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shopgloves Real men don't wear shop gloves!


Bryan Bosch

In this article:

  • Why wearing protective shop gloves is smart.
  • What protective shop gloves to use for different chemicals & exposures.
  • What respirator to use for different chemicals & exposures.
     

For the record, I'm no safety nazi. In fact, I don't think that power sports junkies in general fit that bill. However, most will agree that it's simply smart to dress for the crash, not the ride. But, do we apply the same logic when dressing for bike repair and maintenance? More specifically, do you take precautions to protect your skin and lungs from absorbing the chemicals and materials that you are working with?

image.png
Just put em' on!

While we may not feel the affects of chemical absorption immediately like we would the affects from a crash, over time (sometimes sooner), you may be setting yourself up for health issues. The purpose of this article is more to serve as a point of awareness and discussion than anything. At the end of the day, your body, your health, your choice. I contend that simple, inexpensive precautions can spare unnecessary heartache, time and medical costs.

Skin absorption can quickly transport chemicals both into the skin and ultimately into the body without you even knowing it. For the types of maintenance & repair tasks that riders do, this is likely the most significant avenue of exposure. Some of the chemicals that riders use can potentially result in systemic toxicity if they penetrate through the skin, not only causing skin problems (most common), but other potentially more serious health issues away from the site of entry.

Per the CDC, 90-95% of occupational skin diseases are Contact dermatitis that has symptoms that includes:

  • Itching
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • The formation of small blisters or wheals (itchy, red circles with a white center) on the skin
  • Dry, flaking, scaly skin that may develop cracks

 

hand_dermatitis.jpg

 

Much less frequent, but more serious potential problems can include skin cancers and neuropathies (nerve damage), but since there are so many chemical agents out there, their affects on the body are not fully understood by any means. What we do know is that there is absolutely no upside to exposing your skin to the chemicals that riders typically work with.

Here's a free service that allows you to search for Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on millions of products: http://www.msds.com/ A MSDS sheet is a detailed information bulletin prepared by the manufacturer or importer of a chemical that describes the physical and chemical properties, physical and health hazards, routes of exposure, precautions for safe handling and use, emergency and first-aid procedures, and control.

So, what's the solution? Stop working on your bike? Hell no! :lame: Buy the right gloves and the biggest secret... wear them!
 

Chemical Resistant Glove Material Guide

courtesy of Granger.com
glove_materials.PNG

 


I've read people say, "Gloves are too expensive!" I say with record high medical insurance deductibles, are you sure it's cheaper should you end up needing medical care? I'll admit, when I was in my teens and 20s, I was bulletproof and didn't wear chemical resistant gloves. But, a few summers ago, I ended up with a dermatitis from unprotected exposure to a silicone sealant and learned my lesson. It took months for the skin on my hands to finally calm down. I'd have gladly paid the cost of a decades worth of gloves to have avoided!

However, I will concede that there is a legitimate concern at some level of loss of tactile feel that only you can decide how much you're willing to deal with. In some situations, you simply may not be able to complete a specific task with gloves on. However, I don't see this as and all or nothing proposition. You might even consider the thinnest gloves available for more delicate tasks where glove strength isn't a big issue anyway.

Another issue is breathing in chemical vapors or materials such as steel or aluminum from sanding or grinding. Wearing a face mask or respirator can be hot, sweaty and restricts your breathing to some extent, but I think it's worth the cost and mild irritation if it can minimize or eliminate the chances of negative health affects or disease.  How to select the right respirator

image.png
How to select the right respirator

We're all going to die of something, but dying is easy! I just don't want to suffer needlessly while I'm here and wearing chemical resistant gloves or a respirator while wrenching just stacks the deck ever so slightly in my favor. ;)

 

Ok, post your arguments, er, uh, debate points in the comments section below. I'm ok if you call my hands "girly-man hands". :p

Edited by Bryan Bosch

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6 minutes ago, brichter said:

I was a mechanic for 23 years, wore latex gloves for the last 10. Before that, gasoline was a great hand cleaner, and the worst stuff I ever got on my hands was called Skydrol (that shit would &%$#@! up your hands in a minute, and last for hours!). I have a few minor issues that come and go, that the dermatologist said are related to chemical exposure but it could be a lot worse.

I won't go near anything that runs the risk of getting absorbed without nitrile gloves now. I have some friends with skin way worse than mine, we're talking deep cracks that bleed, and make it so they can't even pick stuff up. 😱

Just put the gloves on, you'll be glad later!

Thx for sharing! Hindsight is always 20/20, isn't it! I always say better to learn from the mistakes of another than to learn them firsthand! Not sure why some think they are immune to the negative effects of the chemicals we use. Seems foolish at best.

