Soldering irons are virtually indispensable when you have a project that requires binding metals together--but one wrong move can easily land you in the emergency room. Not only do soldering irons reach dangerously high temperatures, but they emit huge amounts of smoke. It is imperative that you take proper safety precautions to protect yourself when working with these useful but dangerous tools.
Create a Safe Location
One of the best ways to ensure your safety while soldering is to make sure your work area is safe. Choose an area that is naturally well-ventilated. Open windows and place fans to improve ventilation. Work on a fire-resistant surface that is free of flammable liquids and materials.
Read labels carefully to find a solder that is lead-free. Lead is poisonous and exposure to it can cause serious health issues. While lead is banned in solder products in many locations, including Europe and parts of the United States, it is still a main ingredient in some solder.
Avoid inhaling smoke during soldering by keeping your head to the side of your work rather than directly above it. Exhale to blow fumes away from you or use a fume extraction device to absorb smoke.
Hold all materials that you are soldering away from you. Grip loose materials with pliers or secure them with a vice so that they cannot fall and accidentally burn you or start a fire.
Wear Protective Gear
Protective gear must be worn to prevent injury during soldering. Put on protective eye wear, such as safety glasses or a face shield, prior to soldering. Do not wear contact lenses during soldering as fumes can easily get trapped beneath the lenses and severely irritate your eyes. Wearing a long-sleeved shirt, trousers and shoes can prevent burns from hot solder. Avoid wearing clothes that are very loose.
The tip of a soldering iron can reach a temperature of 400 degrees Celsius or greater. Do not touch the element or tip of the soldering iron unless you're sure it is completely cool. When you're finished using the soldering iron or are taking a break, return it to its stand. Never leave the soldering iron sitting on your workbench as it can easily burn you if accidentally bumped or touched.
Practice Good Hygiene
Eating, drinking or smoking should be avoided while using a soldering iron. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after soldering.