Epoxy resins in the boating industry

Advantages and Disadvantages and How to clean polyester resin and epoxy resin from hands and tools?

Ships – of any size – are exposed to a lot of elements and mechanical forces. Big galleons had a permanent crew of carpenters, sail cloth sewers and other men to repair the hull and to avoid leaks. Rotting was the least of their problems. Nowadays complete wooden ships are found in salty sea water and some of these old ships are in good conditions. The problems come from marine life like shipworms or other mollusks, that started to corrode the ship.

Old paintings show big crews scrapping off barnacles from hulls. Hitting reefs and other obstacles, being shot at and many other “accidents” contributed to the need of protective measures.

First there were “rudimentary” measures like fothering with sailcloth and oakum. This is how the crew of the famous HMS Endeavour (commanded by Lieutenant James Cook) repaired their ship, once they hit a reef at the Great Barrier Reef. Other methods included using copper plating’s to cover the hull and important parts of the ship. This was a physical protection and some sort of an early biochemical solution. Some shipyards used tar and different oils to coat the wood. It is only during the Renaissance, that the ship industry became more sophisticated and started using more complex chemical preservatives.

Fast forward to the 21st century. We still need to protect boats, sailing ships and yachts from corrosive and damaging processes. Now we have even more complex coating compounds. The main role of these compounds is to protect the substrate. The coating is either used as a primer, at an intermediate level or as a top coat (gelcoat). Often the coating must fulfill several objectives: protection against corrosive elements and to create complex ship parts, that have a good weight-to-strength ratio. If you use them as a top coat, then the compound has also to enhance the appearance of the vessel.

Nowadays the marine industry uses resins. They come in all kinds of shape and forms. Some of them are solvent-free others are dual-component compounds. The amount of resin brands and varieties is overwhelming. We will explain the main products on the market and their differences.

In the 70’s this was easy: basically surfers, boat builders would buy polyester resin. The fiber was flexible enough to build beautiful boats, extremely good surf boards and even art objects. The industry was always looking for solutions that were more water-resistant (absorption was always a big problem with some polyester-based resins) and easier to apply. Vinylester entered the market and complete fiberglass boats are made of this material. Epoxy resins are the next development on this timeline. They are more expensive and have stronger adhesive properties. Boat constructors are also able to kind of control the curing process, by using different hardeners. Some hardeners will speed up the curing process and some others are designed to work under extreme climatic conditions. One of the greatest advantages of epoxy resins is that they stick very, very well to wood structures. The material is excellent to fill gaps and to is less porous than other resins. This is the stuff that old galleon builders could only dream off. But, it comes also with drawbacks and certain disadvantages. Besides the cost of the application, there are also environmental and health issues related to the complex chemical polymers in epoxy.

Even expensive epoxy clear coatings will become yellow. This is due to prolonged exposure to UV-radiation. The UV-rays create additional chemical processes within the material! This is why we recommend the usage of a product like QP-ON 2.0 or 3.0 to further protect the epoxy coating against sunlight. QP-ON 2.0, for example, contains a complex Titanium-based structure, which will better reflect sunlight and additionally provide your boat with a unique shine.

“Amine blushing” and other effects

One of the known problems that boat builders face with solvent free epoxy resins is the so-called: amine blush. If the temperatures and the humidity are not regulated, then this wax-like film will appear and become a problem. May epoxy coatings look “yellowish” due to this effect.

Before you coat the primer, take note of the room temperature. Warm temperatures are better for the epoxy-reaction. You will also need to reduce the humidity to the lowest possible level. Climates with high air humidity are not good, if you want to avoid this phenomenon. If the epoxy is not fully cured or if the chemical chain reaction was interrupted (due to factors like moisture), then it is possible that the epoxy becomes brittle. You will see this later, with cracks appearing, the paint peeling off and humidity entering the small fissures. Obviously, this will lead to a poor surface structure. UV-radiation and other environmental elements will accelerate the process. Try QP-ON 3.0 Ceramic coating to create a stronger layer at top coat-level! Our ceramic coatings have very strong properties against UV-radiation (one of the greatest “enemies” of epoxy or polyester-type coatings!).
Clean the amine blush as good as possible with warm water and soap. Sometimes it is hard to see (again this will depend on the climatic conditions). Even if you don’t see a “greyish layer” on the curating epoxy surface, you still need to clean it thoroughly or otherwise the blush-effect will kick in.

Epoxy resins on your skin – Don’t use solvents or acetone!

Acetone is commonly used to clean hands or other skin areas, that have been in contact with epoxy or polyester resins. The strength of polyurethane adhesives is very well known to any boat enthusiast! It cures with a though and strong bonding system to anything: wood, metal, fiberglass and human skin! It is used in cleats, through-hull fittings and many other applications. Modern boats use a lot of this stuff. The bonding is very tenacious. Removing any part, that was glued with this kind of adhesive will often remove the gelcoat itself.

Many boat builders and shipyard workers use pure acetone to remove epoxy and polyurethane adhesives. Acetone is not necessarily toxic, but it will chemically dissolve the natural oils that we have on our skin (if it “attacks” the bonding structure of the epoxy, then be rest-assured that it can also “attack” the protective oils on your skin!). This will dry the skin and without its natural protective coating, also prone to infections and other problems. The biggest problem is, that dissolved elements of epoxy chemicals and other substances will get into the blood stream! Open skin wounds or scratches will facilitate this. It is normal to have blemishes or other cuts on your skin (especially if you are working on a boat). Skin contact with solvents, acetone or other aggressive chemicals is NOT a good idea.

Solutions: the chemical structure of uncured epoxy can be “broken” with acidic structures. There are some natural solutions: vinegar or citric liquids (lemon, lime, etc.). Citrus based soaps and detergents will work slower, but are healthier. If the epoxy has less than 24 hours on the skin, then an alcohol solution might help.

The QP-ON-Solution: organic cleaning paste to remove epoxy residues from any surface

We work closely with experts in the marine industry. We talk to ship crews, repair crews at shipyards and private recreational users. Our laboratory is working on a solution to clean and remove residues from epoxy and polyester-type resins. The paste will be biodegradable and not harmful to human health. Our products are also safe for marine life.

We have currently a very powerful and biodegradable cleaning paste, that removes permanent ink markings and many other stains. Please check our website for more information about QP-ON 9.1 – Multi-Surface Cleaning Paste with Coating properties.

If you have questions about this new product or our other product lines, please contact us through the contact form on our website. 

DISCLAIMER:

We are NOT recommending a specific treatment! We are only explaining, why some solutions might work better than others. Please be aware, that this is not a medical or research site and we cannot be held responsible for any advice that you might read on this page!

 

 

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