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Wax Room Safety

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 



My name is Tom Reinerth (aka Dominator Tom in Epic) and I am the owner of Podium Racing, the company that distributes DOMINATOR waxes here in the US. I have been lucky enough to be involved in snow sports as far back as I can remember, but I will not bore you with these details. If interested, you can read more that subject at this link:



As of 1/1/2013 I am an insider at Epic and I plan to spend some time in the Tuning and Maintenance section. I want to wish everybody a happy and healthy New Year and healthy is the key word, as I’m kind of a health nut, so I want to point your attention to our waxroom safety manual:



I am proud to say that I am the one that initiated our wax room safety awareness program back when DOMINATOR was founded. In 1993, I was a serviceman for the Salomon Race Department traveling on the pro tour, waxing for domestic FIS and Nor-Am Speed Races and twisting bindings for World Cup events. At that time we were testing what would later become the DOMINATOR waxes. You can read more about it here:



I had just received some samples from Thanos and when I called him for details I asked another question that was on my mind. We had travel-waxed 20+ pair of DH skis with a Euro fluoro wax that we used frequently in those days and I noticed it was harder for me to breathe after each session of hot waxing. I wondered if it was possible that this wax did something to the oxygen in the room? Thanos’ answer did not make me feel any better; he said that what it did was reduce the volume of oxygen I was able to take with each breath, and was doing something to my lungs, not to the air in the room. However, he was quick to say that I would be ok in a couple of days (which was true) and that ALL waxes did that, not just the one I used to travel wax. He also told me I should wear a respirator when I wax, and even then I should stop and get some fresh air after waxing a few pair of skis.


The next race series I went to was the Canadian National Championships at Nakiska. At the downhill, the upper lift was closed due to high winds and we had to hike our racer’s skis up the steep hill to the start; I was wheezing and felt like passing out by the time I made it to the top. My ability to “breathe deeply under strain" returned after a few days, but I learned the lesson to protect myself.


When I began working with Dominator, I insisted that we put in place a safety program. I was concerned about myself as well as the other technicians (many who are life-long friends) along with the racers (many who are also life-long friends) who were hot-waxing in small, unventilated areas like parking garages, basements and waxing trailers. Thanos agreed to the program without hesitation. I’m sure his chemical industry background taught him that there were responsibility and liability considerations in consumer products, so we put a section in our manual and written warnings on all of our wax packages; not only the fluorinated waxes, but also straight hydrocarbons.


I can tell you that started a hailstorm of sorts as some dealers were skeptical about putting a wax with safety warnings on their shelves and, at the same time, the other wax companies started accusing us of sensationalism. A number of competing companies even took a few cheap shots; they were saying that we put the warning on our packaging because our waxes were possibly toxic, leaving you to believe all their waxes were perfectly benign. There were times in the beginning when I thought that maybe we went too hard by being up-front with printed warnings on our packaging, or that Thanos was annoyed with me for pushing so

hard -- as rocking the boat does not help sales – but he laughed it off and joked that if we let our customers kill themselves there would be nobody left to buy wax.


Twenty years later it turns out we were doing the right thing to take a hard line back then, and it is completely true that the other major wax companies have clearly changed their tune on this issue. Now, there are only one or two small outfits stupidly, and irresponsibly insisting that their waxes are somehow safe and inferring ours may not be, but the official verdict is out. The wax room safety manual is based on work done by independent, qualified researchers and they trump forum experts all day, every day. So read the safety article and decide for yourself.


There are a couple of other points I want to make that are not included in the wax article, but are important to keep in mind. There is a lot of confusion because of chemistry terms and they must be clarified. (I am not a chemist, but this is not upper graduate work here)


HF is the formula for hydrofluoric acid, a very toxic chemical. But in the wax industry, it is also the designation for High Fluoro content waxes. So some people can be confused, because the two HF meanings are sometimes used without distinction.


HF (hydrofluoric acid) can form from the fluoro additive when it is heated to 550 degrees Fahrenheit or higher; this is unlikely to be done by ironing because your base would be toast long before that. So the concern is not hydrofluoric acid when you iron wax at normal iron temperatures, the concern are the airborne particles that are generated when the HF (high fluoro content) waxes are ironed.


HF (hydrofluoric acid) CAN be generated in the wax room, not by ironing, but if a fluoro wax comes in contact with a flame, a lit cigarette, an electric heater, a heat gun heating element, a fireplace fire…. take your pick. The cigarette is an especially sneaky delivery vehicle. When people iron, brush or scrape fluoro waxes, there is some wax left on their fingers, when they light a cigarette the wax transfers to the cigarette paper then it later burns as the cigarette gets smaller and, surprise, they inhale hydrofluoric acid. So, if you smoke, (and why would you anyway) it is smart for you to use gloves when you work with fluoros or, at the very least, wash your hands very well before lighting a cigarette, or .... if you're in Colorado ......


