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Wearing gloves while painting

GaryGary -
edited January 2013 in Studio & Supplies
Painting with oils pose health risks. While these risks are being addressed by those making various materials used in painting to make it safer, risks still exit. We've mentioned some of these risks in this forum, mainly the use of solvents.

There are two major types of chemicals that can poison us while painting: organic hydrocarbons (used in solvents and mediums for example) and heavy metals (e.g., paint pigments -cobalt, lead, mercury, barium,etc.). They enter our body through inhalation, ingestion or absorption through the skin. As a result the major health risks we face include: toxic fumes, flammable fire hazards, eye irritants, toxic skin and toxic pigments. Examples of paints/pigments considered carcinogenic are burnt umber and cadmium yellow. An example of a moderately toxic pigment is alizarin crimson. Each of us react differently to different exposures of the hazards. Some folks could finger paint for a life time and not be affected at all, others are much more sensitive.

This thread is meant to address the use of gloves while painting to help reduce risks, especially those associated with absorption through the skin on your hands. I happen to notice while using the web to study the art of living painters, that more and more of their recent pictures taken while they are painting in their studio or giving lessons, show them using gloves.

Using gloves has its obvious health benefits but doesn't seem 'natural' to me while painting. Now I often paint with latex gloves on, but not always. It did take a while to get use to them and to remember to put them on before starting a painting session.

I'm not a particularly messy painter, quite the opposite. However, I did notice that there were two particular moments when I got paint on my hands quite regularly. First, I admit I like to blend with my fingers! Can't do that with gloves so that help me break the habit. The second instance is opening paint I use a tube of paint over time, its seems to quickly become a sloppy process no matter how careful I try to be. I tried using a paper towel for both holding the tube and the cap but I still get paint on me. Consequently I now open paint tubes with gloves on even if I don't keep them on to paint.

Solutions: First try not to get paint on you! If you do, wipe it off immediately (no toxic solvents please!). Second, don't eat or drink while painting (I was guilty of both). Third, wash your hands before doing anything else after you finish your painting session. Fourth, if you just can't help yourself and do get paint on your hands, try wearing latex or vinyl gloves.

I was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, underwent surgery, followup treatments and am now in remission. My cancer had nothing to do with oil painting. I have friends on this forum who are battling cancer or who are in remission....also to the best of my knowledge their cancer had nothing to do with painting. However, the experience does make you aware of doing what you can to reduce the odds of getting ill. This post is to encourage all of us to be knowledgeable of the risks, no matter how small, and take reasonable actions so we may enjoy our painting as safely as possible.

How about you? Do you wear gloves? Do you have suggestions for avoiding getting paint on you...or off you when you do? Any tips for how you handle messy paint tubes or how you keep them from getting messy?


  • Gary,

    I wear those blue nitrile gloves when I paint. I use them all the time and have gotten so use to them that if I don't have them on it feels unnatural. I have also virtually eliminated solvents from the studio. I still have them for special occasions, sometimes I want to keep the paints open for a long time so I'll use Delq, sometimes I want the painting to dry faster (like now on the orangutan painting that needs to be finished by the end of the month), but in general I just use cold pressed linseed oil now for medium. I'm not really even comfortable with Odorless Mineral Spirits. When I use anything with solvents I have a fan blowing and an exhaust fan in my studio to circulate the air.

    In terms of keeping tubes from getting messy ... I'm not really sure what I do but the tubes don't seem to get messy. They get a little paint buildup around the rim/cap area but that doesn't present too much of a problem.

    I think at the end of the day that whatever you do, initially comfortable or not, you develop habits and once you do you feel comfortable with that.

  • Thank you for your advice, Gary. I guess it's better to be safe than sorry.
    More often than not, I tend to open my paint tubes with pliers, as they can be tough to open when the paint has dried inside the lid. I don't normally wear gloves when I'm painting... the paint seems to accidently smudge my clothes, more than my fingers. I'd imagine it would take a lot of getting used to wearing them while painting... may have to also change them quite often when they eventually become damp inside even when the gloves have been pre-powdered inside... maybe sprinkle some more talcum powder to reduce the dampness inside the gloves. I am bad 'though when it comes to washing and cleaning my brushes... I tend to use my fingers to clean them more thoroughly... Hmmm, I definitely have to wear gloves then.

    As DMP is also about drawing, I'd like to add that I do wear one when I'm drawing with black charcoal sticks, but only to protect my fingers from getting sooty. However, I read in (refer below quote) that some charcoal could be toxic. So I guess, if one is unsure, it's best to wear gloves.

