Pigment Safety (Use and Cleaning)

  • Hello,

    Recently I bought a paint set (White Nights), and after some time using it (and reading about it) I realized that it uses cadmium pigments!

    As this is considered toxic, what are the safe handling methods you use (gloves, face masks, etc)? And is a piece of clothing still safe to wear after being stained by cadmium red or should I dispose it (the stain is just a line, I just fear that it will spread out after laundering)?

    Thank you!


    I use White Nights also. I make sure I don’t lick brushes or wipe them on the back of my hand as I have seen some professional artists do. Otherwise I take note of the comment about NiCad batteries and try not to worry too much. This might put the usse into persepctive:


    Thanks for the tips! Though, what I am worried about is if cadmium can leave residues even after cleaning. Sometimes I have this habit of wiping brushes in clothing, or accidentally splattering the paint on tables. Can one really remove them or should the clothes be disposed?

    The article does say that cadmiums used by artists are not considered toxic and have low amounts, lowering the risk even further, so I don’t think residue would be a problem.  Any risk would probably come if you were making the paints yourself and might inhale or spread the pigment powder around.  However, as with all things, some people are more susceptible than others.  Even then, I wouldn’t think residue would be an issue, but if you think you might be extra sensitive, I’d consider not using the set.

    Sandra is right on one account, and that is most of the danger from pigments comes from their dry state, when they are being mixed.  BUT, there are some areas where it is good to know your toxicity and to take precautions.  In my other life I am a conservator who uses dangerous chemicals in small amounts.

    If you need a mask, do not buy one from the hardware store.  Go to a place like 3M and have one fitted with the right cartridges, and change the cartridges.  If you are playing with toxic DRY pigments get a full face mask.  powder gets into eyes too.  They will tell you how to test for fit but every time you put it on, test it the way they show you.

    BUT, most of us don’t need this!  So check the following…

    Break yourself of the habit of tipping your brushes in your mouth.

    Are you on a well?  If so get out of the habit of wiping your brushes on clothing and wipe them on paper towel which can go to the trash… also wipe your brushes thoroughly of pigments instead of just dipping them into water and washing.  When I was on a well I stayed away from cadmiums and cobalts and a couple of others, most of which was not that hard for me because a lot of them are also opaque.  I didn’t want to mess with the process.  Remember that a little bit will get into your well and that won’t hurt — but take the precautions of not just dumping a bunch of cadmium water into a well.  wiping the brushes clean first is really easy.

    If you have a seriously compromised immune system then I wouldn’t use them, my opinion.  There are wonderful colors that are not toxic.  I don’t mean a bad cold, but HIV, cancer, etc — where you are trying to keep your system strong.

    And finally, keep all of this away from your pets.  It isn’t cute for a cat/dog to drink out of paint water.  Remember that things which might not harm you will kill birds and small animals.  I have nosy cats and even if I didn’t I have to assume at some point they will get up to look around.
    I do not leave my wet washes open, I cover them (see my choice for this due to the stacking qualities — I keep one clean for just that, stacking).
    My water is a setup which they cannot get their tongues into!  Spice jars in a taller plastic bin (a plastic shop will have these — take your spice jars to see if they fit).  A nice perk to this setup is that I also work the ater from dirty to clean throughout the day and have to change water less often.
    Oh and BTW, I now have to cover my pan paints as well because Yaman is a crow-cat and loves to bring me everything he finds on my desk.  ARGH.

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