Should You Wear Hearing Protection and other PPE when Detailing? The Answers May Surprise You!

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It doesn’t make any sense to spend gobs of time and money trying to maintain your vehicle and then completely neglect your own body.

Auto detailing is a fun hobby and career but it can definitely take its toll on your body if you let it.

What could possibly be so dangerous about detailing?

Glad you asked….

Why You Should Protect Yourself While Detailing

Your Ears

The most obvious peril to your body while detailing is hearing damage from tools like Dual Action and Rotary Polishers. If you’ve ever ran a polisher at correcting speeds then it’s pretty obvious that the sound is uncomfortable.

A little known bit of information is that any sound you hear that is loud enough within arms reach to cause you to have to raise your voice significantly to talk to someone is loud enough to damage your hearing over time.

Polishers definitely fall into this category. When running a polisher, please wear hearing protection. It can be as simple as cheap $1 disposable inserts or as nice as full ear shooting cans.

If you like to listen to music while detailing (who doesn’t?) then you might consider buying some noise cancelling full ear headphones. You’ll be able to listen to your music at a comfortable, safe volume while blocking out the damaging polisher noise.

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What is the reward for protecting your hearing? Well besides not going deaf early in life, you won’t have to live with a ringing in your ears, called Tinnitus, for the rest of your life. Tinnitus sucks. I know from experience.

Your Hands and Arms

Dual Action Orbital Polishers create a lot of vibration. The typical paint correcting session lasts up to 8 hours of accumulated polishing time. While vibrations from one session aren’t likely to cause long term damage to your body, multiple sessions on a regular basis can.

Vibration from power tools can cause what is known as HAVS or Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome which starts out as pain in the muslces and joints and can eventually lead to:

  • attacks of whitening (blanching) of one or more fingers when exposed to cold, also called dead finger
  • tingling and loss of sensation in the fingers
  • loss of light touch
  • pain and cold sensations between periodic white finger attacks
  • loss of grip strength
  • bone cysts in fingers and wrists

Source: https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/phys_agents/vibration/vibration_effects.html

Much like hearing damage, once you notice you have it, it’s too late. Get yourself a cheap pair of anti-vibration gloves. They don’t have to be fancy. This $15 pair from Amazon would suffice:

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Also, when working with chemicals, even when not polishing, you should be wearing hand protection. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this snippet from the NIH database for a common degreaser:

  • Skin Contact: Concentrated Solutions May Produce Immediate Skin Damage. Diluted Solutions May Produce Severe Irritation Which Intensifies As Contact Continues.

Source: https://hpd.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brands?tbl=brands&id=5005022

Yikes!

You don’t have to wear fancy, expensive gloves. They can be as simple and disposable vinyl gloves which you buy by the box for a few bucks.

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Your Eyes

Running a polisher means spinning something at a high rate of speed inches from your face. It also means you’re dealing with chemicals that can sling, again, inches from your face. You should always wear eye protection while using power tools or working with chemicals near your face.

Safety glasses are a dime a dozen. You can even get fancy ones that improve vision, reduce fatigue, block sunlight, you name it for a only a few bucks.

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Speaking of blocking light, another safety concern is working on bright colored paint in direct sunlight. If you’ve ever worked on pearl white paint in the sun you’ve no doubt experienced what feels like mild snow blindness when you looked away from the paint. Grab a pair of tinted glasses to save your eyes in these kinds of conditions.

Your Nose, Throat, and Lungs

Some automotive detailing chemicals are harmful to breath. Things like degreasers, all purpose cleaners (APCs), and even paint coatings can give off harmful fumes when sprayed or while drying. Just read these common symptoms of overexposure to a common degreaser:

  • Overexposure Will Produce Tissue Destruction Particularly On Mucous Membranes Of Eyes, Mouth, And Respiratory Tract. Ingredients In This Product May Aggravate Existing Skin, Eye, Or Respiratory Disorders. Inhalation: Inhalation Of Mists May Produce Severe Nasal And Respiratory Irritation Or Permanent Damage. Overexposure By Inhalation May Cause Respiratory Irritation. Eye Contact: Eye Contact May Produce Severe Irritation An Blindness Unless Immediately Flushed. Medical Conditions Aggravated By Exposure: May Aggravate Existing Skin, Eye, Or Respiratory Disorders.

Source: https://hpd.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brands?tbl=brands&id=5005022

Very bad stuff!

You should never use these kinds of chemicals in enclosed spaces without proper ventilation. I always recommend wearing a respirator when working with these things. Respirators can be as cheap as $15 for disposable ones to $25 for ones with replaceable cartridges.

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Sure, you might feel kinda silly working on a car wearing a respirator but you’ll look more silly when you’re getting breathing treatments at the hospital at a young age. If you’re a professional, your customers may actually feel more confident in you and your work if you dawn proper PPE or Personal Protective Equipment while working.

Even if you opt for the eco-friendly chemicals, it’s still wise to take extra cautions to protect yourself. History is riddled with examples of products that were deemed safe for you and and environment only to find out years later that they were anything but.

Your Knees and Back

Another part of the body that many people don’t think about ahead of time is your knees. Kneeling down on concrete for extended periods of time can wreak havoc on your knees. I recommend opting for knee pads or one of these folding matts to prevent pain.

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Your back is in a similar position (pun intended). When you’re bent over for hours on end you can stress the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your back. Sitting on your butt on the above mentioned folded padded mats or a stool can do wonders for relieving stress in your back and preventing pain.

To Summarize

As you can see, there are definite risks to the detailing hobby. While it’s not a dangerous hobby by any stretch you should still take steps to protect yourself. If you are doing auto detailing for a living then you cannot ignore these risks due to the high frequency of exposure you have to everything listed in this post.

The total cost to protect yourself from all of the risks above is less than $100 and can help you enjoy a longer, healthier life which means more detailing as well! All of the PPE mentioned can be used for other things too, such as using yard equipment, mechanic work, house work, etc…

You take care of your car. You should take care of yourself too!

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