Venting your Encaustic Studio

Is encaustic toxic?

With adequate ventilation and a working temperature that is under 200°F, encaustic is a safe medium to work with. It is important to use a thermometer to keep a check on your temperature. Encaustic fumes, when released at a safe temperature, are not considered dangerous. Yet, all wax mediums, when heated, do release fumes.

All waxes, when they are melted– whether as candles, batik, or encaustic—release a mixture of invisible fume (in the form of tiny particles) and gases, such as acrolien and aldehydes. [source]

Solvents should not be used in encaustic painting. All solvents are toxic and should never be heated. Cold wax medium is not encaustic and should never be heated.

Encaustic artists will use other materials in the studio including oil paints, pastels, inks, glues and pigments. It is wise to read the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for all of your materials to ensure safe handling.

Why ventilate your encaustic studio?

R&F Handmade Paints stresses the importance of ventilation even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms.

It is important to work in a well-ventilated area at all times, regardless of how long you spend in the studio or how sensitive you are to the emissions initially. Respirators are not a good substitute for ventilation because they are not approved for acrolein and there is no single cartridge that would filter out all the contaminants.

 

Physical reactions to unvented encaustic emissions

Some individuals may develop headaches or other physical symptoms from unvented encaustic emissions.

I am sensitive to scents from perfumes, cleaning supplies and solvents, but I don’t react to beeswax-based encaustic. I’ve always been very careful to keep my griddle temperature below 180°F. I love the smell of beeswax so I was surprised when members of my family complained about my unventilated encaustic. I now have proper ventilation.

On two occasions I have experienced reactions during encaustic workshops. The first time was when I worked with a dry pigment and carelessly allow the pigment to become airborne. The second time was when I was exposed to microcrystalline wax, the studio had ventilation but I still experienced a headache and catch in my throat. I walked away from the studio and felt much better in a short time.

Encaustic Studio Ventilation Solutions

This PDF from R&F is a must-read resource when analyzing your encaustic ventilation needs.

When considering ventilation for your studio it is important to not only vent the fumes out but to also bring fresh air in. When I am working in my studio I open a window behind me to replace the air that is being vented out.

For my home studio, the venting solution I chose was the Vent-A-Fume. The Vent-A-Fume Fume Extractor is a complete ventilation system designed for encaustic painting. It is a tabletop model that sits beside the encaustic palette. I am very happy with my choice. The Vent-A-Fume is so powerful that I have to use a travel mug for my tea or it goes cold too quickly!

Now I can make my own encaustic medium and paint in my studio without health concerns.

Please add your comments below about your encaustic studio ventilation solutions.

About Ruth Maude

I enjoy experimenting with a variety of encaustic materials, techniques and tools. Everything I learn pushes my creative journey in new directions. I share what I've learned with other artists through my blog All Things Encaustic and encaustic workshops in Ontario.

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8 thoughts on “Venting your Encaustic Studio


  1. nice to know about ventilation. we must take care about fumes while working with wax and oil.


  2. Thank you for this post, Ruth. In our passion to create, we often overlook safety concerns. While I have a powerful vent (husband-made) over my encaustic palette, I’ve forgotten to bring in fresh air. That’s not feasible in the cold winter months so I must remember to take breaks. Thanks again for your thoughtful posting.


    1. The first day I used my new Vent-A-Fume I forgot to open the window. I started to feel a weight on my chest and it became hard to breathe. I realized my mistake and opened the window. It was a very cold wintery day but I needed the influx of fresh air.


  3. I am just embarking on encaustic painting. I have bought about $200 worth of materials, tools and books. I planned to do my painting under the stove exhaust fan, but am now questioning if this will be enough to remain safe. I live in an apartment, so the large Vent-A-Fume is not an option. Is this too risky to do in my limited living space?


    1. You could look into purchasing a reverse fan if it will fit in your window. Here are a couple from Amazon – I hope one of these will fit your window. https://amzn.to/2wjFHqC https://amzn.to/2KDYpfX

      It isn’t ideal to prepare food in the same space as where you create art, but I’m sure a lot of people do this. If you work in your kitchen, cover the stove well. Wax gets everywhere!


    2. Gaye,
      Reference the “large Vent-A-Fume” ….the Encaustic Fume Extractor by Vent A Fume weighs 19 lbs complete. I think you would be surprised how little space the entire system actually needs to perform properly. Give me a call for your solution. (716) 243-5569

      Jay


    1. Options will depend on your setup. If you have a window you may be able to fit it with at reverse fan these aren’t expensive but they aren’t as effective https://amzn.to/2CUDNj1

      Some artists have a kitchen range hood installed directly over their griddle. You may be able to pick up a used one at your local ReStore.

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