Epoxy prep: How clean surfaces provide a stronger epoxy bond

At the start of any epoxy project, it's important to properly clean the surface area you'll be applying epoxy to. Doing this is a surefire way to ensure a stronger, more resilient chemical bond for your epoxy finish.

So what qualifies as an unclean surface?

For epoxy projects in particular, an unclean surface is considered to be any area of the substrate that contains certain contaminants.

These are things such as dust, skin oils, material residues, particles, and even subtle moisture, such as from condensation due to a humid environment.

While these will often be noticeable, sometimes they simply aren't visible. Because of this, it's better to assume there are contaminants on your surface and to clean your substrate prior to applying the epoxy resin.

What's the best way to clean the project surface?

First of all, avoid touching the surfaces with your bare hands.

Human skin produces self-protective oils that can end up tarnishing your surface over time. Instead, you should always wear gloves while working on your project.

A gloved hand cleaning a surface with a paper towel

What types of gloves are best?

For optimal protection, butyl gloves are best when working with epoxy. This type of glove is highly resistant to chemicals.

Butyl gloves will protect your skin from epoxy while also keeping away the natural oil your skin produces from the surface area. They're also great for preventing allergic reactions in anyone with a rare contact allergy to epoxy.

Nitrile gloves are also very good. They aren't as chemical-resistant as butyl gloves, which means trace amounts of epoxy can pass through after extended periods, but it's unlikely for that to occur unless you're wearing them for hours.

These might not be a good choice for someone with a contact allergy to epoxy, but they're otherwise fine for most users and easier to acquire.

And if epoxy does get on your skin, it's actually quite easy to wash away.

Cleaning methods for various surface materials

How you should clean is determined by the type of substrate 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 or a lint-free microfiber cloth for that, and swap each one before they get soaked.
  • Granite: Try using a gentle sponge with a little soap and some warm water.

    Make sure you rinse/wipe off all the soap thoroughly afterward. Dry it off with paper towels or a lint-free microfiber cloth, but be sure to switch to a dry replacement frequently to avoid leaving behind fibers.
  • Wood: You can use 91% isopropyl alcohol. Ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol, may suffice as well.

    Immediately wipe with fresh, dry paper towels or a lint-free microfiber cloth. If it's a wood that needs light sanding afterward (and most wood does), you can quickly remove sanding dust with a vacuum or a clean dust brush.
  • 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. You can also use lint-free microfiber cloths instead.

What to do after cleaning your project surfaces

Once you've finished preparing your substrate, confirm that the surface is dry; once it is, you'll likely want to apply 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 heavily reduce the formation of air bubbles and other blemishes that might otherwise occur.

Click here to learn more about the other types of epoxy coatings.

Some good news is that epoxy surfaces are easy to clean after they finish curing.

Choose a premium epoxy for best results.

These days, there are thousands of epoxy brands available online. If you're new to epoxy and haven't already found a brand that works for you, it can be difficult to sort through what's good and what's not.

Many of these brands are low-cost budget brands which cut corners on quality and safety to provide a seemingly low upfront cost.

You can avoid these pitfalls by choosing a high-quality resin brand with a credible reputation.

If you haven't already chosen an epoxy brand for your project, we'd love for you to consider our UltraClear Epoxy brand.

All of our UltraClear Epoxy resins are:

  • Premium-grade. When handled correctly, they'll last for a minimum of 7 years. This can be further extended with proper care.
  • Safe to use. We set high standards for ourselves and our products. You don't have to worry about VOC's or hazardous fumes when using our resins.
  • 100% made in the USA. Our resins are manufactured here in the United States. This means that, unlike imported resins, our epoxy is guaranteed to meet the regulatory standards for safety and quality set by the USA.

You can find our epoxy resins on the following pages:

  • UltraClear Table Top Epoxy: This is our strongest resin finish. It's ideal for most epoxy projects, including epoxy countertops, table tops, bar tops, and much more.
  • UltraClear Deep Pour Epoxy: This is our deep pour casting resin. It's used for thick epoxy layers, perfect for making river tables, filling silicone casting molds, and crafting resin jewelry and art, as well as many other creative endeavors.

Have questions? Want advice? Contact us!

A successful epoxy project can last many years, but that can only happen 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 if you would like assistance with planning your project, please reach out to us at UltraClear Epoxy.

You can contact us via phone or email here.

During business hour, you can also text chat online with one of our resin specialists by clicking the Help button at the bottom right of your screen.

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