Paint Shop Protective Clothing Essentials Explained
The legal requirements for safety clothing and equipment in paint shops have never been stricter than they are today. There is a whole host of regulations and requirements that employers and operators are required to adhere to.
Some of these regulations may seem inconvenient and even occasionally over the top. But they are all backed by hard evidence that proves their efficacy (and just how essential they are).
Today we are going to take a look at the reasons why protective clothing is essential for paintshop operators, some of the different types of protective clothing, and a few product recommendations for different situations.
Let’s get started.
Why Are My Normal Clothes Unacceptable?
Long gone are the days where a pair of old jeans and an old jacket are considered acceptable clothing for operating in a paintshop. Custom designed protective clothing is now essential. But why is that?
The simple (and short) answer is that normal clothes designed for everyday usage are often permeable. This means that molecules from the paint (or whatever else is being sprayed) can easily get through them and make contact with the operator’s skin.
This is probably not going to cause issues if you are a hobby sprayer giving your own car or yacht a new coat of paint once in a blue moon (but protection is still recommended). However, for professionals in the finishing industries, regular skin contact with chemicals (paints) can cause serious and undesirable health consequences.
Additionally, lint and dust can be brought in from the outside world to the spray booth and can destroy the finish on whatever it is you are painting. It’s imperative to have a static free, dust free, lint free environment while spraying. Protective clothing seals all that inside the clothing, keeping it out of the booth.
So protective clothing not only protects you from the paint, but it protects the paint from you too.
Note: From here on out we will be using the term chemicals to describe paints, lacquers, primers and all other manner of things sprayed in a paintshop.
What Happens When Chemicals Make Contact With My Skin?
Our skin is pretty darn good at keeping unwanted chemicals out of our body. There is a single layer of skin that is responsible for providing an almost seamless barrier between the inside of our body and the outside world.
No one could fault the valiant effort that this wafer thin layer of skin puts forward to protect us. But despite all its efforts – it’s not perfect.
Some molecules will always find their way into your body.
Most chemicals used in paintshops are toxic to a certain extent, some are almost harmless and others are pretty darn nasty. An individual exposure to most of these chemicals is probably not going to cause you any long term distress or health issues.
But paintshop operators are often exposed on a daily basis. Over time the amount of toxic chemicals absorbed by the skin into your body starts to add up, with pretty serious potential consequences.
Some of the milder issues that can be caused are going to be things like a skin irritation or a burning sensation, and while this is uncomfortable, it is not lethal. However, much more serious health issues can (and do) develop over time, skin cancer is uncomfortably common among paintshop operators.
To make things even worse, the amount of molecules that are absorbed by the body dramatically increases when skin is damaged. Even the smallest cut, scrape, or graze can create a nearly unrestricted pathway for chemicals to enter your body.
When the rate of absorption goes up, so does the risk.
The Different Types Of Protective Clothing
There are many different individual items of protective clothing that should be used by paint shop operators. In this section, we will take a look at some of the more common kinds of protective clothing to see what they are, and why they are needed.
The most common and important piece of protective clothing is the coverall. As you might have guessed from the name they are a single piece garment that is designed to cover your entire body. They are essentially a giant adult sized “onesie” (usually with a hood) that is designed for protection.
Coveralls provide a strong and stable barrier between your normal clothing and the chemicals that are being sprayed in the booth. This not only protects your clothing (which means you don’t drive home in dirty clothes), but it also protects your skin (and whatever it is you are painting).
Coveralls come in two main types, disposable and reusable. One of the most common questions we get asked about coveralls by is what’s the difference between the two types, and which one should you get?
Reusable coveralls are almost always thicker, stronger, and are usually utilised when there is a need for some kind of physical strength or chemical resistance. While they certainly have their benefits for certain applications, it often comes down to personal preference and may depend on the types of application.
Disposable coveralls are generally more convenient as there is no cleaning required. You simply throw them in the bin at the end of your shift and put on a brand new fresh set the next day. Disposable coveralls are light, breathable, and surprisingly comfortable to wear for the most part.
Some lower quality coveralls can feel a little abrasive around the elastic parts on the ankles, wrists and hood – but if you choose the right brand, you will have no problems at all.
Recommendation: Disposable Coveralls – BEST C7
We stock 3 different brands of disposable coverall on our shelves (and we always have everything in stock). All of the products we sell are of the highest quality, we won’t work with any brand that doesn’t live up to our stringent high standards.