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After 15 years working on military aircraft fuel systems/engines my body finally had enough of the chemicals due to constant overexposure.  Now, I'm allergic to absolutely anything with a petroleum base.  That includes, but is not limited to; nitrile, latex, vinyl, rubber, polyesters, fuel, oil, thermoplastics, paints, cleaners, anything with a fragrance, and the list goes on and on..  My condition has progressed to the point where I no longer need to physically touch the substance, just being in an environment where fumes are present is enough to cause a reaction. My dermatologist informed me that she has serious concerns if I ever could go into surgery, because my body would react to everything the doctors would've touched resulting in possible internal/external infections.  So yeah, I wish my condition was only limited to my hands.. instead I get the "pleasure" to deal with it on every square inch of my body.

As a funny caveat, the dermatologist said I should be living in a bubble.. however, I'd be allergic to my living environment so that was a definite no-go. 🤯

Moral of the story, limit your petroleum exposure while you still can.. Because if you don't, your life could become a very painful existence.

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I use the cheapest nitrile gloves available. I will throw away several pair every hour I work on my bike. I find that I will  have to stop to look in my owners manual or do a google search so it is nice to just slip off a glove and not get oil and grease on everything. If I wash my hands after every project my skin gets dry and that brings its own problems. 

We sell gloves in our janitorial supply business and Nitrile are the best selling type of glove by a long shot. It used to be latex but some have latex allergies, they sweat more, and they cost more. For me, the only reason to keep the thicker nitrile gloves is for tire changing, the really thin ones don't last long when you are really gettin' after it. 

 

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Geezer that just recently started wearing Nitrile gloves after many years without, They are hot and sweaty but I still try to wear them as much as possible if I remember.

The outfit my wife works at buys them by the case so she can purchase them thru her work at $3-4 bx of 100 for 7ml so cost is not a factor and quite cheap.

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13 hours ago, zibbit u2 said:

After 15 years working on military aircraft fuel systems/engines my body finally had enough of the chemicals due to constant overexposure.  Now, I'm allergic to absolutely anything with a petroleum base.  That includes, but is not limited to; nitrile, latex, vinyl, rubber, polyesters, fuel, oil, thermoplastics, paints, cleaners, anything with a fragrance, and the list goes on and on..  My condition has progressed to the point where I no longer need to physically touch the substance, just being in an environment where fumes are present is enough to cause a reaction. My dermatologist informed me that she has serious concerns if I ever could go into surgery, because my body would react to everything the doctors would've touched resulting in possible internal/external infections.  So yeah, I wish my condition was only limited to my hands.. instead I get the "pleasure" to deal with it on every square inch of my body.

As a funny caveat, the dermatologist said I should be living in a bubble.. however, I'd be allergic to my living environment so that was a definite no-go. 🤯

Moral of the story, limit your petroleum exposure while you still can.. Because if you don't, your life could become a very painful existence.

Sorry to hear this, but thanks for sharing that sobering warning! Can you believe we got flack on Facebook for posting this article? Not sure why some are happy living in ignorance. I know this topic can seem like a "duh!" to some but I still see plenty of videos on youtube of wrenches with no gloves, so I know it's more common that one might assume.

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usually I put some on to handle oil filters, brake clean, and when i use gas for cleaning.

try and keep the fan blowing fresh air at me when i use aerosols.

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I started wearing gloves in the 1970's. At first, it was simply to keep my hands clean. Over time, I noticed less chemical side effects and discovered an added bonus, my hands 'self moisturized' when wearing gloves. So a day in the shop means a day with my hands being in better condition than they were when I started.

I still get cuts and bruises. A full day in the shop and I will go through a dozen gloves. Throwing out when torn. If I pull a pair off and they are soaked with sweat inside, I turn them inside out and let dry (takes an hour), pop on a fresh pair.

Buy them by the case, they get very cheap. I used to spend more on GoJo then I do with gloves.

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Look at the MSDS for the typical chemicals used in the bikers garage.

Kleenflo brake cleaner, contains tetracholorethylene, known esophageal carcinogen. Amazing how many people use this like it's just pressurized soap water in a can.

2 stroke oil contains benzene, there is no safe limit for benzene. Take in enough and you will develop leukemia and a bunch of other cancers.

Other consumables, like assembly lube, contact cleaner, kerosene to clean out air filters, the oil for air filters, used motor oil, canned graphite grease, none of these are any good for skin nor should they be in your system.

The people I see use these chemicals carelessly on Youtube videos clearly do not understand the dangerosity of these chemicals and the insane medical costs you will rack up if you develop a cancer.

I have numerous biochemistry and chemistry credits from college, so my words are educated.

