Artists working with fibers, fabric, leather, and textiles may work with hazardous chemical products that can harm their health, such as:
- Azoic, basic, and disperse dyes that can cause allergies when inhaled or in contact with exposed skin.
- Fiber-reactive dyes that can cause severe respiratory allergies when inhaled as dust.
- Corrosive or cancer-causing vat dyes containing caustic soda or dichromate compounds.
- Corrosive mordants containing ammonia, caustic soda, bleach, formic acid, sodium bisulfate, or sulfuric acid.
- Toxic mordants containing oxalic acid, potassium dichromate, thiourea, or tannin.
- Toxic and flammable adhesives.
- Toxic mothballs containing the insecticides p-dichlorobenzene or naphthalene.
- Toxic fiber treatments containing formaldehyde.
- Toxic brominated or chlorinated flame retardants.
- Many other chemicals listed on the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals manufacturers restricted substance list.
Protect Your Skin and Eyes
- Wear chemical-resistant gloves when working with dyes, mordants, solvents, adhesives, fiber treatments and mothballs.
- Wear gloves, goggles, and protective clothing when working with corrosive mordants and vat dyes.
Protect Your Lungs
- Buy premixed dyes to control airborne dust.
- Wax used in batik can release flammable and toxic vapors when it is overheated. To prevent this, heat wax just to melting.
- When working with powdered dyes or corrosive mordants, wear a dust mask and either use a glove box or local exhaust ventilation to protect you from hazardous dust.
- Keep dye containers closed and upright to keep toxic dusts from spilling.
- Mop floors and wet wipe your tables after working with toxic pigment dusts.
Use Safer Practices and Materials
- Use safer mordants containing alum, sodium chloride, aluminum salts, or tin salts.
- Control moths by storing freshly cleaned clothes in airtight containers. Vacuum drawers, closets, and furniture to remove lint and hair where moths breed, then dispose of the bag promptly.
- Use safer fabric-treatment and dye-setting products like alum, citric acid, cream of tartar, copperas, Glauber's salt, potash, sodium acetate, sodium carbonate, salt, vinegar or other chemicals listed on EPA’s Safer Chemicals Ingredient List.
- If a flame retardant treatment is necessary, use less toxic fire-retardant treatment chemicals containing boric acid, borate compounds, ammonium phosphate, ammonium chloride, or chitosan.
- Visit the Art Supplies page to learn about safety warnings on product labels.
Safely Dispose of Textile Chemical Wastes
- Empty containers can be disposed in the trash if no more than 1 inch of residue remains in the bottom, or nor more than 3% by weight.
- Dispose of partially full containers of dyes, mordants, solvents, adhesives, fiber treatments, and mothballs as hazardous waste.
- Encaustic waste in solid wax that does not contain arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, or silver can be disposed as solid waste.
- Encaustic waste that contains any of the metals listed above should be disposed as hazardous waste.
- Dispose of dry pigment powder as hazardous waste.
- Whenever you create art, make sure the waste you generate is properly disposed. Learn more about waste disposal for artists.