    "Question: Is Drawing Charcoal Toxic?
    Answer: Generally, no. Charcoal is made from willow or vine. The natural stick form is the purest. Most compressed charcoals use natural gums as binders. If you want to be completely certain, choose a brand that are labeled 'non toxic', and carry a certification such as the 'AP' seal of the Art and Creative Materials Institute, Inc.

    Charcoal does create a lot of dust. Don't blow the dust off by mouth, as this can cause you to inhale the fine particles, which may cause lung irritation. A sharp tap of the drawing board will encourage particles to drop from the page, or flicked away using a very soft brush. Use a wet cloth or mop to clean surfaces. People who are sensitive to particle irritation or who frequently use charcoal in large amounts would be well advised to use a dust respirator (dust mask).

    Note that carbone pencils and some charcoal-like products are actually made with waste carbon from burning oil, and/or may have oily and possibly toxic solvents and binders added. Ask your retailer for the MSDS (materials safety data sheet) for your specific product."

  • Thanks for starting this disscusssion Gary. As you know I brought up a thread on fumes in the studio. I spent 28 years in the chemical industry and was exposed too many times. I guess my feeling is not if but when I will develop some form of cancer. Many of the chemicals we used 28 years ago that would not hurt you based on the MSDS are now carcenegens. Wear gloves or at least use a barrier cream and learn to clean brushes without grinding them in the palm of your hand with a cleaner. Don't assume because it is label natural or biodegradable it is safe. Many 'natural' things will kill us if ingested or absorbed.
    I am setting up an exhaust system for my studio. I am also using the blue nytrile gloves Garry mentioned, and trying to use good habits in the studio. You hands sweat with the gloves and that takes some getting use to.
    I know that some say to just move to a diffferent medium but just because you use water to clean with does not remove the hazards. They are just different. Safe practices are the key and sharring our ideas or safe practices is a worthwhile exercise. Gary
  • When I sit down to paint the first thing I do is put Glove in a Bottle on my hands. Then I use latex gloves. When it's really hot outside I will sometimes wear thin white cotton gloves. I found a big package of them at a yard sale. Not as safe but still offers some protection especially with the glove in a Bottle cream. Then when I'm finished painting I wash my hands with a liquid that removes lead.
    And for you Charley, I go to the gym in the morning 3 times a week which I've done for years and started a wheat free/sugar free diet two weeks ago. I'm more worried about a stroke from high cholesterol then cancer right now.
  • tjstjs -
    edited November 2012
    Ya know I love you guys but......

    If you are truly concerned about the toxicity of fine art painting - do you bury your painting in a toxic waste dump after it's painted? Studies have proven it emits chemicals.

    The same chemicals you are so painstakingly protecting yourself from during the painting process you now breath in when it's on your walls even those hazardous charcoal drawings.

    Just to let you all know :D

  • You are so correct TJ. There is off-gasing from an endless list of products in our homes, workplaces, and even our cars--and unless we each have our own reverse osmosis water filters, there are traces of thousands of chemicals in our water. Don't get me wrong, however, I sincerely fear these things, but the best protection is pretty much a matter of common sense, keeping a realistic perspective, and having a sense of balance. There is no way to escape harmful substances in this world--we can only try to avoid high concentrations and extraordinary exposure.

    People compelled toward creativity, more than many other groups, probably lean more toward the perfectionist, obsessive-compulsive types of personalities. I'm a bit like that myself. That's probably the reason for the "Artists' Curse" that Mark has mentioned a few times. These personalities are more atuned to what is amiss, out-of-place, or not quite right. There is a personal joke I have with a dear friend of mine--whenever she notices me obsessing over something a little too much, she tells me, "Charley Boy, you are being a Monk!", or "You are Monking out!". The "Monk" refers to the mild comedy detective TV series by that name and Adrian Monk, the main character who is extremely obsessive-compulsive to the point of dysfunction. Now, quite often, even when alone, I'll often remind myself that I'm being a Monk in order to adjust my perpective.
  • I will admit that there are some toxic chemicals I am truly afraid and that's nitrogen, carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrogen sulfide.

    Last week on the Science channel I learned that the average person farts 15 to 25 times a day! That's a half a litter of gas. And what's a fart? Nitrogen, carbon dioxide, methane and hydrogen sulfide!

    Imagine all those poisonous you are inhaling when you sit in a crowded movie theater for 2 hours. Now that (to quote Charley Boy) " Monks me out"!

