Cleaning your substrate surface or epoxy mold before applying your resin will ensure a stronger, cleaner bond when your epoxy attempts to cure.
In this guide we'll explain how to handle different surface types and what you should or shouldn't use to prep your project.
What makes a surface unclean?
In most cases, a surface can be assumed to be unclean if you haven't deliberately prepared it. More specifically, if your substrate or mold contains any type of debris, residue, oil (including skin oil), moisture, or general dust, you should absolutely clean it thoroughly before applying your epoxy.
Some of these contaminants aren't noticeable at a glance, so it's wise to just assume they're there and clean your surface even if nothing stands out otherwise.
How do you clean a substrate surface or mold before you apply the epoxy?
To start, you'll want to wear gloves.
Our skin naturally produces oils that maintain moisture levels and protect from bacteria. While most of the time this is fine and good, these oils can easily be left behind on surfaces you touch (think of fingerprints).
To prevent this, you'll wear gloves while working on your projects. And this protection goes both ways, as these will also protect your skin from the epoxy and other chemicals, which can be irritants for some individuals.
What gloves should you wear?
There are three types of gloves that are all adequate in most cases:
- Butyl Gloves: These are the best and possibly excessive in most situations. No epoxy is going to get through this material, so wearing these will give your hands 100% protection from epoxy and related project materials.
- Nitrile Gloves: These are the most common choice for epoxy users. They provide good protection, preventing epoxy from permeating the nitrile for an extensive amount of time—almost always more than enough for your project sessions. They're also disposable, so you don't have to worry about cleaning them off, as they can be discarded and replaced with a fresh pair each time.
- Latex Gloves: These are the least protective. They'll protect your skin for a while and prevent skin oils from contaminating your surface, but eventually chemicals will seep through, one way or the other. These are also the least resilient, and can be damage easily by sharp edges or abrasiveness.
Best methods for cleaning particular materials
Cleaning your surfaces is easy if you know what to use. Many surfaces can be cleaned with 91% isopropyl alcohol, which is effective because it breaks down residues fast and evaporates quickly, leaving behind no moisture.
For cleaning tools, you can use lint-free rags or high-quality paper towels. You just want to avoid leaving behind fibers while wiping your surfaces.
- Wood surfaces: For this, we suggest 91% isopropyl alcohol. Ethyl alcohol can work if you already have some, but it tends to be less effective in our experience.
- Laminate surfaces: Much like with wood, you can use 91% isopropyl alcohol to clean laminate.
- Tile surfaces: 91% isopropyl alcohol saves the day, once again. You can use it to clean tile surfaces in preparation for an epoxy coating.
- Granite surfaces: Granite you'll want to treat a little differently. Use a soft sponge with some soap and warm water to prepare granite surfaces. Rinse and wipe thoroughly to remove all soap and moisture.
When employing these methods, you should swap out your cleaning rag or towels frequently to avoid leaving behind fibers.
What do you do after cleaning your project surfaces?
After you're done preparing your surfaces—make sure they're dry—you can mix up and apply your epoxy resin.
If you're using a mold for your project, just carefully pour the epoxy into it.
If you'll be applying the epoxy to a substrate, you may want to first apply a seal coat, which will seal porous materials like wood and push out excess air within them. A seal coat will prevent air bubbles from saturating the flood coat when you pour it onto your surface.
From there, you can continue with your project as normal.
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