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I was told recently that concrete is slightly corrosive.

Should gloves be worn when using concrete or is it fine to handle concrete as long as its not done on a regular basis?

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Any skateboarder can attest to the fact that concrete is hell on the skin. –  Chris Cudmore Jul 29 '12 at 15:36
    
I'm specifically talking about wet concrete. –  PriestVallon Jul 30 '12 at 9:40

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Cement (the active component of concrete) is a base (an alkali) that can be irritating to skin. It is not very strong and should not be a problem on all but sensitive skin, if the exposure is short or intermittent. It could be very irritating to eyes and nasal passages if there is a lot of exposure.

Gloves are not a bad idea (e.g., disposable nitrile) but concrete pourers and DIYers handle all the time with little ill effect (again, for short exposure).

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Note that "short exposure" is not the opposite of "regular basis". One is frequency, the other is duration. –  Jay Bazuzi Aug 1 '12 at 23:48
    
good point. repeated exposure or long duration both warrant extra protection. –  bib Aug 2 '12 at 0:28
    
Depending on your skin toughness, being an alkali, Portland Cement is a pretty good defatting agent. The slick feel you get from it is it removing all the skin oils. If you're mixing up a wheelbarrow of cement and wash it off immediately, no problem. If you're doing a long term foundation pour, wear gloves. –  Fiasco Labs Jun 4 '13 at 15:19

Corrosive? You bet. Wet concrete can cause chemical burns, 3rd degree burns, cause blindness if gotten in the eyes. Wear gloves no matter how often you use concrete. Now, unless you like what your skin turns to when working with concrete without gloves, go ahead.

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Are you suggesting that "wear gloves" is the appropriate response to "can cause blindness if gotten in the eyes"? –  Jay Bazuzi Aug 1 '12 at 23:50
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@JayBazuzi I think the suggestion is that people often rub their eyes with their hands, especially when irritated, so you don't want your hands to be covered in a substance that can cause blindness. But wearing eye protection and a dust mask wouldn't be a bad idea, especially while mixing. –  BMitch Jun 4 '13 at 10:52

As you can see from the other answers, there is a range of opinions.

I have observed that some people handle concrete bare-handed without trouble, while others' skin reacts very badly. For example, my neighbor got sores very fast with exposure to concrete while setting fence posts. And I've heard reports that these types of sores heal very slowly.

If you don't want to wear gloves, then try without them, and see how it goes.

Certain activities require more contact with concrete than others. For example, when building a cordwood masonry wall, you typically place concrete by the handful. The literature recommends wearing heavy rubber gloves, and coating your hands with a protective oil beforehand.

Don't forget about your lungs. Breathing concrete dust can be harmful, in ways that you can't immediately detect. Consider a dust mask when mixing, especially indoors.

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Please, please wear gloves! Especially if you are a DIYer, and will be working on a project that involves any more than two pounds of cement. I did not listen to the warning, and worked with the wet cement without gloves. We were filling the bottom of a pond that had cracked, and spent about 5 hours across two days working. I didn't notice anything at all while I was working, but as soon as I rinsed off my hands, I found plenty of small puncture wounds and sores that the gravel had eaten into my skin! Even my father, who has carpenter's hands, had the same sores. My advice to anyone working with cement for more than an hour is to wear gloves. Even the cheap disposable kinds really helped my grandfather and brother to avoid the pain and irritation we experienced. Cement also really dries out your skin, so now on top of the sores, I've got cracks and tight skin.

Just wear the gloves!

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Everyone working around concrete does that at least once. You learn to have spare sets of gloves in the pickup if you're doing any amount of concrete work. –  Fiasco Labs Jun 8 '13 at 18:54

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