partially-dissolved epoxy gently. If you gave the spot a good soak, a few light strokes will likely be all that’s needed to bust up the remaining residue.
  4. Wash your hands using soap and warm water. For even more cleaning power, use a stout detergent soap or reach for your trusty pumice stone. Lather up well and scrub for a minimum of 20-30 seconds, then rinse thoroughly to ensure that no traces of the adhesive are left behind.

Method Two: Using Acetone

Acetone (aka Propanone) is another everyday solvent that most people have lying around the house somewhere. It’s commonly used as nail polish remover.

Even though acetone is a great solvent, it’s nonetheless recognized as being generally safe for topical use.

That said, prolonged, direct exposure to acetone can cause mild to moderate skin irritation, especially in people with sensitive extremities. It’s wise to avoid pouring acetone on any parts of your body, except the ones that are caked with epoxy.

Additionally, It’s critical to have good circulation while you’re cleaning with acetone. Inhaling acetone fumes could leave you feeling faint, or even give you a splitting headache after a while.

  1. Open a window or switch on a fan to ensure that your workspace is properly ventilated. At the very least, turn on your HVAC system’s blower to get the air moving.
  2. Dip one end of a cotton swab into your bottle of acetone. Shake off the excess liquid to make sure it doesn’t end up anywhere it’s not supposed to be.
  3. Press the wet end of the swab directly into the dried resin. Begin swirling it around using smooth, circular motions. It may take a few minutes for the adhesive to let go if it’s already set. Keep at it—you’ll notice it giving way before long.
  4. Continue massaging the acetone into your skin until the hardened epoxy melts away completely. It may help to rewet your cotton swab periodically.
  5. Repeat this process as needed on any other parts of your hands that have come into contact with the epoxy. You could speed things up by using a small washcloth instead of a cotton swab if you’ve got a lot of surface area to cover. Be warned that in doing so, you’ll also be increasing the risk of irritating your skin.
  6. After treating each affected area with acetone, wash your hands with soap and warm water. This removes any remnants of adhesive or acetone. Don’t forget that your pumice stone is there for you if you need it.

Method Three: Using Industrial Hand Cleaners

Industrial hand cleaners are like hand soaps on steroids. They perform the same basic function as their milder counterparts, only with way more oomph, thanks to the fact that they contain special acidic solvents and abrasives.

People with particularly dirty jobs, like mechanics, factory workers, landscapers, and machine shop technicians, regularly use industrial-strength hand cleaners to scour the blackened gunk off their mitts after extended shifts.

If that’s not a testament to their efficiency and reliability, I don’t know what would be.

You can buy industrial hand cleaners just about anywhere you would find regular soap.

Mineral-derived abrasives like pumice have been shown to accumulate in the lower reaches of plumbing fixtures. Look for a product that’s made with natural ingredients like citric acid and walnut shells unless you want to add snaking the sink to your to-do list.

Assuming you don’t want to buy a whole thing of hand cleaner just for this one non-emergency, you can whip up a DIY version using liquid dish soap and a sprinkle of baking soda.

  1. Pour a nickel-sized dollop of your cleaner of choice onto a soft, lint-free cloth. It’s best not to use a paper towel for this method, as heavy-duty soaps are thick, viscous, and tough enough to chew right through puny paper fibers.
  2. Rub the cleaner into the dried epoxy for three to five minutes. Apply firm pressure to the affected area and keep the cloth moving continuously. The additional friction will serve to break the adhesive’s tenacious chemical grip.
  3. Wash your hands with soap and warm water. If you’ve made a spectacular mess with the resin, you may discover that a single round of scrubbing, washing, and rinsing isn’t enough to get rid of every last bit of crud. If that’s the case, just repeat steps 1 and 2 until you achieve the desired level of cleanliness.
  4. Put on some hand lotion. Trust me on this one. Industrial hand cleaners are such capable degreasers that they even strip away the beneficial oils that your skin needs to stay supple and healthy. A couple of pumps of lotion will help you avoid trading in the discomfort of adhesive-encrusted hands for that of dry, cracked, itchy skin.

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