Protecting Eyes, Hands, and Respiratory System While Soldering

Thread Starter

denni

Joined Jul 18, 2023
21
Hi everyone,

I've been lately doing some persomal electronics projects, particularly in the FPV drone assembly. These projects often necessitate the use of a soldering iron. Even though I'm enjoying the journey, I'm becoming increasingly aware of the potential health and safety hazards tied to soldering.

My main concerns relate to my eyes and hands, as they are usually quite close to the soldering action. Furthermore, the distinctive smell of the solder has led me to wonder if breathing in these fumes could have detrimental effects.

What protective measures can be taken to shield my eyes during soldering? Is wearing everyday eyeglasses sufficient, or should I consider investing in safety goggles?

As for protecting my hands, are there particular glove types recommended for soldering tasks?

Moreover, can the fumes generated during the soldering process pose a risk if inhaled? If so, what steps can I take to protect myself?

I would sincerely appreciate any guidance on these topics, particularly from those who have a considerable amount of experience in soldering.

thanks!
 

ElectricSpidey

Joined Dec 2, 2017
2,753
You are going to get a lot of answers all over the board about whether this is something to worry about or not, so I will just tell you what I do personally.

I have a small fan located on the table to gently blow the fumes from rising directly up into my face and I use a magnifying lamp that also avoids some of the fumes from reaching my face.

I keep the room well ventilated and always wash my hands afterward.

Sometimes when I'm feeling really paranoid I wear a respirator and goggles.

I should add that I have some health issues that require me to be extra cautious when breathing and handling such things.
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
28,523
If concerned there are latex lined work gloves avail from several sources.
You could use a small desk extractor fan to take the fumes away.
Personally I have never used any form of protection when soldering, maybe if I was doing it all day!
 

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
29,878
As @ElectricSpidey says, you are going to get answers all over the board. Personally, I figure that there are so many things in my life that are far more likely to kill me long before poor soldering practices catch up to me that I don't give it a thought. I figure the stress reduction from not worrying about it likely more than offsets the harmful effects. I can't even say that I am careful to make sure I wash my hands after soldering, though I can say that I no longer hold solder between my teeth as a "third hand" like I was more than willing to do in my younger days.

Like @MaxHeadRoom said, if you are doing it a lot for a very extended amount of time, it's worth giving it some thought.
 

Jon Chandler

Joined Jun 12, 2008
995
First, let's establish one point – soldering does not release lead into the air.

The smoke and fumes you see are the flux burning off. If the solder you're using is ROSIN core (which comes from the sap of pine – if I recall correctly – trees). It's pretty harmless.

I have found that non-rosin fluxes can have very harsh vapors that irritate my eyes and throat. A fan will blow them away, but I would suggest using rosin flux instead.

I think almost everyone here will agree with the simple truth that you will burn your fingers when soldering. You only do things like grabbing the hot end of the iron as it's falling off the bench once, but burned fingers happen. Wearing long pants, socks and shoes is my only recommendation against burn protection.
 

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
8,681
been doing home / hobby soldering for 55 years. Not dead yet! And no precautions taken. If it was an eight hour a day job, that would be different.
 

Audioguru again

Joined Oct 21, 2019
6,616
A very cheap soldering iron has no temperature control so usually it is much too hot and then it incinerates the rosin which makes unhealthy smoke.
My Weller soldering iron has temperature control so it does not burn and make smoke from the rosin, instead it melts the rosin making a pleasant scent.

The solder does not splatter so my hands and eyes are not burned.
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
30,504
As mentioned multiple times, expect to find answers from "don't bother" to "extreme cautious".
The most likely and common hazard is burning your skin from touching a hot iron. I have done it many times.

If you are concerned for whatever reason, then do what you must to eliminate the worry.
Otherwise, keep calm and carry on soldering.
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
16,722
the distinctive smell of the solder has led me to wonder if breathing in these fumes could have detrimental effects.
I like the smell of rosin. Some people are hypersensitive to rosin, but it isn't harmful in small doses. If you use lead based solder, you don't need to worry about inhaling lead; it doesn't vaporize at typical soldering temperatures. Avoid inhaling while you're soldering and try to avoid putting your face over whatever you're soldering.

Do wash your hands after handling solder with lead. I doubt that you could ingest enough to cause harm, but young children are more susceptible.
What protective measures can be taken to shield my eyes during soldering? Is wearing everyday eyeglasses sufficient, or should I consider investing in safety goggles?
Eyeglasses should be sufficient. If you're paranoid, you can buy side shields; or wear safety glasses over them.
As for protecting my hands, are there particular glove types recommended for soldering tasks?
Gloves are unnecessary and would impact your dexterity. Just don't touch the business end of a soldering iron (did it once and have not done it since) and things you know are going to be hot.
 

