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How to damage your lungs nicely....

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
On equipment forum the question has come up yet again - 'can you use a cheap iron for waxing' - bit like, can you ski down Mont Fort with two tea trays tied to your feet?

Here's some important warnings:

Some of the advice on using cheap irons is DANGEROUS and I am not exaggerating.

'it smokes a bit' (stated in one thread) can be extremely dangerous for the waxer and particularly any kids around if you are using fluorinated or low flouro wax. When smoking or when overheated the wax gives off fluorine, which is EXTREMELY toxic when inhaled and will lead to lung damage.

You CAN use a non-specialised iron but it will not control the temp as well as a specialist one such as a toko t8 (47gbp) - the resulting spikes and dips in temp mean the real problems which are outlined in many threads re damage to skis and overheated or underheated wax, and unpredictable waxing.

I have used a travel iron as an emergency stop gap but you really have to know what you are doing - and I mean really know - to avoid risks to your health and or to your skis.

Always crayon on wax before starting to apply wax, many novices leave this out and using a cheap iron at the same time as failing to do this can lead quickly to base damage.

Jon Coster's course is invaluable.

Christmas is coming - get your loved ones to buy you a proper iron and learn to use it well.

Use hydrocarbon waxes and save the environment and your lungs.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I don't really understand why poeple bother to service and wax their own skis without the 'proper' gear.
Personally, I don't have the time nor the patience to attack my quiver with an iron (can't even get my clothes done!!)
If you are going to the effort to DIY doesn't make sense to make sure you have the correct equipment and do it properly?
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
^^^ this. Especially as a "pro" wax is only €20 or so
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If you do not use a purpose built iron you will literally die!!!!!!!! ARRRRGH!!! We're all gonna die!!!!!!
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
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skimottaret and I did a race ski prep course a couple of years ago and we both took our waxing irons. At the time I had a cheap ski wax iron from Toko and he used an old travel iron which 'smoked a bit' when waxing. The guy running the course measured the temperature of our irons using an IR thermometer. The temperature of the Toko iron was reasonably close to the temperature displayed on its control dial, but the travel iron was massively hotter than it should have been. No wonder it smoked a bit. Even at its coolest setting it was too hot for waxing.
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Does this look OK?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/SWIX-SPECIALITY-WAXING-ECONOMY-SNOWBOARDS/dp/B0014WABB6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1351244076&sr=8-2&tag=amz07b-21

What's the story on fluoro and non fluoro wax?
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
So how do you know know what type of wax you have? I've just got standard Toko wax which is all most ski shops sell. It doesn't say on the pack what it is made of. I confess I seldom bother to re-do the wax with warm snow wax when it is hot weather.

I must confess to travelling with an ordinary travel iron to service my skis. A couple of times I have accidentally turned the iron too high and had it smoke for a few moments when I'm not ironing, but that's about it. It was years ago. You soon find out how to regulate temperature on the ski by how quickly or less quickly you move the iron and how much you repeat the movement. If I turn it to the lowest setting mine doesn't even melt the wax so I am surprised robrar said the travel iron was always too hot.

I don't know if I have ever damaged my skis - how can you tell? Do they get floppy quicker? They seem to last many years.
I am try to do most of my servicing now - including, very recently, proper repairs (I used to use p-tex drip-on sticks), because it seems to be impossible to get a commercial repair without them grinding half the p-tex off - so after a few years you have to finish with a pair of skis just because the p-tex gets so thin and easily severely damaged. Skiing almost entirely off piste it is very hard not to hit a few rocks every week.


Last edited by Then you can post your own questions or snow reports... on Fri 26-10-12 10:15; edited 1 time in total
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As a quick guide, flourocarbon waxes are the expensive ones. Most general purpose waxes are hydrocarbon.
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rob@rar, OK, I'm not going to die from that then.
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so hydro carbon waxes ok, fluro = death from inhalation Shocked
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Why on earth would the ski industry allow people to use flourocarbon waxes? Surely the risk assessment for "potential for a bit of wax evaporation when heated using rudimentary iron" is going to be just a little bit difficult to sign off in the kind of enclosed spaces used in most workshops? I can't imagine for one second they have anything like the extraction and procedures in place to run the risk of any significant level of flourine gas being present - anyone seen the kind of facilities required for that kind of hazard???
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
While there is a serious message here this reads like sponsored scaremongering by Tokio/Swix. If I wax my skis with cheap hydrocarbon wax and a bog standard iron (not too hot) in a well ventilated garage I'm not overly worried. Curiously enough this is what most ski bums around the world do. Not everyone nerds out on private hotboxes and race tunes nice though they may be.
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http://www.decathlon.co.uk/wax-mousse-iron-id_8159821.html
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
I have Dominator Zoom wax, bought from Jon's Ski Tuning. The blurb on his website doesn't mention whether it's hydro or fluoro wax.

