Incandescent and halogen bulbs get hot. I've been told that the oils from my grubby fingers cause these bulbs to break pre-maturely. To deal with this, I use gloves or the like to keep my grubby fingerprints off of the glass.

LEDs don't get nearly so hot, so do I need to wear gloves (or hold the bulb with paper, etc...) when I touch these bulbs? I suspect the bulbs don't get hot enough for my skin oils to be a problem.

  • 1
    Never heard of that for incandescent, except for broken bulbs. Halogen yes. LEDs probably can touch.
    – crip659
    Mar 26, 2022 at 19:22
  • LEDs can get very hot. The electronics that drive them produce a significant amount of heat, and if you grab a bulb by the heat sink (sometimes it's hidden behind a fancy plastic housing), you may be in for a surprise. The portion around the LEDs themselves, though, will be basically room temperature. The only damage you'll cause by touching the heat sink is to your fingers, though, not the bulb.
    – FreeMan
    Mar 26, 2022 at 21:33
  • Most of the heat comes from the actual internal LED junction.
    – John Canon
    Mar 27, 2022 at 1:33
  • @FreeMan LEDs burn out when the junction temp goes above 200F/100C. The LED chips themselves won't last long even at 175F. Considering the kitchen halogen lights I retrofitted ran at over 450F, and plain incandescent bulbs can run over 225F, LEDs are a lot cooler all-around. A hot-running driver is an inefficient one (by definition) and should be updated, or in bulbs, looks for ones that provide at least 80 lumens per watt; more L/W = cooler operation at a given power class. A bulb that only does 50 or 60 L/W will run hot and die young...
    – dandavis
    Mar 27, 2022 at 1:54
  • Note that the "glass" in an LED bulb isn't an integral part of the bulb - it's just for decoration, essentially
    – user253751
    Mar 28, 2022 at 9:09

1 Answer 1


You have a fact there, but you're extrapolating it too far.

Yes, fingerprints on halogen lights are a problem, because they run very, very hot. The extreme heat means the skin oil will thermally stress the crystal glass and crack it.

Plain old tungsten incandescents don't get that hot. Nor do "modern" incandescents that are a tiny halogen inside a glass bulb shape - the large surface area of the traditional bulb shape cools them. So fingerprints there don't really matter.

Likewise they don't matter on LEDs, but I wouldn't go touching LEDs because they have typically metal heat-sinks, and a lot of them have extremely poor or nonexistent electrical isolation to the heat sinks, so they sit there in the fixture energized at 120/230V. Even if properly designed, the heat sink may be bonded to neutral, which is hot if the lamp or house is mis-wired. With 100 million DIYers installing fixtures and smart switches, mis-wiring happens all the time.

Really, the heat of halogens is a 20th century problem. They were scandalously banned after countless house fires, plus being a horrible burden to the power grid - 500 watts for a living room light? Remember those "torchieres" that were everywhere in the 90s and you notice they all sort of disappeared after about 2000. Because of the fires and lawsuits!

Honestly there was nothing wrong with the torchiere concept, bounce the light off the ceiling. Now you can do it with about 40 watts of LED, not bad at all.

  • 1
    The one area where incandescent bulbs can burn out prematurely due to skin oils are in ovens. Appliance bulbs usually have a warning on them not to touch with bare fingers for that reason. Mar 26, 2022 at 20:20
  • 2
    Many of the current LED lights and bulbs actually have a translucent or clear outer plastic covering (usually to mimic a traditional bulb shape) with the LED emitter far inside; those plastic coverings are safe to touch.
    – Armand
    Mar 26, 2022 at 22:44

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