Attachments

Last edited:

SamR

Joined Mar 19, 2019
5,019
I love the smell of rosin but then I used to work in a rosin extraction chemical refinery. My biggest hazard from ~60 years of soldering is holes or black spots burnt in shirts and pants from errant small balls of solder. Albeit when I worked as a welder it was a much worse problem along with socks. You quickly learn (as any child does) not to touch the hot end and that holding one end of a short piece of uninsulated wire to solder the other end is not a wise thing to do that can lead to burnt finger tips. I have vision problems so in addition to eyeglasses I wear a magnifying visor when soldering to help me see rather than for eye protection (solder tends to go down, not up). Haven't gone so far as using benchtop fan/ventilator yet as I've never felt the need for one.
 

KeithWalker

Joined Jul 10, 2017
3,034
I started soldering when I was 11 years old, using a copper soldering iron heated on the gas burner, to experiment with radio circuits. That was 74 years ago. The only problems I have suffered has been occasional slightly burned finger tips when holding bare wire that is being soldered. I still use a soldering iron often but it is far too late for me to start taking any kind of health precautions.
My advice is to do what you think is best.
 

DickCappels

Joined Aug 21, 2008
10,124
The black spots burned into shirts and trousers were common for my first 10 years of soldering. Also during that time I would occasionally find myself removing specs of cooled solder blobs from my eyeglass lenses. I figured the eyeglasses were the most important safety element. Come to think of it I just do not solder until I have glasses on.
 

Boggart

Joined Jan 31, 2022
82
It's not something to worry about, I have a fume extractor which I even remember to turn on sometimes, it has a simple carbon filter and is basically a 120mm computer fan in a box. Pretty common device at electronic supplier stores.

As for the iron, I always recommend a soldering station, you get temperature control and a proper holder for the iron, so less likely to do something stupid like pick it up from the wrong end (you only do this once, believe me). I use a Hakko FX-888D as they are pretty cheap and readily available and work well.
 

Audioguru again

Joined Oct 21, 2019
6,616
My soldering station has temperature control so it has never been hot enough (like most cheap soldering irons) to incinerate the rosin in the solder making smoke.
I have never eaten solder which is probably why I am old and still alive.
 

Tonyr1084

Joined Sep 24, 2015
7,785
Intended to read every comment but after finding so many in agreement I too must add my 5¢ worth:

Breathing smoke of any kind is never "GOOD" for the lungs. Some fluxes are more harmful than others. Some not so harmful that you may have a career in electronics soldering and not suffer any ill effects. The key is to not breathe the smoke directly. Extractor fans (already mentioned above) are the best way to draft the smoke away. If nobody said it before, don't have the fan blowing ON your work but rather have the fan near by your work drawing a slight air current away. Smoke most often rises in your face because of body heat and the convection currents coming from your body heat. The smoke follows the air current. An extractor fan is far more powerful than convection currents. And you don't need a 20 inch box fan, just a small 3 or 4 inch fan quietly pulling air away from your work piece.

The reason you don't want the fan blowing ON your workpiece is because the direct air current will cool the joint before you can fully form it.

As for handling 60/40 or 63/37 Tin/Lead solders, lead is not absorbed by the skin. I'll say that again so it's not mis-read - you can't absorb lead by physical contact. HOWEVER, you CAN transfer lead to food by contact, which you then ingest, giving lead a pathway into your body. Washing your hands after handling leaded solder is perfectly effective for eliminating the need for gloves. Besides, gloves tend to get in the way of handling electronic components unless you use surgical type gloves. But then your hands sweat. And if the glove has powder inside then it turns to mud with your sweat. You end up washing your hands anyway.

As for putting leaded solder in your mouth - I've been there and done that too. It's not a recommended practice but your lead exposure is minimal. Not "No Exposure" I said "Minimal". And yes, you can end up with lead in your blood stream if you put solder in your mouth. Saliva does dissolve minor amounts of lead. So I'd recommend you don't use your mouth as a third hand (as mentioned above). Instead, use a vice or hold down apparatus of some sort to hold your work piece while you add molten solder.

As for burns - unless you have heavy welding gloves - you're going to get burned. Anyone who says they've never been burned by a hot iron is either new to soldering, extremely lucky, or outright lying. I'm betting everyone here has suffered the minor burn of either touching a hot iron OR having hot solder fall on their lap. Or some other means. It happens.

Eye protection: I don't use it at home. I DO need glasses, and DO use a magnifying glass, so there's little chance of molten solder splashing in my face. A face mask would be cumbersome and uncomfortable. Use it if you feel there's value in doing so.

Finally, take responsibility for how you handle the task. None of us are responsible or liable for your safety - YOU are. Do what you think is best.

Good luck in your burgeoning hobby.
 

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
8,681
I don’t understand how people are getting flying globs of solder. The solder I use all stays on the thing I am soldering. At least when soldering PCBs. I do seem to remember globs of solder in the past when I had crappy tools.
 
Top