Electroforming is a beautiful way to make jewelry, but it does involve handling some chemicals. I don’t want to scare you, and you shouldn’t be worried about doing electroforming but you should definitely take some precautions. Unfortunately, there isn’t much info online about electroforming and how dangerous it can be for your health. So, I decided to just give you all the info I found and heard over time so you can get a good idea of how to set up your electroforming station and how to handle your chemicals. Read on to discover my best electroforming safety tips.
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First things first, let’s talk about how to handle the different chemicals you’ll have to work with. There are quite a few actually, but the one you should be the most worried about is definitely the electroforming solution. So, here are the safety precautions I take when I handle my chemicals for electroforming:
Copper Electroforming Solution
Your copper electroforming solution is acid-based. For this reason, you should be really careful when you handle it. First, you should definitely avoid contact with your skin and eyes. Also, it’s pretty obvious, but don’t drink it or inhale it. If you get some of this solution on your skin, wash with soap and water. Ideally, you should always wear long sleeves and pants when you are handling the solution. I know I do.
When you electroform your object, the electroforming solution emits vapors and mist that should be vented away from the operator and surrounding work area. The fumes cannot be seen or smelled. This is why you should always electroform in a well-ventilated area. Do not do this in your living room. You can read this post I found on an electroplating company website for more info.
Don’t forget to always put your set up away from children and pets. If you can put it in a room that you can keep locked or our of reach. I live in a small apartment, and I do my electroforming on the balcony so that there are no fumes inside my house. Also, if you live in a small area you can put everything in a big storage box so that the fumes are contained and don’t go into your living area.
I strongly suggest you read the safety precautions on the datasheet for the Midas electroforming solution. If you want to read this datasheet click here. Copper brightener has the same kind of instructions.
Anyway, I always wear heavy-duty gloves, safety glasses, and a mask when I set up my bath. Alternatively, you can wear an apron or overalls to make sure the solution doesn’t spill on your skin. When I just monitor the electroforming process, I do not put a mask on since I’m only staying like 10 seconds near my bath.
Copper conductive paint
Depending on what type of copper paint you use, it could contain hazardous ingredients. The first one I bought contained a carcinogen ingredient. To apply my paint, I always wear gloves so that I don’t put it on my skin. Even if I use water-based paint I wear gloves simply for extra precautions. If you’re using a paint that has some pretty bad chemicals in it, I’d also recommend wearing a mask when you’re applying it.
I don’t use as much precaution when I handle my patinas. Usually, I just wear gloves and a mask (like a dust mask) just so I don’t inhale any potential fumes. If you use liver of sulfur, you might want to wear a mask anyway because it stinks. Also, put gloves on or your fingers will smell of rotten egg if any of this substance gets on your hand.
Whatever patina or sealant you are using I recommend reading the safety instructions before using it. This way, you’ll know if it contains any hazardous ingredients and what kind of safety precautions you should take.
This part is for me, the most ‘dangerous’ part of electroforming. When you polish your electroformed creations, tons of particles fly into the air. You definitely don’t want to inhale that. For this part, I wear a respirator with a particulate filter. Also, I recommend wearing safety glasses because one time a piece of copper flew straight into my eye. I removed it quickly, but it could definitely have damaged my eye. I think most electroformers do not wear gloves for polishing but I always do because I use steel wood pads and I don’t want to have particles on my hands.
If you are using a Dremel, make sure your hair is tied up and you’re not wearing any jewelry that could get caught up in the tool.
Safety gear for electroforming
Heavy-duty gloves on Amazon – Wear big heavy-duty gloves. The ones I recommend are chemical resistant so you don’t have to worry about spilling the solution on your hands!
Respirator on Amazon – Because of the current pandemic, it’s hard to find respirators these days! But ideally, I’d recommend getting a 3M. Just make sure whatever you get has particulate filters, or you can also buy these filters individually if you already have a respirator at home.
Apron on Amazon – You can get a chemical-resistant apron if you’re worried about handling electroforming solution. I mean if you have an entire set up that looks like a lab you might as well get one of these. If like me, you only have a small set up, I think a cooking apron should be enough.
Disposable gloves on Amazon – I use disposable gloves for painting my creations with copper conductive paint.
Safety glasses on Amazon – For polishing and handling your electroforming solution.
Additional tips for electroforming safely at home
Here are just a few tips to electroform safely at home:
- Keep your set up away from children and pets in a locked room or out of their reach. I don’t recommend putting your solution on a high shelf though, because you really want to avoid spillage.
- Make sure the room you use for electroforming is well ventilated. Ideally, you should do it outside, or in your garage.
- Don’t electroform in your living area. Or if you do, put your set up in a plastic box. You can also attach a small vent hose to your box to put the fumes outside.
- Always wear your safety gear when you handle chemicals.
- Read your chemicals, patinas, and sealants safety instructions before you start using them.
As far as I’m concerned, I really try to take as many precautions as I can. Even though I do not electroform every day, I’d rather be safe than sorry. I think you should be safe, but definitely not worried. When you think about it we eat food with tons of pesticides, we use chemicals for cleaning our homes… I mean, we are constantly exposed to chemicals without even noticing. Don’t stress it, and just take the precautionary measures before you start your journey. Read the safety instructions on all your chemicals and you’ll be good to go. I just want to mention that your safety is your responsibility, and I take zero liability for what you do or what happens to you when electroforming. Do you have more electroforming safety tips to share? Let me know in the comments below!