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A Potter's Guide to Managing Silica Dust Exposure

Hello fellow clay lover!

If you're reading this, you're likely interested in learning more about the safety aspects of working with clay. Perhaps you've realized there are some unsafe habits you've adopted. Well, you're in the right place, and I'm glad we've connected! The purpose of this blog post is to highlight some key safety aspects when working with clay. Resources for you: I have also included some resources such as a free downloadable poster, links to further readings and a silica dust mask I use here in Australia. Please scroll to the bottom to find these.

Coloured poster about silicosis and 6 main rules potters need to follow to stay safe from silica dust.
Free Pottery Studio Safety Poster

I've noticed many videos on TikTok and Instagram where individuals, who have gained substantial followings and have only recently started working with clay since Covid or just after, are offering all sorts of clay advice to their audiences. Unfortunately, much of this advice is incorrect. This explains why I see numerous videos of people following these suggestions.

As a Visual Arts teacher and potter with over 30 years of experience, I believe my blog post will serve as a valuable resource to educate and share the safety aspects of working with clay and the dangers of silicosis.

Understanding Silicosis

Silicosis is a lung disease caused by inhaling silica dust, which is present in all ceramic clays and glazes. If you're working in your home, kitchen, living room, or any other room in your house, you'll be creating clay dust and exposing everyone who uses these spaces to this dust. This is extremely unsafe, and you must reconsider your options. I understand you might be thinking, "But so-and-so does it..." To be frank, these individuals clearly have no understanding of the risks involved. Using a bedroom or garage, for example, allows the dust to seep under doors. It's important to note that the dust is fine and will settle into carpets, rugs, clothing, and the floor. The worst thing you can do is vacuum or sweep!

Tips for Staying Safe

Here are some tips to ensure your safety:

  • Always be vigilant and keep a wet cloth with you as you work. Regularly rinse and wash your hands, work area, and tools if they become dry with clay. Dust can accumulate on unclean tools, boards, pottery wheels, sponges, clothing, hair, and the floor, even when you open a bag of clay that has been stored and used already.

  • Mop your floors regularly. Never vacuum or sweep dried pieces of clay, as it stirs up the dust, unless you have an industrial vacuum with a special filter designed to catch dust. In Australia, builders use these.

  • Avoid working with clay in your house or in areas with carpet.

  • Refrain from eating or drinking while working with clay, as it is unhygienic. Many places advertising clay and sip experiences are unaware of the risks associated with clay dust.

  • Dried glazes also create dust, so use a high-quality dust mask designed for silica. Keep your glaze lids and bottles clean and free of build-up, as even opening glaze tubs with caked-up, dried glaze will create dust.

  • Store all your clean pottery tools, clay, and materials in a plastic tub to contain the dust and keep it out of reach of young children.

  • Treat your workspace like any other workplace. Consider safety concerns such as the potential for injury. Tie your hair up when using your pottery wheel, and avoid wearing studio shoes inside your house.

My goal is to educate you on how to stay safe when working with clay, especially if you're learning from following others. I haven't seen many people discussing these important safety measures. Remember, knowledge is power.

I hope this information is helpful to you, and I encourage you to share it with anyone else who has a passion for working with clay.


Jasmine -xx-

Resources for you to read and watch:

Pottery Studio_Workplace Health & Safety Rules_Poster
Download PDF • 3.09MB

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