Hot melt is an extremely versatile substance that impacts most of our lives every single day. In fact, if you’ve eaten cereal, slept on a mattress, sat in a car seat, or even visited your local brewery lately—you can thank hot melt for quite literally holding together many of the products and industries we’ve all come to rely on!
You could say we’re pretty excited about hot melt. What we’re not excited about is the fact that working with hot melt does come with some inherent risks. While the chemical makeup of most standard hot melt is virtually harmless to human health, the fact that the adhesive must be distributed as a hot liquid means serious burns can occur if you’re not vigilant before, during, and even after use.
That’s why we choose to adopt a strong offense as our best defense against injury from the hot melt. In order to help keep you safe, Hotmelt.com’s team of safety and adhesive experts put together this guide to walk you through some of the most important basic safety precautions to take when working with hot melt.
Precautions to Take Before You Start Working with Hot Melt
Read (and Follow!) the Directions
You wouldn’t (okay, some of you would) put together load-bearing furniture without reading the directions, so why take liberties with the strength of your bond or your safety when working with a high-temp adhesive?
Read and follow the directions for your hot melt equipment and the adhesive itself before you even start your application. The operator’s manual will not only tell you the best way to set up and maintain your equipment, but it will probably also include some helpful tips on safety precautions. An investment of time spent reading the directions is also an investment in your safety.
Double Check Your Hot Melt Equipment
You’re about to heat a solid adhesive until it becomes a liquid before ejecting it out of what can be a pretty powerful gun-like device. It wouldn’t hurt to double check your hot melt equipment before you kick off your project in earnest.
Consider this your preflight inspection. Visually check out your hot melt equipment for any visible failure points. The hot melt gun should be free of cracks or other damage. Adhesive hoses and applicators shouldn’t have clogs, holes, or tears. Electric wires should be firmly intact and safely insulated. By preventing faulty machinery, you just might prevent an avoidable accident.
Get Your Workspace in Tip-Top Shape
When it comes to prepping your hot melt workspace, first make sure you’re protecting everyone who may be passing through it. Make sure the space in which you put your glue gun is a safe distance from errant children’s hands, wagging tails, and even distracted adults.
If you’re using an extension cord, don’t leave it hanging so that passersby can snag it and pull a heavy gun full of hot adhesive down on their heads. To avoid electrocution, ensure your workspace is indoors and away from water sources so you don’t have to worry about the effects of mixing electricity and moisture.
In addition, it’s important to consider the surfaces in your workspace. You want them to be made of, or covered with, non-flammable material. One good option would be ceramic tile. If that’s not an option, put a square of tile or aluminum foil under the place where you rest your glue gun to catch any dripping liquid adhesive. Make sure there are no loose flammable materials lying around that could catch fire.
One extra precaution to take while working with hot adhesives is to keep a bowl of iced water near your workspace, but not too close to your glue gun—somewhere you can dip or douse your skin should you accidentally cause a minor burn.
Choose the Right Temp for Your Project
When using a glue gun with multiple temperature settings, you’re able to adjust the temperature depending on what materials you’re using. For a stronger bond on solid, heavy materials like ceramics, leather, metal, and wood, you’ll want to use a higher heat. However, fragile materials, including paper, thin fabric, and lace, are fine to be bonded at lower temps. By following this rule, you won’t only achieve the perfect bond for your project—you’ll also protect the skin that’s more likely to come in contact with hot glue because of the delicate nature of the project. If you don’t need high heat, opt for a “warm” or “low melt” glue gun and hot melt adhesive. There’s no need for overkill when a difference of degrees can save you from some nasty burns in the case of an accident.
Staying Safe While You’re Applying Hot Melt Adhesive
A lot of accidents happen when hot melt glue gun operators lose focus on the gluing task at hand. Unfortunately, it only takes a split second of distraction to lead to a disastrous, and sometimes painful, hot melt meltdown.
In this case, your safety rests squarely on your ability to concentrate on the glue gun in your hand. Whether you need to communicate with a coworker, answer the phone, or do another task that causes your attention to become divided—just put the gun down. When it comes to blazing-hot hot melt, stay 100 percent focused while you’re applying hot melt in order to greatly reduce your chance of getting burned.
Wear the Proper Equipment
Of course, wearing the appropriate protective gear is an excellent, and much advised, safety precaution to take when working with hot melt. If you’re even close to hot melt adhesive equipment, you should already be wearing safety glasses or goggles. In addition, take advantage of leather or other heat-resistant gloves to prevent those precious digits from getting burned.
Keep Following the Directions
You already read the directions before you started using your hot melt equipment, right? Well, it’s also important not to disregard any of those important instructions during the project.
For instance, be sure to operate your glue gun within the temperature parameters set by the manufacturer. In addition, use the right hot glue for your applicator. Too hot, and you can risk runny adhesive and serious burns. Too cool, and you may risk hot melt clogs—which can also quickly end in burns if you try to clear them out too quickly.
Another important instruction to keep following is hot melt glue gun pressurization. This is especially important with pneumatic glue guns and hoses that can be damaged—and very damaging—at too-high pressures.
Remember: Hot Glue Is HOT
This might seem like a silly reminder, but, when you’re cruising along on a project, it’s easy for thoughtless, automatic actions to kick in. So here’s your reminder: Hot glue and the glue guns that distribute it are hot! Don’t touch the nozzle, ever—unless the glue gun is unplugged and has been unplugged for an entire day.
Also, never point the gun in the direction of anything it can harm or catch on fire. Another bit of common sense that always bears repeating is: Don’t mess with the hot melt once it’s in the glue gun! If the gun is plugged in and the glue is inside, leave it. Feed in new glue sticks as necessary—using the appropriate method, of course!
Safety Doesn’t Stop After the Hot Melt Is Applied
Unplug your glue gun as soon as you’re finished with your project or when you need to switch out your nozzle. For most glue guns, it automatically kicks on and becomes hot when plugged in. That’s why it’s important not to leave it plugged in and unattended at the same time.
Clean Equipment Matters
Switching to a new adhesive, taking a break between hot melt applications, and standard old maintenance all call for a thorough cleaning of your hot melt equipment. Keeping your equipment running smoothly matters for a variety of reasons, including your own personal safety and the bottom line of your business. For tips on why cleanliness matters and how to choose the right cleaner for your hot melt equipment, check out Choosing and Using the Best Cleaning Agent for Your Project.
In Case of Emergency
If some hot glue does come in contact with your skin, dip the burned area in ice water. In the case of a more serious burn, make sure you have the contact info for emergency medical professionals readily available. Don’t mess around if glue makes contact with your eyes—seek medical intervention immediately.
Follow these 10 essential safety precautions to reduce the risk of damaging yourself, another person, or your surroundings next time you’re working with hot melt. For more tips on safety precautions or a spot of advice on how to choose from our extensive line of hot melt glue guns, hot melt glue sticks, bulk hot melt, and bulk hot melt equipment, just get in touch with Hotmelt.com any time.