Body-Friendly Soap for Industrial-Grade Grit
June 21, 2022 2:27 PM   Subscribe

My son started working at a chip-and-grind shop, where he uses various pneumatic tools to remove the slag (or whatever) from die-cast engine parts. This is spectacularly filthy work. He's in PPE like a full face-covering respirator; work clothes include steel-toe boots, long heavy jeans, long-sleeve tees, gloves, and a balaclava. Still comes home looking like he rolled around the finest-grained sandbox in the universe. And it is really hard to remove. Please recommend a body wash or bar soap that will get him clean.

Tried a Lava (bar) - too gritty. Irritated the hell out of his skin, which was pretty raw to start with.

He's working on how to mitigate how much gets to his body, but so far, not successfully. If you have suggestions there, please share them.

He also asked some of the veteran workers what they use; they did not offer specifics. They just said, soap. Maybe they tried different things and found it didn't matter.

Bonus points for laundry detergents that are good at this sort of thing. He's taking it to a laundromat, under the assumption that the effluent would be bad for my machine and plumbing.
posted by Caxton1476 to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That orange soap stuff is pretty strong. Is that what's irritating his skin? It's the only thing that's worked for me on the rare occasions I have worked in an industrial setting.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 2:34 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]

A barrier cream (before work) will help make it easier to get cleaned up after work.
posted by janell at 2:35 PM on June 21 [19 favorites]

Any kind of long chain hydrocarbon such as a non-irritating oil (olive oil, pumpkin seed oil, almond oil, etc) will help to melt off any other oil-based effluvium that may have gotten stuck to his skin, and will be much less abrasive than something like lava soap. The trick is the melt off whatever oil-based product is already on his skin with, say, olive oil, first, and then wash the skin with soap. Oil melts off oil, and then the soap cleans the skin.
posted by erattacorrige at 2:54 PM on June 21 [10 favorites]

I would try a cleansing oil. They are water-soluble but made to dissolve oil and wash off very stubborn waterproof sunscreen/makeup.
posted by asimplemouse at 3:03 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]

Also recommending a cleansing oil, specifically the Bioderma Atoderm Body Cleansing Oil for deep filth. You don't need a lot. It has the double positive effect helping maintain your skin barrier. I always "double cleanse" when I am using this stuff, so I use just my normal (moisturizing, not drying ) body wash first then the Bioderma.
posted by MagnificentVacuum at 3:17 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]

Is it just me or does it seem like the stuff that's getting on him is fitting through the tiny gaps in the loosely woven cotton he's wearing. Maybe something to think about in terms of what to wear is to investigate fabrics that can keep out fine particles & he needs to be wearing this head to toe. I can only imagine there are inumerable benefits to keeping this crap off your skin such that no investment should feel like too much.
posted by bleep at 3:22 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]

Sorry, I wrote that backwards. I double cleanse with the oil first THEN the gentle body wash.
posted by MagnificentVacuum at 3:23 PM on June 21

janell has it. Moisturise all over in the mornings; vaseline (or other thick stuff like some beeswax-based creams) on the hands before you glove up. Find something scentless that works for the face. It will keep the gunk out of his pores and make it much easier to wash up.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:13 PM on June 21

My dad was a machinist and used something called gojo that came in big orange bottles. This was 20 years ago, so I don’t know if it’s still around. We got it dirt cheap at the auto parts store.
posted by congen at 5:16 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]

Tyvek suit? The originals are pricey but knockoffs are cheap

I used to use them for insulation work.

Is there an SDS for the work he does? It is important to know if this is a health issue in addition to cleanliness.
posted by pdoege at 5:30 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]

Just got back from my trades job, absolutely filthy.

I wash with lots of Fast Orange, it's leagues more effective than anything else. Fast Orange and Gojo are different brands of the same thing- a gentle orange oil solvent soap with pumice. If he really can't take any grit, I think there are versions with no/less pumice. It's the orange solvent + pumice combo that makes it amazing, but orange solvents alone are better for grease than most soaps. You apply it to dry, not wet skin- I have a dedicated grubby hand towel to dry my hands on after the first pass so I can go again if necessary (usually not, but for the bad days...) Then a pass with a cleansing oil for perfect cleanliness.