Please, read the MSDS on something before you buy it. If the MSDS says any of the ingredients are known carcinogens even in lab animals, use with caution and use it sparingly.

 

Final piece of advice: if you can use WD40 as a substitute for whatever, use it instead. WD40 is not known to be carcinogenic.

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When I was going to tech school for automotive mechanics, a rookie guy delivering the chemicals accidentally switched Parts cleaner with a caustic solution, we actually had a guy that refused to wear the gloves. He now has a bunch of money from the lawsuit and has to go to dialysis twice a week, due to kidney failure. I'm helping my daughter fix up her first car that I got her, and the first thing she does when we get over the shop is with put on her gloves. Maybe I'm wrong but I'll take that super cheap precaution, I have also had 3 of the younger generation ask for help on their cars and bikes and I watched three of them clean their hands with brake parts cleaner, because it was fast, I properly calibrated all of them I'm sure they will never do that again.

Edited by Patrockyj
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@Patrockyj  haven't we all used brake cleaner to clean our hands?  I learned how to work on cars/bikes from my dad and that's how he did it.  I didn't really appreciate how harmful this stuff was until I started painting cars in the mid 80's.  This was back before the water based paints came onto the market.  6 months into it I was in the hospital for a week sick as I've ever been. Doc told me to stop using these chemicals as it was killing me. 

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I've worn gloves for my entire 45 year career, at work and at play. My first job (age 17) was making steel animal traps.

The company supplied us with cotton gloves that lasted one day per pair; they kept my hands from sharp burrs on steel stampings, not so much from grease and oil which made the gloves "soaked" after one 8-hour shift- and, usually holes in the finger tips of the gloves.

In my part time job as a mechanic, gloves saved my knuckles countless times when a bolt would suddenly break loose. Later (most of my working life) in heavy industry, working on big steel plates and hot plastic, I wore gloves while working on the tooling, using the chain hoist on a daily basis, etc. My co-workers would poke fun at me, "sissy boy, wears gloves for everything". Yeah... but I didn't have huge callouses and cuts on my hands, let alone the telltale permanently grease stained fingernails like they did.

I remember a trip to the fair when I was still in my 20s, where the "guess your weight / age / occupation" guy would, for a dollar, guess one of those (your choice). I told him to guess my occupation. He immediately examined my hands and pronounced "You are an accountant!" ...Wrong! I'm a mechanic. 

Nowadays, padded work gloves work great for tire changes, engine work, and so on. If it's just an oil change or if I am dipping my hands in chemicals, I use single use surgical gloves. 

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My pop restored vintage cars, did some bikes, and generally doused himself in all manner of toxic fun motorized and other art projects his whole life.  His doctors said those things were all triggers in activating his Parkinson's.  Wish he had learned about that earlier, and I sure hope I learned early enough.  Hopefully my glove and respirator equipped self will fare better should those genes try to start giving me trouble.  Skin is permeable, so whatever soaks in is in.  

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My (ex) father-in-law used to make his living buying up 'beater' cars & fixing them up, -long before Ed China and his conspicuous blue gloves were on TV.  He suffered for many years from chronic contact dermatitis as a result, got so bad he had to slather his hands in lanolin, and wear medical gloves to keep his skin conditioned.  It utterly stopped him doing something that he had a passion for.   

Imagine if your hands were so bad, and skin so damaged and sensitive that you couldn't grip the bars to ride!   

(That's how bad his were).

-That's where the attitude of  "I'm a real man,  -I don't need to do that sh*t" will put you in the end....... -wish I had a picture of his hands to show you all.... it was gruesome.

As an apprentice, (before gloves were common....) it was drummed into me that 'barrier cream' was the way to go, trouble was that it made your hands too slippery, and many ignored using it as a result.  I thank the stars that I persevered.  My hands are still OK.

As another poster stated, -gloves probably work out cheaper than buying Mojo cleaner.... never mind the prospect of 

☠️ ☠️ ☠️ ☠️ ☠️ ☠️  DEATH FROM CANCER!  ☠️ ☠️ ☠️ ☠️ ☠️ ☠️    

Great to bring this subject up for discussion Bryan.  Thank you!

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I'm a commercial electrician and most of the contractors I worked for required us to wear cut resistant gloves.  At first I hated it, but most of the contractors I worked for supplied us with high quality gloves that provide excellent dexterity.  Now I rarely work without gloves. They are washable and I actually work faster with them because of the protection they provide.  These have been my favorite.  I did a test with a carpet knife  comparing them to leather gloves and the blade sliced right through the leather but left no mark in the cut resistant gloves. They usually outlast mechanics gloves and I get them for as low as $7 pair off ebay https://m.fullsource.com/great-white-gloves/

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