    Seriously though, you are right, it's all about common sense and balance in everything. :)

  • GaryGary -
    edited November 2012
    Sorry, but minimizing the issue isn't the solution exercise common sense and balance, you first have to have some awareness and knowledge of the potential problems to begin with. Only then can you make an informed, personal decision on how you choose to address the issue, including ignoring it. Folks new to oil painting should have the information necessary to make their own decision in a timely manner (ie., before developing painting habits that might adversely affect their health).
  • I have found that the only time I have paint all over me is when I am mixing a palette and transferring piles of paint from one glass palette to another... then I wear those blue hospital gloves.... other than that I am a neat freak and rarely get paint where it doesnt' belong so I paint gloveless. :D
  • I personally do NOT fart so you are safe with me TJ. :\"> :x :^o
  • I use a apron when paint.I also use one glove on my left hand.
    I use a construction glove made from cotton but has a plastic coating in the palm

  • LizONeal said:

    I personally do NOT fart so you are safe with me TJ. :\"> :x :^o

    Ah....My best friend for life!!!! ;;)

    After reading all off the above posts, I've come to a couple conclusions.

    I intend to wear latex gloves while I paint. I also intend to sell all of the paintings I produce....mostly to people I don't like.


    Then I guess I should worry if you start to send me your paintings? :)) I'd take 'em Kelly!!!!

    BYW,Latex gloves can be hazardous to your health as well!

    Google it. :)
  • Thanks to those who mentioned Nitrile gloves....I wasn't aware of them. I did a bit of research on them, the web has lots of articles if you do a search. Here are a couple of articles comparing them to latex and vinyl gloves:

    I also didn't know about Gloves in a Bottle; here are a couple of websites describing this product:
  • tjstjs -
    edited November 2012
    Gary we must have been cross posting here. Just take this for what it's worth cause I couldn't delete it.

    You know you are one of my dear friends but all these warnings are put out by companies not to protect themselves against the general user of their products but to protect themselves against the idiots who like Van Gogh stuck paint brushes in their mouth loaded with paint and those that are lawsuit happy.

    You can google and read all the PDF's from these companies. Never once will you notice the amounts that are needed to produce toxic effects. It's not included for a reason and all of this is drafted under the advice of their attorneys.

    I know cause I've lived more than half my life with one of those attorneys.

    15 years ago when I was diagnosed with MS I agreed to a study. Every year I undergo extensive testing. Never once has a blood test come back showing I had any level of harmful chemicals in my bloodstream.

    I don't wear gloves or special aprons, don't delouse myself with special solutions or even have an air purifier in the room.

    So if you are truly afraid of your equipment, then have a blood test done. Honestly it's the only way of really knowing. Who knows, something else might show up that has nothing to do with art supplies?

    It's cheap! Give yourself some peace of mind :)
  • As I said before, I worked in the chemical ind. and if you want to trust them to warn you of hazzards your trust is missplaced. The hazzard police only work on squeeky wheel issues. We had butadiene in the ground water for years and it was know by many but never disclosed. But there is no need for debate or to dismiss concern by those that wish to use our materials and raise the bar of safety at the same time. Each person must be the articifer of there own level of concern or lack there of.
    Interesting is that nitrile gloves are made from acrylonitrile and butadiene, both carcenigens but apparently rendered safe in the reactive proccess. We used them for handling all types of chemicals and never had a problem with them. I worked with ABS modified plastic. A-acrylonitrile, B-butidiene, S-styrene. Nasty stuff until reacted. Cancer runs about 40% in the older workers before masks, gloves, and containment.
  • GaryGary -
    edited November 2012
    No issues TJ! :) Just a little exercise in education and awareness. Everyone's tolerance level is very different. I'm not afraid of my equipment, just cautious....too many documented stories of the effects of long term exposure to certain low level chemicals of one sort or another. In my case it might be to handling (no gloves!) the plastic M&M bags on a frequent and daily basis! :D

    Your absolutely correct about annual physicals and blood work ..... its good for all sorts of preventative measures and establishing baselines as each of us are a bit different - that's how they discovered my cancer - blood work from my annual physical. I've actually had cancer twice and as those who have had it know, the treatment can mess up all sorts of things that were normal before the treatment but are side effect of treatment. I have blood tests every 3 months and nothing, absolutely nothing related to painting has ever showed up. I did however, talk with my doctors about oil painting. They basically said to me what we have been talking about in this aware of what your using and any potential health risks (= education), take reasonable precautions (e.g., good air circulation), don't do really dumb things (think it was Charley who mention the old masters licking their loaded brushes...yuck! or blend paint with your fingers as I was doing) and clean up thoroughly and immediately after an accident (spilling a bottle of solvent for example or getting paint all over your fingers). What the doctor's continually stress to me however, is that what doesn't affect me might very well affect someone else at the same or even lower levels of exposure....and.... that my exposure levels (resulting in potential adverse affects) to any given chemical/metal not only can change with time but will change with time. Basically their advice was go have fun painting, be aware of what your using, act reasonably/responsibly and get checked regularly just to make sure your body is responding in the same positive way.

