Epoxy product selection - Technical Data Sheets and MSDS

When it comes to epoxy product selection, everything is not always as it seems.

A product may sound like it hits the spot - it may have the right speed, viscosity, hardness etc. - but behind this ideal exterior there can lay some important fine print not all salespeople like to talk about. Knowing your way around a couple of key documents will help unearth these potential sticking points yourself and make sure it’s the product you want to be dealing with.

Let's start by looking at a Technical Data Sheet (TDS).

Technical Data Sheet clues

When searching for certain products, you’re typically drawn to things like speed, gloss levels, chemical resistance etc. If you’ve been handed a Technical Data Sheet by sales person, the chances are these will all check out ok. It’s in other places, however, that you should look a little more closely. Personally, I always head to the Limitations section on Technical Data Sheets first because you learn more about the product here than anywhere else, particularly its quality and overall suitability for you.

A classic example in this sense is the mention of an induction time. Letting a product sit for 10 minutes before application is there to control blushing and is a legacy of older curing agent technology, both of which mean you can probably find a better alternative elsewhere. What else could show up on a Technical Data Sheet and make you think twice? There are plenty, but warnings on using the product below certain temperatures or above certain humidity are common, so are the appearance of surface haze in some conditions. The point is this section is usually full of information you’ll want to know when going through the epoxy product selection process.

Material Safety Data Sheets clues

The next key document I rely on for epoxy product selection is the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). The regulations controlling what has to be declared on a MSDS vary from country to country and manufacturers will mostly reveal only what they have to. Despite this, reading the MSDS can, at the very least, give users an idea of some risks that could influence epoxy product selection. Covering all of these is a large topic well beyond the scope of this post, however I’ll highlight a couple of epoxy users might want to consider.

Firstly, there’s the corrosivity rating. While there are a few non-corrosive curing agents on the market, the remainder tend to be lumped together in a generic classification for transport purposes and that can be dangerous in my opinion. The alarming fact is there can be big differences in the degree of corrosivity from one curing agent to the next, even if the MSDS has them all listed as a Class 8.

If working with extremely corrosive materials isn’t your cup of tea, how can you tell from an MSDS if something is acceptable or not? The key is to read what the product does with respect to skin contact. On the lower end of the scale are irritants, meaning skin contact can lead to temporary irritation, usually in the form of a mild rash. Then there are sensitisers, meaning increased sensitivity to the product can be experienced over time if exposure continues. On the harshest end are the corrosive materials, which can cause chemical burns when in contact with your skin. Taking a look at what you’re dealing with in this way will quickly tell you what you need to know.

The second area users should consider with epoxy product selection is toxicity because some components are toxic in very small doses. Hopefully no-one ingests (drinks) these materials, but the risk of breathing in vapour or ongoing skin contact is very real, especially over the long term, and has to come into the equation when deciding if a product is one you want to work with.

A few of the hazard symbols that can be found on the MSDS of epoxies.

The take home message from this post is that reading just some basic information in Technical Data Sheets and Material Safety Data Sheets can help you make the right choices when it comes to epoxy product selection. For those wanting to learn more about this topic, the Epoxy Floor Launch Pad training course - available here in Epoxy School - goes into much greater detail.

Take care and keep smiling,