Top 3 Health Dangers When Detailing

February 12, 2016 William Russell

Auto Detailing can be dangerous to your health.

Do you detail cars on a daily basis? Or are you a weekend warrior who just enjoys a clean car? Regardless, detailing can be dangerous and even mild exposures to some of these health risks can cause long term problems. Coming from the point of view of a professional detailer, I want to limit my long term exposures so that I can live a long, healthy, detailing life. This is just a general outline, be sure to thoroughly research your exposures and local regulations before detailing on a daily basis.

1. Polishes and Compounds

The process of polishing, buffing, and compounding requires abrasives to remove clear coat. The polish or compound can contain a number of harmful chemicalsApplying HD Speed All in One that are necessary to get that swirl free finish you desire. As I discussed earlier, there are two types of abrasives, SMAT and DAT. The most common abrasives used in compounds are silica and aluminum oxide. Most modern compounds focus their abrasives to aluminum oxide, which is much less harmful than silica, but can still damage your lungs in long term or heavy exposure. Silica can cause issues such as Silicosis. While the compounds themselves can be harmful, the paint you are abrading can be just as bad. Isocyanate is commonly found in paint as a hardener or catalyst. Isocyanate are irritants to mucous membranes and can cause symptoms such as asthma attacks. To protect yourself against these harmful exposures, we recommend at a minimum of using an N95 rated respirator which can block materials like aluminum oxide and silicon carbide.

2. Vibrations from Machine Polishers

Long term hand motions, vibrations, and movements can actually cause long term damage. It’s been long known that vibrations can cause HAVS or hand-arm vibration syndrome. According to the CDC, the “signs and symptoms include numbness, pain, and blanching.” They say that the physiological cause of Applying HD Speed with Rupesvibration syndrome is not exactly known but vibration may damage the peripheral nerves which then causes numbness of the fingers and hands. This is known as an occupational hazard and should not be treated lightly. HAVS is something many people live with their entire lives and only progresses if caution is not taken. Two tips we recommend to limit the damage is to let the machine do the work, grip the tool tightly enough that there is no vibration between you and the polisher. You should learn the differences between polishers to decide exactly how to handle your buffer. Secondly, you can invest in vibration absorbing gloves which limit the amount of vibration transferred to your hands. I personally use these gloves on machines that vibrate excessively or long term paint correction details.

3. Acids in Wheel Cleaners

Acids are still a very common wheel cleaner in the detailing market. They are fast, cheap, and super effective. But they are also very dangerous. Wheel acids are Cleaning tires before applying Intense Tire Gelgenerally made out of Ammonium hydrogen fluoride or Ammonium bifluoride. Ammonium bifluoride is actually considered a “safe alternative” to Ammonium hydrogen fluoride but in reality, once mixed with water they are both just as dangerous and caustic. One very common and awesome wheel cleaner, Meguiar’s Wheel Brightner, is Ammonium bifluoride based, and can be very dangerous if not handled carefully. You can see their MSDS sheet here. When handling ANY detailing chemical, it is recommended to thoroughly read the MSDS sheet and understand the safety and risks. From there you can best decided which PPE, or Personal Protective Equipment best suits the situation. The OSHA guide below has a huge list of chemicals and the recommended PPE, I keep that page bookmarked for reference.


Auto detailing can be hazardous to your health. When detailing, you should understand the risks and properly prepare yourself. Always wear PPE, even when using the most “gentle”chemicals. As a professional and as a member of the Detailer’s Box, this is crucial to your long term success and health. And understand there are regulations, NOISH and OSHA that you should be fully aware of when operation a detailing facility.


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  • neel patel

    Jul 14, 2017

    thanks for sharing such important blog with us. people love to detail their car but they do not know that cons. of detailing a car.

  • David Thompson

    Apr 18, 2016

    Hello guys. My name is David Thompson I detail full time for Manhime Nashville. I was wanting to know if certain chemicals make contact with your skin say your hands over a long period of time such as tire shine,auto body prep solvent , paint thinner. Is it possible for that to brake your hands out or cause loss of pigmentation. I have been detailing for almost 4 years now. Also I dont know why but the tire shine we use is always very cold and even when i use a glove my hands are very oily after.

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