Thursday, November 21, 2013

November 11th Hint of the Week

How to Clean & Work With Less Clay Dust by Marvin Bartel. © Marvin Bartel, 2001. Last updated December, 2005. Goshen College Art Department

This page is meant to give ideas for reducing clay dust because long term exposure to clay dust may lead to silicosis. Silicosis can be a fatal lung ailment. With good habits clay work can be a healthy lifelong career as it has been for many people of many cultures in the past.

Dusting, sweeping, and vacuuming are not recommended for clay because these methods put dust into the air. Depending on the heating and air conditioning system, dust might be circulated to other areas as well. [At the Clay Arts Guild you will find no brooms, we use the long “squeegees” and mops].

Some people place "walk off" rugs at the doorways to try to get the clay from tracking to other areas. These rugs are impossible to clean in a safe way unless they can be rolled up and totally laundered in a large commercial facility. Vacuuming simply pulls the dust to the surface where it is picked up and spread by traffic. Some say the smaller silica particles that pass through a vacuum filter will stay airborne for 4 days. I use a piece of outdoor carpeting at the door of my studio. I hose it off on the driveway and wash it in a kid’s plastic swimming pool.

The particular clay you are using is not an issue. All dry pottery clay makes silica dust when walked on. Keep it wet to avoid dust.


Daily wet mopping or hosing down to a floor drain is [the best]. [At the guild we do a monthly mopping of all the floors and wet wipe down of all the work surfaces. Additionally members are encouraged to use wet mops whenever possible to clean up their messes]. …

Large wet sponges are essential to clean work tables, counters, wheels, and small floor areas. Use repeated sponging with washed out sponges to remove clay haze.

Students [and members] can be instructed to use wet sponges to immediately spot clean any drips around the wheels and pick up all crumbs before they get walked on. Train them to carry two clean sponges from the sink so the first sponge gets the mess and the second sponge removes the residue. This can significantly stretch the times between total cleaning…

Launder clay clothing often. Remove clay shoes before entering house.
Do not wear clay clothes in the house.

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