I am not posting this looking to start a long discussion with anybody about this, I am only reporting what the experts say. You can make your own decisions and if you think the experts are wrong, write your own scientific paper and send it in to be published. And, by the way, I am not saying that you should take it to extremes. When I wax my skis with Race Zoom New Snow to slash some tasty pow on my home mountain of Snowbasin, Utah, I don’t use a respirator in my well-ventilated workshop. But, to the contrary, when I am doing race tunes or waxing multiple skis or boards, the respirator gets full-use.


By reading past Epic posts I see that there are many people here that wax frequently, so they should take the time to read the safety article and then decide for themselves what precautions they want to take.

I hope to be joining in some tuning and waxing discussions and if you have questions, feel free to ask. If you want to ask something that is not of interest to everybody, you can send me a private message, or if you need a quick response, a message in the DOMINATOR Wax Facebook page. I will be checking my Epic pm’s as time allows, but we respond to our Facebook messages within 12 hours.


Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year.

post #2 of 32

Tom - thanks for your wise words for safety. I wish everyone who posts here had as much

concern for the safety of others rather than just trying to sell their inferior products. I'm

looking forward to your expert help and advise. Thank you.

post #3 of 32

Welcome Tom.  I use Dominator waxes and learned a lot from Thanos when he was posting on epic. In fact I bought a respirator from Amazon based on his advice and use it now.  I'm quite grateful for the advice.  The other day I was ptexing some gouges in my base and was extremely happy to have the respirator as that stuff really smells bad.  


In any case again welcome to epic, having you here is really great - I look forward to learning a lot from you.

And to those of you who haven't used Dominator waxes, I'll say what from Tom would be out of self-interest, but from me is entirely unbiased;  the stuff works great.  Dominator Zoom and Graphite Zoom for a recreational skier or instructor will take care of almost all situations and is very reasonably priced.

post #4 of 32

I also found the safety posting and article very worthwhile. One hears all kind of opinions and, on the internet, you get every shade of opinion about every topic including those from people who don't let facts get in their way. But what I like about the articles on the Dominator education site is that they are actually factual. I think everyone (well almost) is happy to see Dominator as a sponsor and you as a participant.


On the safety advice front: One thing that I do but I don't really know if is necessary, is to wear my respirator mask when I scrape and brush high fluoros. I do the same thing with the super cold waxes but that is just because the wax dust is so fine I don't want to breathe it.

post #5 of 32

   Thank you Dom Tom for following up on thisicon14.gif!  Useful info to be sure!  This topic is by and large ignored.



post #6 of 32

I had no idea about this with ski waxes. I've always done it outdoors, so that was good. I have a respirator for painting, etc. and will now wear it for waxing skis--why not? Thanks so much for the insight!

post #7 of 32
Thread Starter 


Happy you are already using a respirator and many thanks for the product endorsement! As you said, Zoom or Graphite Zoom will cover most snow conditions, however, for the frigid zone Bullet is a better choice. It was - 14*C in Soldier Hollow on Thursday, too cold for Graphite Zoom, but Bullet was a very popular choice.


post #8 of 32
Thread Starter 


You are correct about the respirator not being necessary while scraping and HAND brushing soft waxes and even most hard waxes. But if you are roto brushing you need to use eye protection and at the very least a dust particle mask. Interestingly enough some techs have reported minor nosebleeds after repeated outdoor application of fluoro powders (any brand) in multi-run events like skiercross and boardercross. This is most likely the result of a drying action, but nevertheless indicates that even with hand brushing fluoro powders will make it to the nasal passages. We are keeping an eye on this.

post #9 of 32
Thread Starter 


My motivation for initiating this thread is not only that the topic is by and large ignored; it is mostly the anecdotal “evidence” by “experts” about waxing all their lives without a respirator and never had a problem that can give techs a false sense of security.

post #10 of 32
Thread Starter 


The cartridges must be suitable for organic vapor and hydrofluoric acid, they most likely are but you should double-check.

post #11 of 32
Thread Starter 



I took this picture at the US Nordic Nationals in Solider Hollow Utah just yesterday. Every wax room I visited had masks similar to these but of course, unlike most Alpine skiers, the Nordic community uses HF waxes most all the time and frequently applies fluoro-powders heated with an iron.  Recreational users need not go to this extreme if only waxing one or two pairs in a well ventilated room.