The thermostats on any irons can go wrong, I guess, and older irons, whether proper wax ones or travel irons, are more likely to go wrong than new ones.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
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You'd have to be deliberately inhaling the fumes, and doing so over a long period of time for them to have an effect.

If you're doing it occasionally as a DIYer, and in a well ventilated room, then you've nothing really to worry about.
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But we've known for over a hundred years ...


http://youtube.com/v/a4GdWK_WoNs

... and what's with the crayon rubbing thing and why not just drip it on ?
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Confession: Smoking travel irons R us Embarassed! I knew nothing of this - so ta for the info. Must confess, I've done it a max of 3 or 4 times in 20+ years, so hopefully not too much damage done...I do wonder though, could an element of this be like car dealers warning against use on non-manufacturer parts? ie self preservation?

Anyway, never mind smoking irons.....A fellow snowHead was once visited in their ski apartment by the package hol rep - who found them using pan bases (heated on the stove) to wax their skis Shocked! (Luckily it was well before all the health and safety stuff kicked in - I hear that waxing can now only be undertaken after completion of a risk assessment in triplicate; ditto an environmental impact assessment; and while while wearing body armour, a hard hat, safety glasses and a fluorescent jacket Toofy Grin ).
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Additional tip, waxing skis in open sandals can lead to burnt toes Embarassed It was with a Sainsburys budget iron but outside so I didn't poison myself.
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feef wrote:
You'd have to be deliberately inhaling the fumes, and doing so over a long period of time for them to have an effect.

If you're doing it occasionally as a DIYer, and in a well ventilated room, then you've nothing really to worry about.


This may be true for the hydrocarbon based waxes, but have you dealt with Flourine before? "Above a concentration of 25 ppm, fluorine causes significant irritation while attacking the eyes, respiratory tract, lungs, liver and kidneys." - that's 25 parts per million. Not much.

I doubt it is an issue for 99% of people using hydrocarbon based waxes even if they burned the hell out of the stuff in an enclosed space, but it is evident that quite a lot of people have no idea what kind of wax they have, and what the potential dangers are. I am just a bit confused on how ski workshops are getting around this.
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I love it when people take up ski-ing as a hobby and then try to do it for tuppence.
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Monium, depends what the concentration of fluorine is in fluoro wax really.

Sounds a bit over dramatic to me... Just reccommend people do their waxing in a well ventilated place (as you would for every other DIY activity where there are potentially dangerous fumes) and they will be fine. I do mine on the balcony using an old domestic iron, SHOCK HORROR.
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I always post this photo when people think that travel irons are OK


Note that bindings can act as great heat-sinks if heated up too much Embarassed
You will note that any smoke produced was allowed to pollute the local environment.
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Freddie Paellahead, how much of that is down to user error vs iron error?? Holding a red hot iron stationary on a ski base ain't going to be good for the base, no matter what kind of iron it is!!
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kitenski, no stationary irons were used in the harming of these skis Embarassed
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Freddie Paellahead, blimey!!
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pam w, I use the green Dominator Zoom wax and the purple base prep stuff from Jon which according to the Dominator site is hydro.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
It never even occurred to me to do ski work indoors! Always out on the terrace (which means, unfortunately, having the door open as the lead has to come in - so best not done on a very cold and windy day. We use a travel iron which seems to respond OK to its switch - have not burned any bases but we've only been doing it for 10 seasons so there's always a first time, I suppose. Dominator Zoom sounds like it doesn't kill. I am very slapdash with it, I'm afraid - let the snow scrape it off (unless there's fresh powder - then it doesn't work - but how often does that happen just after you've waxed your skis). Being a Coarse Skier I find it hard to tell the difference. I once scraped and brushed one, and left the other, then chucked the skis at random on the snow and really couldn't tell. Embarassed
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pam w, snowball,

Follow up to first post – some good posts here which grapple with reality of all this. In line with what they say, worth looking at the evidence on this, really.

Snowballl, your Toko universal wax, if it’s the twin pack cheap white one, is almost certainly the straight hydrocarbon.

No-one – certainly not me, is saying that you will die if you use a cheap iron and hydrocarbon wax. Don’t be silly. However, overheating flouro wax is a different matter. If you don’t know about all this, you are messing with something serious.