    It's all good my dear friend! :)
  • I am probably the worlds worst at taking precautions but trying to be more careful with my health nowadays, gotta save this poor old liver to share! @-)
  • can and you will! I can't think of a better reason or a more loving act for Jenn. :x
  • edited November 2012
    Gary, Your point on changing sensitivity to substances over time or as we age is quite valid and pertinent. I used to sell and work with hardwood lumber from all over the world. The rosewoods are notorious for causing horrible skin problems in some people just like poison ivy. Some of my customers worked with rosewood for years without using any extra precautions beyond what they used for other woods and never had any problems. At some point, however, their bodies rebelled and they became so sensitized to the oils in rosewood that they couldn't touch it or be in an area where it was stored. Another customer, a Salvadorean woodcarver, made his living carving genuine mahogany parts for custom furniture--after years of his skin being exposed to this wood and breathing in sanding dust, he became hypersensitive to mahogany and could no longer work with it. I personally developed horribly infected eyelids every time I sawed or sanded zebrawood--it took me a few miserable bouts with that condition before I determined the cause. Oak, pine, cedar, and walnut also cause problems with some people. Another customer developed a serious chronic skin condition--when it was suggested that some woods he worked with were the likely cause, he refused to accept that because he had worked with them without problem for years. He kept treating himself for other things that he imagined might be the cause and was trying all kinds of medications including antibiotics. His stubbornness prolonged his suffering and his self treatment could have led to other serious health problems.

    I would occasionally need to spray lacquer on some woodworking projects and never had any problems with the small amount of the fumes that I was exposed to--I stay away from it now because my body was telling me that it wasn't good with swollen tonsils and other alarming sensations. So one lesson is that even if something doesn't bother you now, protecting yourself can delay or avoid the hypersensitivities that could develop later. Also, stay educated, stay vigilant, and realize our bodies change.
  • Wow! I've just noticed you're now a DMP gold star contributor, TJ! Congratulations!
  • tjs said:

    Seriously folks, this entire thread is a mute point since according to the Mayan calendar Dec. 21, 2012 is the end of the world!

    So I say - paint eaters unite! Personally I'm pouring myself a big glass of Slow Dry Medium and making a nice fat sandwich and spread Cadmium Yellow on one side and Titanium white on the other. And for dessert I'll have a scoop of ice cream topped with burnt umber and a dollup of Alizarian Crimson. Then I'll paint my skin a lovely Ultramarine Blue since I've always had a fondness for smurfs! :D

    Party on! :))


  • Vangie said:

    Wow! I've just noticed you're now a DMP gold star contributor, TJ! Congratulations!

    Yep… she's the first. Kind of fitting, I think.
  • David you don't have to worry about a lawsuit cause.........


    You are more than welcome to talk to my Kevin cause that's what he does the majority of his day is to defend people's businesses against the clinically neurotic and those lookin' for a quick pay day.

    The only problem is it may take him over a month to get back to you!

    Seriously though, I just wish people would realize that absolutely EVERYTHING in this world is a potential toxin. But it only becomes toxic if you are stupid and expose yourself to extreme amounts.

    Realize that you have lived long enough to read this, despite the millions of toxins that you all have been exposed too in your life.

    I have read so many posts on art forums such as this, that honestly if I were to believe it all, I would never have taken up painting. And it would not surprise me in the least that within a decade at that rate that this stuff spreads on the net, we will be lucky if we are allowed to use crayons and a coloring book.
  • I thought you were Russian....not Mayan. :)>-
  • You are so right Liz I totally forgot! I guess I better stop my extra large order of Ultramarine Blue that I intended to paint myself with :))

  • Yep, you better cuz I am thinking we will be around for awhile yet! I did give Jenn her Christmas present early just in case tho! :-$
  • Oh that's a great idea Liz! Your daughter deserves it:)
  • GaryGary -
    edited November 2012
    TJ.....your a sick puppy!! :o3 'Everyone' knows you have to add a bit of vodka to your sdm cocktail to give it just a little more kick - you also forgot to mention to hold the ice so as not to cool the sdm cocktail down to much and be sure to shake and not stir!

