Artist's Oil Paints contain compounds which are highly toxic if
absorbed. If you have small children in the house, keep your paints
under lock and key; as most of them are poisonous if ingested in quantity.
Artists' Pure Oil pigments are usually made from organic
materials, and do not contain out-gassing chemicals such as
Xylene, petroleum distillates, etc. which are common to commercial
Oil-based and Alkalyd paints.
Artist's Oil Pigments are usually bound in a Linseed Oil base instead
of a solvent base, which allows them to be washed off somewhat with soap
and water before they dry, and which helps (not guarantees) the material
not to directly absorb into your skin.
Artists' Oil Paint pigments do contain highly toxic substances, and
precautions should be taken to avoid any absorption by the human
body. These toxic compounds can be absorbed by:
- Eating the paint.
- Breathing paint dust.
- Absorbing paint through the skin.
To avoid absorption, take these precautions:
- Never eat while painting.
- Never lick your paintbrush.
- Wash your hands very well after painting.
- Wash your sink after washing your brushes; use a separate sponge
than the dish sponge.
- Wear a separate set of clothes when painting.
- Do not wash your painting clothes in the washing machine or dryer.
- Throw away your painting clothes when soiled or hand wash and hang
- Never sand-paper your paintings, never sand White Lead Primer
- Use a drop cloth under your work area, and occasionally shake it
off outside (do not vacuum it clean).
- Do not burn paint rags in your fireplace or wood stove.
- Wear disposable gloves when painting
- Never paint with your bare fingers, hands, or feet.
- NEVER use solvent to remove paint from your skin.
- Remove dried paint from your skin by scraping it off (outdoors)
with the edge of a quarter.
- Remove wet paint from your skin by first wiping it off with a dry
towel, then wash with soap and water.
- Always keep a special clean rag for wiping your hands on while
- Try not to handle solvent and paint covered rags with your bare
Likewise, be careful how you dispose of your solvent:
- Solvent fumes themselves are toxic. It's an open question
whether pure turpentine fumes, petroleum distillates, white spirits, and some
alternative solvents are more or less toxic, and I don't know the
answer. Treat ALL solvents as potentially hazardous. Always be sure that your workplace is well
- Smelly solvent such as Turpentine may be preferable because you
can smell them and adjust your ventilation accordingly. Beware using
- To dispose of a used solvent can; let it sit for a week, drain off
(and strain if needed) any clear liquid for re-use. Let the
remaining solvent evaporate outdoors until the sediment has dried
and hardened. Dispose of the whole can at an accepted hazardous
waste drop (either for oil-based paints, or for lead). You can keep
it around and add your paint-tubes to it until it's full.
- Rags: Clothes-pin these outdoors to let the solvent evaporate.
Once they are dry, you can re-use them. Do not wash them in the
washing machine or clothes dryer. Do not burn the rags. Really
crusty rags can go with the can & tubes.
- Never put wet rags into a closed container, plastic bag, or trash
can. The fumes can collect and cause fires. But if driving with wet
rages, seal them in a bag until you get home.
- Varnishes DO contain petroleum distillates and out-gassing
chemicals. Whenever possible, varnish outdoors, with windows and
doors wide open, and wear a respirator if you experience headaches,
dizziness, or any type of reaction.
- Do NOT rinse varnish brushes in your paint solvent can; Use a very
thin flat brush for varnishing. Wipe and wring as much varnish out
of the brush as possible, then wring with a solvent-soaked rag, then
wash the brush thoroughly with soap and water.
- Always wear gloves and avoid skin contact with varnishes because
they contain solvents.