Sandblasting is an excellent way to prepare metal for paint or other work since it removes rust, oil, old paint, and other debris. The blasting process is usually quite messy, with fine particles creating clouds of dust. Sometimes this dust contains dangerous materials, like lead or asbestos. It also contains silica, which can lead to serious medical conditions, including silicosis, lung cancer, and kidney disease.
Dustless sandblasting uses special equipment that can accommodate the abrasive material and water. The water coats the particles, helping them sink to the floor instead of creating a dusty cloud.
No form of sandblasting is truly 100% free of dust or silica, so it's important to wear protective equipment, even if you're doing wet or dustless blasting.
A good respirator is one of the most important pieces of protective equipment for any type of sandblasting. They prevent you from breathing in silica and other particles, which can lead to respiratory illness. Even particles you can't see can enter your lungs if you're not using a respirator.
Loose-fitting respirators are better for most people than tight-fitting ones since they are more comfortable, don't get as hot, and don't need to be tightly sealed in order to work properly. Make sure the respirator you purchase to use is rated for abrasive blasting and covers the head, neck, and shoulders. Some other types of respirators, such as paint respirators, don't meet the requirements to qualify as safe for sandblasting.
Hearing, Eye, and Face Protection
Dustless sandblasters are often just as loud as their traditional counterparts. Blasting machines produce loud, high frequency sounds, and the accompanying compressors tend to be very loud as well. Wear ear plugs or a noise cancelling over-ear headset made for protecting your ears against machinery noises every time you use your blaster. Hearing protection also helps prevent any particles that do linger in the air from getting into your ear canals.
Protecting your eyes and face is also important. It's best to use a full face shield, even for dustless blasting. Properly fitting safety glasses will prevent any silica or water mixed with abrasives from splashing back into your eyes where it could scratch your eye. Some respirators have shields or eye protection built in.
It's important to wear a waterproof blast suit, boots, and gloves when you're working on a project with a dustless sandblaster. Since there are fewer particles in the air, you won't need a suit as heavy as ones used for traditional sandblasting. Nylon blast suits and heavy rubber gloves and boots are good choices since they can withstand the moisture of wet blasting and are easy to clean.
If you're not comfortable using a sandblaster or you're not sure if you have the proper protective gear, it's best to call a professional to help you with your project. Some professional sandblasting companies even have mobile units and will come to you instead of having you bring your project into a shop.