    And on the subject of painting safety....By your own words it is clearly evident that you are being affected at this very moment by all your toxic painting supplies! We warned you about memory loss as an early indicator of over exposure and increased sensitivity to paint 'stuff'. Warnings in this thread you have clearly chosen to ignore! My evidence you ask? You didn't even remember your are Russian and not Mayan until Liz corrected you! Given your obvious advanced symptoms, your time is short so live out your smurf fantasy before the 21st arrives. Go for it! Just do it!! Submit your extra large order of .....of .....hum, can't seem remember the color you mentioned!! Pass me a another one of your cocktails please...just make sure your wearing latex gloves when you do! :P ;)
  • tjstjs -
    edited November 2012
    ^:)^ :)) =)) ^:)^

    Gary aka art buddy.....There is no way I can top that! You win hands down :)) You made my morning!!!!!!!!!!!

    Just wondering if Vangie has started a petition to get my gold star taken away? :-S
  • I'd give you two gold stars TJ! :)
  • You are too nice! I bet taking my gold star away is on David's 'too do' list!

  • You guys are so funny! I'm glad I popped in! I wear those blue nitrile gloves always. Why not? I sort of think of it as erring on the side of caution and although they are a real pain, I feel better for wearing them at the end of the day:) ~O)
  • tjstjs -
    edited November 2012
    Madeira said:

    ... I wear those blue nitrile gloves always....... although they are a real pain

    Hi Madeira!
    Since the blue gloves are such a pain, why not just paint your hands blue?
  • really DO want to be a smurf!! Now your recruiting Madeira to be your sister smurf. I'm jealous....can I be brother smurf?! Maybe we can convince Mark that all true Caderites should have a little blue smurf tatoo with his name under it ...or instead of gold stars, a little blue smurf smiley......note to self: be a leader, make appointment for tatoo, send pic to TJ. :D
  • We had a group tattoo in Birmingham, you missed out Gary and TJ!
  • Congratulations, Gary!!! You've got a shining golden star!!! Well-deserved.
  • Congrats Gary! Here's what you missed.....
  • LOL, figured you knew right where that pic was Tam!
  • I kept it very safe!
  • OMG !!! I forgot all about that picture!!! We had a blast! That's Liz looking for a good spot on her butt to put the tat... and me looking at my boobs... not enough room there!!! :D
  • I'm so proud to have such a wonderful group of really sick friends! :) We must have the next meeting in Hawaii just to see Mark's pose in the group pic and his choice of location for the tat! I'm sure he would want to show it off while surfing.....and David could find a way to use it on the website....or not!! :D
  • Paint and oil really harmful for skin but I kept it very safe! you can use any kind of gloves which help to protect you, well i used gym gloves for paid lol!
  • edited August 2017
    I have been painting in oils for a long time. Only things that one needs to be careful about are thinner/turps and dried paint dust. Unless you start eating paint or rubbing onto your eyes anything won't happen to your body. Even lead white is not that problematic to a mature human body (safer pigments are better for children). Artists previously died of various reasons such as hunger, frustration, smoking, drinking, sexual diseases, depression but not paint poisoning. Others died of old age related problems. Gloves are good for cold weather and keeping hands clean. Living in a big city is more dangerous than painting in oils.
  • My son had to where the gloves because he was alergect to motor oil. They  are black and ISO 9001 certified, by Sasha safety corp.  called raven. They fit right in with my black walls.  100 to a box.they are 6ml.  For my they do make my hand sweat abit. Still use them though.   Happy painting
  • edited August 2017
    When I was in college, on the topic of "toxicity of oil paint" we were shown and read stories of so many artists who suffered many different forms of poisoning and death, and brain/nervous impairments. Whatever, it is best to play it safe especially for the long term. As long as cleaning your skin promptly and fresh air, it's alright, no worries.

  • SummerSummer -
    edited September 2017
    Protecting Hands: Since we are re-visiting this thread, to date,  I submit the following:  Lately, I have begun wearing both the white cotton and black nitrile gloves at the same time.  Moisture is absorbed into the thin, white, cotton gloves, and the nitrile gloves protect my hands and the white gloves.  I don't paint for very long at a time and the white gloves dry out inside the nitrile gloves when I take breaks from painting.  I remain comfortable while painting wearing both pairs of gloves.  I purchase both products from  I'm not pushing any brand, but the white glove brand I use is Tinksky and they are lightweight soft cotton working gloves, 8 pair sets for $8.  The Nitrile I use are thin disposable black medical examination gloves also from Amazon several hundred to a box.  I figure I wash my hands plenty as a housewife and don't want to add more hand washing as an artist--haha.  Summer
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