Epoxy prep: How clean surfaces provide a stronger epoxy bond

For each epoxy project, it's essential to properly clean any surface you'll be pouring epoxy onto; by doing so you'll ensure that the epoxy's chemical bonds will be stronger and more resilient long-term.

What exactly is an unclean surface?

An unclean surface is any project surface that contains contaminants; these are things such as dust, skin oils, residues, particles, and even subtle moisture, such as from condensation in a humid environment. These will often be visible, but they aren't always. It's therefore a good idea to assume there are contaminants on your surface, and to clean accordingly.

What items do you need to make sure your surface is clean enough?

First of all, don't touch the surfaces with your bare hands. Human skin contains self-protective oils that can end up tarnishing your surface over time. It is important to wear gloves during the process.

What types of gloves are best?

A gloved hand cleaning a surface with a paper towel

We recommend Butyl gloves when working with epoxy. These types of gloves are chemical-resistant; not only will they prevent you from accidentally contaminating your project with skin oils, but they'll also protect your skin from epoxy, preventing allergic reactions for anyone with a contact allergy to epoxy.

For some users, Nitrile gloves may be adequate. They aren't as chemical-resistant as Butyl gloves, and trace amounts of epoxy may eventually pass through a Nitrile glove. These would not be a good choice for someone with a contact allergy to epoxy, but they may be fine for the basic cleaning steps prior to your epoxy coating.

Cleaning methods vary by surface material

As for what you'll need for cleaning, that depends on the type of surface you're working with:

  • Laminate: You can use isopropyl alcohol, ideally 91% isopropyl. This is very effective for removing residues and many other contaminants. It also evaporates quickly, so it won't leave moisture if you wipe it down right away; use fresh paper towels for that, and replace each one before they get soaked.
  • Granite: For granite, you can try a gentle sponge with a little soap and some water. Make sure you rinse/wipe off all the soap thoroughly afterward. Dry it off with paper towels, but be sure to swap to a fresh paper towel frequently to avoid leaving behind fibers.
  • Wood: For wood, you can use 91% isopropyl alcohol. Ethanol (i.e., ethyl alcohol) alcohol may suffice as well. Wipe with fresh, dry paper towels immediately. If it's a wood that needs light sanding afterward (most wood does), you can quickly remove sanding dust with a vacuum or a clean dust brush.
  • Tile: For tile, you can use isopropyl alcohol or ethanol (i.e., ethyl alcohol). Wipe it away before it fully dries with clean paper towels, being careful not to let them soak too much. Soaked paper towels are likely to shed fibers.

What to do after cleaning your project surfaces

Once you've finished cleaning your epoxy project surfaces, confirm that your surfaces are dry; once you have, you'll likely want to do a seal coat. Many common materials are porous, meaning they have small, barely perceptible spaces in which liquids or air will have settled. With a seal coat, you'll be removing that air or blocking it from releasing during the flood coating or deep pour coating process. This will reduce or entirely prevent the formation of air bubbles and other blemishes that would otherwise occur.

Learn more about the entire epoxy application process in our tutorial videos here:
Bar Top and Table Epoxy Tutorial Videos

If you don't already have the epoxy you need for your project, we sell two very high quality mixes, each serving different purposes: our unique Bar and Table Top Epoxy, as well as our Deep Pour Epoxy, for projects requiring very thick epoxy layers with long-lasting durability.

Have questions about project preparation? Contact us!

A successful epoxy project can last many years, but that can only occur if you plan properly. While epoxy isn't particularly complicated, there are still a few things that can go wrong if you're not aware of them.

If you have any questions about epoxy, or would like assistance with planning your project, you can contact us at UltraClear Epoxy via email or phone, or you can click the help button on the bottom right of your screen to text chat directly with one of our epoxy experts online.

Epoxy essentialsEpoxy guides & articlesEpoxy project planning

Featured products

UltraClear Bar Top & Table Epoxylive edge table epoxy
Epoxy Resin for Bar Tops, Tables, & Countertops

Sale priceFrom $49 Regular price$69
River Table Turquoise Epoxy Mica PowderRiver Table Turquoise Epoxy Pigment Powder
River Table Turquoise Epoxy Powder Pigment

Sale priceFrom $6
Deep Pour Epoxy ExtremeRiver Table Pour Epoxy
UltraClear Deep Pour Epoxy

Sale priceFrom $159 Regular price$199