Careful if any old hands suggest coal tar soap. It works well but may be carcinogenic (don't recall details, just that last time I wanted to smell like my granddad I saw all sorts of warnings and sadly laid the idea to rest).

I moisturize with Working Hands after, and in the morning before work I put on a layer of Gloves in a Bottle (popular with nurses and anyone who has to wash their hands a lot, also good for trades). Barrier creams don't have to be thick to be effective. Consider the risks of thick layers of Vaseline or anything else that flammable in a workshop.

I wash my hair first with a shower gel, not a shampoo, as most shampoos aren't astringent enough and may have moisturizing ingredients that stick any remaining crud to the hair. Then a pass with a nice shampoo that leaves the hair silkier.
posted by pickingupsticks at 5:34 PM on June 21 [13 favorites]

There are a few other brands similar to Gojo and Fast Orange. The one I've heard of is Goop Hand Cleaner, which I think also comes in abrasive and non-abrasive versions. Never tried any of them myself though.
posted by trig at 10:14 PM on June 21

Citrus-oil based cleansers aren't really safe, I think? Sorry for not having a good answer for your question (other than better barrier clothing and that I think that oil-cleaning then soap-cleaning makes sense).

But when I was in a pretty good union, we had a safety rep, Monona Rossol, who is a real expert in chemical safety. She uses citrus oil and d-limonene (the major component) as a prime example of how "natural" doesn't mean "safe." In her book, The Artist's Complete Health and Safety Guide, she writes:

"Advertisements for these products often emphasize that the FDA allows small amounts in food as an additive. The advertisements fail to mention that d-limonene is one of Mother Nature's own pesticides. She put it in citrus rinds to protect her fruit from insects. It kills flies efficiently enough to be registered with the EPA as an 'active ingredient' in commercial pesticides... The American Industrial Hygiene Association set a workplace air-quality standard for d-limonene that is more restrictive than those for turpentine, toluene, and most other common solvents."

I am terrible at chemistry, so apologies if I'm dead wrong. But I know a lot of union shops are doing away with orange-oil soaps.
posted by lauranesson at 11:49 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]

I would give Goop a try. It has no abrasives and goes on dry. After a hard day of getting gritty and greasy it feels luxurious going on. I have pretty sensitive skin and never had a reaction to it.
posted by Ookseer at 5:24 AM on June 22

Another vote for Goop, but I'm not sure if it's available outside the US. What's nice is it can be used at the shop, leaving much more of the grime outside your house in the first place. If they don't have towel on a roll and you don't want to go through loads of paper towels/shop rags, definitely buy a stack of sturdy hand towels to leave at the shop.

I'd also suggest several pairs of coveralls, left at the shop, and washed in turn so there's always a fresh pair. They prevent grit from getting collected in pockets, waist bands, etc... Makes for a sweaty workday though, so hopefully he's got plenty of access to fluids. Same with work boots - don't wear them home, don't wear them in the car if you can avoid it. Especially at a shop like that that's sure to have a lot of die grinding kicking out little splinters of metal. Metal chips are one thing, but die grinding slivers have a special place in hell. And when they're aluminum - floating around, getting stuck on things, and taking much longer to oxidize away than steel ones... Ugh.

Lots of shops used to have lockers, laundry service, and showers, but sadly that seems to be mostly done away with now. I'm sure there's some liability reasons, but still, for grimy work, it eventually seeps it's way in to most aspects of your life if you aren't diligent.

Much respect for your son, this stuff isn't all CNC like some people think, and it's a critical part of mechanical work. It can also be a pathway to the much cleaner deburr/mold polishing/detailing world - same skillset, refined further.
posted by jellywerker at 5:57 AM on June 22 [1 favorite]

I think folks are missing that he needs a body soap, not a hand soap. I use Gojo Supra Max in my workshop for hands (way nicer than the citrus stuff, almost no smell).