post #12 of 32

So is it necessary to wear a mask when waxing with non-flouro? We always wax in our garage while it is open and other than the shavings creating a rather slippery surface on the floor for a few days, weren't aware of any other hazards. We do have the option of doing it ALL outside, since we do live in SoCal where the weather is typically cooperative for such things.

post #13 of 32

I'm just barely starting to wax our skis but my husband insists on doing it outside.  Luckily, we are able to do so.

post #14 of 32
Originally Posted by Dominator Tom View Post


Happy you are already using a respirator and many thanks for the product endorsement! As you said, Zoom or Graphite Zoom will cover most snow conditions, however, for the frigid zone Bullet is a better choice. It was - 14*C in Soldier Hollow on Thursday, too cold for Graphite Zoom, but Bullet was a very popular choice.



Since my ski chalet is a 5th wheel trailer I have tried hot waxing skis outdoors with no success even when using room temperature skis. Is it because I am at a fairly cold Canadian ski area that does not go above freezing too often and your photo was taken on a warm sunny day?

post #15 of 32
Thread Starter 

@ Contesstant


Waxing and scraping a few pairs with hydrocarbons does not really present a notable safety issue if you are waxing outside or in a well ventilated room and with the proper iron setting. However, if you have any hesitation, just err on the side of caution; a suitable gas mask that you can get at any hardware store would suffice.

Edited by Dominator Tom - 1/4/13 at 8:25pm
post #16 of 32
Thread Starter 




At the US Nordic Championships, many teams are using waxing trailers similar to this one pictured here.


post #17 of 32
Thread Starter 


Our preferred method is to wax skis indoors, although we have, on occasion, waxed our recreational skis outdoors during warm, sunny days. One reason to do it indoors is to preserve the structural integrity of the ski, it needs to be at around room temperature before you hit it with a hot iron. The other reason is that you do not want the wax to cool too quickly, it is not fast or durable when this happens. It was cold and sunny in Soldier Hollow and this person was waxing outside, but the skis were kept inside until right before waxing and then taken back in to keep at room temp while the wax set, guess the tech just wanted to enjoy the sunny day and watch the competition as he was preparing the skis for the later heats.
post #18 of 32
Thread Starter 

There is a follow up to this story.

Edited by Dominator Tom - 1/6/13 at 8:29am
post #19 of 32
Thread Starter 

What you see above are the very capable hands of Vermont Academy's Nordic head coach Alexei Sotskov, a Dominator user since 1998 when Russian Nordic combined athlete Valerij Stolijarov won Olympic bronze in Nagano and was raving to Alexei about this new American wax. The following is from Vermont Academy's Nordic skiing blog:


"2013 US National Championship Day 2 by Craig Calhoun'13

1/4/2013 Racing is very hard...
...The sun was blinding us through our dark, sexy sunglasses, and temperatures had
risen enough to allow my wind briefs actually work, so it was a prefect day for a race.
Halfway through the fifteen kilometer skate race, no day was beautiful enough...
Craig Calhoun managed to power his super fast skis up to a respectable position for a
high schooler, Jamie Lumley made up a few valuable positions from the classic sprint
on Wednesday, and Mikaela Paluszek continued her amazing streak of performances
with an impressive result among the juniors. Coach Sotskov pulled out the super wax
and aced the skis, we were passing people on every downhill!"


That's right, Bullet at around $1 per pair of skis gave faster skis than the ironed in $50 per pair of skis fluoro powders.




Edited by Dominator Tom - 1/6/13 at 9:05am
post #20 of 32
Thread Starter 
I have received a number of emails from people asking if they are better off using the so called “natural” or “green” ski waxes asking if they can hot wax them without a respirator. This is an important issue, so some detail is in order and I will address two aspects of the “natural” waxes; health effects and environmental impact.
The suppliers of beeswax and carnauba waxes list on the material safety data sheets, that inhalation may cause lung irritation and a respirator must be used if vapor concentrations are high. So, from the horse’s mouth, a respirator is needed when waxing with natural waxes just the same as with the hydrocarbon waxes if ventilation is not adequate.
So, as for health effects; smoke is smoke, we are not meant to breathe it!
BTW, just because something is labeled natural it does not mean that it is non-toxic. Digitalis is a poison derived from a plant, it may be natural, but it will kill you. The citrus base cleaner people frequently use is “limonene', a “natural” product made from orange peel, but even though it is natural, it can cause horrible eye and skin allergies to some people.

Concerning the environmental impact of these “natural” waxes: Please take a look at “the environmental impact of wax” article in our technical education section, it’s only two pages and it reads easily.
So, the bottom line is that there are no health or environmental impact benefits in waxing with natural waxes as compared with standard hydrocarbon waxes.
But there is one very important difference; every natural wax we have tested was SSSlow!

