Both of thee purpose-designed materials help reduce how much spatter sticks to the metal around your welds.
Click image to enlarge

Safe Anti-Spatter Materials

How not to gas yourself (or others) while limiting spatter

Text, Photos and Video by Tom Hintz

Posted – 3-30-2011

Like many things there are lots of “home remedies” floating around the welding community that supposedly eliminate or control spatter. Other materials are used in an effort to clean or prepare the metal for welding. The problem comes when we do not fully understand what is contained in products that were intended for other uses. Sometimes these materials simply don’t do much for welding and that’s just an efficiency problem. Folks have used all sorts of materials over the years including solvents or solvent-based materials that were sometimes chlorinated. Weld through or near chlorinated materials and the extreme heat we create instantly burns them, converting some of those materials to phosgene gas, a highly poisonous gas that was banned in 1925 from being used in wars! I’m pretty sure that means it’s not a good thing for our shops or work environments. Since most of us do not understand everything we see in the ingredients list on our breakfast cereal boxes there is even less chance that we understand the chemical possibilities when using materials meant for some other use to try controlling spatter. This kind of uncertainty is all the reason that I need to stick with modern, purpose-designed materials specifically meant for controlling spatter that won’t surprise me with a lethal gas.

Purpose Designed Anti-Spatter Products

The good news is that once the welding manufacturers realized that we might be accidentally creating war-grade poison gases in an attempt to fight spatter they created real purpose-designed materials that are known to be safe to use. For this test I will be using two of those products currently available on the market.

The only prep of the metal was to power brush it (left) to be sure it was not contaminated in a way that cold influence the test. Each of the sprays were applied to the metal pieces as per the label directions.
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One is Hobart Anti-Spatter and Nozzle Shield (Hobart #770075) spray. The label notes that there are no chlorinated ingredients in this spray and that it is non-toxic. The label instructions say to simply spray the material on and weld over it. No drying or other preparation is required.

The other product used here is the Lincoln Anti Spatter, #KH505. The instructions for the Lincoln product are also short and to the point, spray the area to be protected. You don’t even have to shake the can. We can’t blame complicated instructions or precautions for not using these products correctly!

The Test

For this test I will be using two welders. One is my Lincoln Pro-Mig 180 Welder set on high and using 0.030” Lincoln wire and a 75%/25% mix of Argon and CO2 shielding gas. The other machine will be my Lincoln AC-225 Welder set at 150-amps and using 6013, 5/32”-diameter rods.

I cut eight 3”-long pieces of 1-1/2” wide by ¼”-thick mild steel. These pieces will be divided into four groups of two. All of the test pieces were cleaned with a fine grit flap disk to be sure that they were free of scale, corrosion or other possible materials that might compromise the results. Two pairs will be cleaned but left untreated as baseline examples. I welded one pair together with the Lincoln Pro-Mig 180 Welder and the other with my Lincoln AC-225 Stick Welder to keep as untreated samples. Both welders remain set up as described above for all welding tests.

I marked two of the remaining pieces with an “H” and the other two with an “L”. The H pieces were sprayed with the Hobart spray and the L pieces with the Lincoln product with both applied as per the label instructions. I paired one H piece with an L piece and welded them together with the Lincoln Pro-Mig 180 Welder. Then the remaining H and L pieces were welded together with the Lincoln AC-225 Welder. After welding the pieces were allowed to cool to handling temperatures before continuing. The stick welds had the slag chipped away before the brushing portions of the test were done.

After the Weld

Without doing anything after the welds the Lincoln side (left) is looking better. The welded piece to the left side of the image was the control piece with no spray used at all. (Upper right) After power brushing the Lincoln sides of both the MIG & stick test pieces are nearly perfect while a few spatter nodules remain on the Hobart sides. Not a lot of difference but enough to notice.
Click images to enlarge

First I simply compared each of the welded samples to see if there was a difference between them visually. Each of the treated samples was compared to each other and the baseline, untreated pieces. While the difference between treated and untreated (MIG or stick) was not huge, it was noticeable. I rubbed all of the sample sides with my finger in the welding glove and with both stick and MIG, virtually all of the noticeable spatter came right off of the side treated with the Lincoln spray. The Hobart side still had a few spatter nodules that were stuck to the steel.

Step 2 was to scrub all of the samples with an equal number of strokes with a simple hand-held wire brush. The side treated with the Hobart spray still showed a few spatter nodules after brushing while the side treated with the Lincoln spray had no spatter visible. Brushing the control pieces for both stick and MIG showed very little improvement
Finally for Step 3 I used a wire cup brush in my DeWalt 4-1/2” angle grinder and tried to brush each sample about the same amount of time. The control pieces for both MIG and stick improved very little with the powered brush as compared to the hand-operated one. On the treated samples the Hobart side retained a few spatter nodules after the powered brush. The Lincoln side which had lost all of the spatter earlier just shined up a bit. The stick welded sample showed the same results but with a few more spatter nodules than was seen with the MIG welder.

Conclusions

Video Tutor

Keep in mind that this test was done by me in my garage-based shop but I tried hard to keep everything as equal between the samples as possible. All of the metal pieces for this test came from the same long piece, all of the testing was done in one day so the environment was consistent and all of the pieces were set side-by-side except when actually welding.

Over all it is clear that both Lincoln and Hobart anti-spatter sprays did better than none at all. The improvement over nothing was enough to convince me that using the spray is a good thing, especially if the surface finish around the welds is going to be visible. The spatter nodules certainly could be ground off but that adds preparation time to the job as opposed to with the anti-spatter sprays that let you go right to final sanding.

In the side-by-side pieces the Lincoln side won each time. The Hobart sides retained a few spatter nodules after both hand and power brushing while the Lincoln side lost all of the spatter under the hand-operated brush. The difference in performance between the Hobart and Lincoln spray is not earth shaking but it is there. If the project is to be painted I would go with the Lincoln anti-spatter spray. If you will have to grind the piece afterwards any, either product will do well.

With street prices of just $8.99 (3-30-2011) for the Hobart (16-oz) Anti-Spatter spray and $4.99 (3-30-2011) for the Lincoln (16-oz) Anti-Spatter spray you aren’t going to go broke using either brand. Neither spray needs to be applied heavily or repeatedly so a 16-oz can should go a long way in the home-based shop. If the pro uses these sprays only for welding that will be visible the cost still isn’t a major issue.

The most important thing that we all should get from these surprisingly low prices is that it simply is not worth experimenting with materials meant for other uses. I know that these sprays are safe so they will be all that I use, when I use anything to control spatter. It simply is not worth it to me to try something else to save under $10.

Visit the Hobart web site – Click Here

Visit the Lincoln Electric web site – Click Here

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