Our recommendation for disposable coveralls is the C7 range from BEST. They provide excellent protection and comfort (and actually outperform some of the more well-known brands we stock).
For example, one of the most popular providers of disposable coveralls is Tyvek. Tyvek produce excellent products that are more than worthy of your consideration (which we stock). Tyveks CHF5 coveralls are probably their most popular coverall, and as such, that is what we used as a benchmark to decide our recommendation here.
The CHF5 from Tyvek is super breathable, but the C7 from BEST provides up to 30% more breathability.
The CHF5 has excellent liquid penetration protection, but the C7 from BEST provides up to 80% less liquid penetration.
(The disposable coveralls we stock from 3M are similar to the Tyvek in quality, they do the job they are supposed to do – and they do it well)
The main deciding factor for us was economics, the C7 from BEST is significantly cheaper than the offerings from 3M or Tyvek.
When you consider the fact that replenishing stocks of disposable coveralls is going to be a regular ongoing cost (and combine this with the superior quality of the C7), our recommendation of the C7 is a no brainer.
Recommendation: Reusable Coveralls – BEST Racetec R7
There are some excellent reusable options available the Racetec R7 from BEST is superior to disposable coveralls in almost every single way. They are more comfortable, and are made from a material that has been woven with anti static carbon fibre. The hood is adjustable and there are several pockets which are incredibly useful.
The outer coating of the R7 is made from Dupont Teflon coating which provides breathability, but most importantly – repels paint. This means that the normal cleaning issues that are encountered by traditional reusable coveralls are mitigated significantly.
You’re still going to have to clean them, but it’s going to be much easier than if you were using bog standard reusable coveralls. They can be washed at 30, or chemically cleaned.
If comfort is your main concern (and you don’t mind cleaning your coveralls), then you should seriously consider the R7. They are obviously more expensive than disposable coveralls initially, but over the long run, they become an economically sound investment.
Overshoes For Paint Shops
The vast majority of coveralls will cover your head all the way down to your ankles, leaving your feet exposed. While normal shoes will provide you with more protection than clothing, they are still permeable and need a little extra protection to keep you safe.
But to be honest, despite the additional safety benefits, the main reason people wear overshoes is for cleanliness. Anyone who has worked in a paintshop knows the place with the most overspray is usually the floor. If you don’t use protective overshoes while spraying, things get really messy outside the spraybooth really quickly.
Our Recommendation – Tyvek Overshoes
As we mentioned above in the coverall section, Tyvek are one of the most well known and respected brands when it comes to disposable clothing protection. Their overshoes are some of the best in the business and are our go to recommendation for overshoes.
Comfort is not really an issue with overshoes (because you don’t feel them through your normal shoes), it’s all about security and stability. The Tyvek overshoes have a non-slip sole built into them and are made with high-quality elastic that reliably secures them to your feet. They are a one size fits all product, and will protect your shoes (and your floors) from paint.
Hoods For Painting
Most coveralls (disposable or reusable) will come with a protective hood attached to them. This makes the demand for separate protective hoods reasonably limited. However, a hood is arguably the most important kind of clothing protection. If you don’t have one (or it’s damaged) then these separate hoods can be a great alternative to buying new coveralls.
Our Recommendation: Tyvek Hood
Again Tyvek are our recommendation for the hood category. They use the same high-quality protective (yet breathable) material for their hoods, as they do in their overshoes and their coveralls.
Tyvek’s disposable hood is extremely comfortable to wear with high quality, soft elastic that safely secures the hood in place. The innovative one-piece design includes a collar around the base of the hood which is designed to overlap your coveralls beneath. This provides a reliable and secure continuous line of protection from head to torso.
Trousers For Paint Shops
The final item of protective clothing we are going to discuss today are protective trousers. Instead of utilising a coverall, protective trousers and a protective jacket can provide more comfort and are less restrictive in their movements. They are not as popular as coveralls, but if you can’t stand the “onesie” style protection coveralls provide, they are a great alternative.
Our Recommendation: Disposable Trousers
The disposable trousers we stock might not have a big brand name attached to them, but they are excellent quality. They are made from an anti-static microporous material that provides total protection from chemicals while allowing for maximum comfort and breathability at the same time.
The high-quality waist band ensures a snug and secure fit and they are available in 3 sizes – medium, large and extra large.
So there you have it, an in-depth overview of the different kinds of paintshop clothing protection and a few of our product recommendations.
If you have any questions or comments, why not give our experienced sales advisors a call on 023 8025 1100. They will be happy to help match you to your perfect protective clothing.