Edited by Dominator Tom - 1/7/13 at 10:44am
post #21 of 32
Thread Starter 

Edited by Dominator Tom - 1/8/13 at 8:55am
post #22 of 32
Thread Starter 


Edited by Dominator Tom - 1/8/13 at 8:57am
post #23 of 32



Saying you should wear a respirator is like saying you should wax your skis.  What type of wax?  Same thing - what type of respirator?  I assume you are referring to what is known as an air purifying respirator where you breathe through filter media.  Are these cartridges?  Are you using particulate cartridges or cartridges to remove organic vapors (OVA), or combo cartridges?  Such respirators can be found from an industrial supply house like Grainger (on-line or locally from their retail locations), however they need to be evaluated to see if they have a proper fit.  Facial hair can affect the fit.  OSHA requirements are applicable if the employer decides that employees must use respirators.    These include medical clearance for respirator use, proper fit testing (identifying the make/model and size), and training for care and use. For personal voluntary use at home the requirements are not applicable, but still serve as a helpful guide.  The other important thing is to know when to change the filter cartridges which will depend on the type of cartridge.

post #24 of 32

  I wear a respirator working with fluoros. I have a background in health care  and did some research into this a few years ago. You are right about needing more specificity.  I do a few pair a week and have a pretty well ventilated area. My respirator is a half face. Mine is made by North, 3M makes lots of them too that I am sure are also fully certified and fine. I use cartridges that are rated for lots of things but the key one I look for is HF. Since I scraped and brush in addition to wax, my cartridges are also particulate rated by size and I use a P100. N95 would be good too.


post #25 of 32
Thread Starter 



All good points, and I like your wax analogy.


Continuing on that vein, we recommend that people wax their skis, but the specific wax depends on their situation (racers, weekend warriors, casual skiers…). My objective in starting this thread was to make people aware of the potential risk, then they can decide on their level of protection depending on their specific situation: Where are they waxing, what type of wax, how often, how many pair, etc. Later in the thread I showed a photo of an xc wax tech using some very serious protection because his specific conditions demand it.   


BTW, we do make a recommendation in the article I referenced:


“Clearly, a potential health hazard is present while ironing some fluoro ski waxes. A respirator equipped with cartridges suitable for organic vapor, sulfur dioxide, and hydrochloric acid should provide adequate protection.”  Our intention was to provide a starting point.


This is  our recommendation for ski club waxrooms: “There are several suppliers of suitable respirators, this has been adequate for the situations I have encountered: http://solutions.3m.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/PPESafetySolutions/PPESafety/Personal_Protective_Equipment/Product_Catalog/?N=4294930848+5011378&Nr=AND%28hrcy_id%3AZ2MDCBK77Ngs_6PJV46T1N5_N2RL3FHWVK_GPD0K8BC31gv%29&rt=d


We stayed away from specific recommendations on purpose; the internet is full of people that don’t let lack of knowledge (and information) get in the way of suggesting remedies. I see from your profile that this is your area of expertise, I am sure forum members will appreciate specific suggestions.

post #26 of 32

Timely and helpful article.


I wax in a basement--do you have any recommendations on how to easily add ventilation in basement setup?  (I rent, so it'd have to be a  non-permanent solution.)


Thanks, Jon

post #27 of 32

How about a square floor fan blowing across your work area?

Is the basement unfinished?

post #28 of 32
Thread Starter 

@ John Strider

One quick and easy solution is what Racer suggested.
Another option is to use a vacuum cleaner with a hose. Remove the hose nozzle attachment and turn on the vacuum cleaner while ironing the wax.  Iron with one hand and follow the iron with the hose in your other hand; cumbersome, but it works.
It also has the added advantage that it removes, rather than redistributes, the wax vapors. (The wax vapors end up as solid wax in your vacuum cleaner bag.)
post #29 of 32

Thanks.  Square fan makes sense for ironing, but sounds like it would lead to drama during scraping and brushing.


I like the idea of using a vacuum somehow--I often find myself steadying the ski or managing the extension cord with my "off-side" hand while ironing, so I'd be a bit concerned about doing something awkward with the iron if that hand was holding a hose.  I wonder if it might be possible rig up a homemade version of those waxing hoods that are sold (?)

post #30 of 32



Although a fan will help move the fumes away from your breathing zone while waxing, it still isn't the best answer unless it is directing the fumes outside.  Otherwise all you are doing is diluting the contaminants and letting others in the building be exposed. Some may be more sensitive to the fumes or have medical conditions that will be problematic.  A vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air filter) should at least remove some of the contaminants.

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