First thing is to get as much help as he can from clothing. The grinding hood mentioned upthread may not work with his respirator/PAPR, but you can get leather add-ons for welding hoods that can help. Although only useful for lower body, I use a heavy apron when grinding, welding, or operating abrasive machinery.

The tee shirt is likely the biggest problem as well as the toughest to solve because these shops are usually really hot. Someone mentioned barrier creams- good idea. An undershirt - good idea. A leather welding jacket, a good idea but maybe too hot. He could also consider a mid-day clothing change.

Depending on the shop environment, he may be able to use suction or dust collection or a downdraft table to direct and reduce the airborne particles some. I've also used pieces of wood to keep particles from flying toward myself or my more sensitive machinery.
posted by fake at 6:14 AM on June 22

Fake - yes and no. You don't need the body soap if you don't get the body dirty. And goop/gojo get used all over my arms and legs and face when needed.

One of them has lanolin so it doesn't just strip all the oil out of your skin, which is nice, and then it softens up the deeper stuff for the shower at home.

But you're right, they could be doing all of our suggestions and just need soap answers!

This is really the kind of grime you don't want to have on you to that level in the first place though, over time you stain your underclothes, your car, your furniture, your bathroom, your entryway.

It's really fun when it's ferrous and works it's way into your pores and under your nails and you start to turn orange as it rusts!

I don't do this full time, but have tried to put together a solid routine for when it's grinding days in the shop after doing aforesaid damage enough to realize I couldn't keep the same habits.
posted by jellywerker at 9:16 AM on June 22

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone, for such speedy and excellent answers! Son is using this info to craft a multiphase approach, starting with prevention and moving through staged washing.

Barrier cream was a new concept to him, so he got what Walgreen's had to offer (Aquaphor), which didn't look super-industrial strength, but it's petrolatum-based, so it's a start. He may also order some of the other stuff that's available.

"Leave as much as possible at the shop" was a light-bulb thing for him, too. He's looking at coveralls. Investigating shirts with a tighter weave, too, though this shop is brutally hot. (At least right now. Apparently it's frigid in winter, especially third shift. This is northern Iowa.) Two shirts, maybe. And better balaclava/hood options.

He was a farm- and ranch-hand for a bit, so he's going to revisit the neckerchief aesthetic that looked so dashing out on the range.

Washing-up: A separate product and process for hands and other especially dirty spots, probably Gojo. Oil-based body washes.

Not to thread-sit too much, but here's the job description:

Chip and grind NO BACKGROUND CHECK NO DRUG SCREEN $18-$45 hourly
Chip and grind on metal castings from tractors
Hold a 25lb grinder for 10 hour shifts
Use of vibratory tools all shift
Work in a very dirty atmosphere
Work in a full face respirator
Work in a hot warehouse in summer
Work in cold warehouse in winter
This job is very hard you must not be afraid of hard work if you are to apply.
Job Type: Full-time
Pay: $18.00 - $45.00 per hour
I hope he is in this job exactly long enough to pay down debt, save a little moving- and safety-net fund, and not get hurt.

Again, you all are great. Thank you.
posted by Caxton1476 at 9:35 AM on June 22

Come to think of it, Tyvek suit could be a great idea, *if* he also wears a cooling vest inside.

Cooling vest is basically vest-sized icepaks that you wear. The problem is they only keep you cool/cold for 1-2 hours. Not enough to last a whole shift, but it at least may make the hottest part of the day a little more bearable. But this almost requires the place to have some sort of a fridge. where it can be re-... uh... cooled?

An those tyvek (tm) coveralls are actually quite cheap nowdays, $10 each on eBay.
posted by kschang at 9:57 AM on June 22

Swarfega is amazing for cleaning greasy stuff. It's widely used in the UK; I don't know about other countries.
posted by HoraceH at 11:25 AM on June 22

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