In the 17th and 18th century people were poisoned by arsenic in green wallpaper. No one at the time even thought about the mercury poisoning from hat felting. Steve McQueen (coolest man on screen imho) died of mesothelioma, almost certainly caused by inhaling the dust from clutch and brake linings in the garages where he worked on race cars. Now they are asbestos-free. In essence, some of the compounds which we now have available are highly toxic when used inappropriately. Flouro waxes fall into that category. There’s a lot of discussion about whether recreational users ever need to use flouro waxes. I can’t see why any recreational skier would use them. But young weekend racers have plenty of adults using flouro waxes, and many have no notion of the acute and chronic dangers of overheating flouro wax.

Use it within temp , and there’s little risk. But cheap irons won’t necessarily stay within temp, and will leap from too hot to too cool – see the posts above. Overheated, it will give off flourine products which are extremely nasty – not slightly nasty, but instantly and nastily nasty. Sceptical? How about this:

This is not scare-mongering. The evidence is strong. Some of this research is fully peer reviewed.

http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/ski-wax-chemicals
http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es102033k
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=ski-wax-chemicals-buildup-blood

Guidance emphasizes how you should not use flouro waxes – even if not overheated - near an open fire or radiant fire. That will heat the non-toxic fumes to a point where the highly reactive fluorine products are liberated, which are highly toxic. This is not scare-mongering by ski companies. They want to sell flouro waxes - they make a lot of money from them. But they understandably don't want people injuring themselves or those close to them.

I use hydrocarbon waxes and a professional iron. I wax outside in the summer , spring and autumn. In the winter I do it in the open hall in the chalet – no point in waxing at minus ten outside – and if I used flouro waxes the fumes would go straight up to the kids bedrooms. So for us it’s hydrocarbon on at a low temp, the temp held consistently by the expensive thermostat in my iron, rather than the smoking nightmare of an old travel iron. Some people may have an entirely adequate cheap iron. But how can you tell whether you are buying something with a lousy thermostat or a decent one? A: you can’t unless you check it with a specialist thermometer which will cost as much as a decent waxing iron.

Why crayon on the wax? Because then the iron is only ever touching wax, not naked ptex, and the latent heat of fusion (liquification/melting) ensures that the ptex is not overheated. It takes 30secs per ski to do. Don’t crayon, and you are putting the iron direct onto the ptex, and damage is likely, closing the structure and preventing decent absorption.

So…if you aspire to be a ski tech, pay attention to the word ‘tech’ – being a technician means having a wee bit of technical knowledge. Or you could do yourself, those around you or your skis a lot of damage. Seriously.

And make Christmas/birthday present number one a waxing iron.
Or Jon Coster’s excellent course at the piste office.


Last edited by So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much on Sat 27-10-12 17:50; edited 2 times in total
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 You know it makes sense.
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Freddie Paellahead, excellent photo. And something I have seen too...along with the question 'can you fix this?' ....
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Monium wrote:
feef wrote:
You'd have to be deliberately inhaling the fumes, and doing so over a long period of time for them to have an effect.

If you're doing it occasionally as a DIYer, and in a well ventilated room, then you've nothing really to worry about.


This may be true for the hydrocarbon based waxes, but have you dealt with Flourine before?


Yes. I was a ski tech on-and-off from age 16 up until my mid 20's

I'd say the research agrees with me:

http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/ski-wax-chemicals

"Concerns are greatest for professionals like those in the studies, who waxed as many as 20 pairs of skis a day."

If you're doing dozens of skis a day, then you have cause to take precautions, but as a DIYer doing a pair of skis every so often, you needn't worry, just make sure you're not actively inhaling the fumes and keep the room well ventilated.
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feef, ....I think what you've posted is a bit misleading. The issue is OVERHEATED flourinated waxes, and this has to be distinguished from particulates from ski prep (which were the focus of the env health news article) and the fumes encountered when applying wax correctly (which is not the issue I am addressing). Most recreational skiers starting with waxing and using a cheap iron are going to use hydrocarbon waxes. But if they move onto flouros I would get concerned. There's not enough instances of usage to figure in the accident stats (yet?). And I hope that we avoid it, by people becoming aware of the risks. That's the point of the original post. I would rather have people aware of the potential hazards than risk even one person or family member being affected, and I guess you would too.

So there's little epidemiological data from recreational skiing at present. But there are specific instances of damage in industrial settings which are written up in the medical literature, such as:

http://www.google.com/search?ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=navclient&gfns=1&q=flourine+inhalation+damage#q=fluoride+inhalation+damage&hl=en&prmd=imvns&psj=1&ei=tQuLUNqSMs3I0AXqr4HoBw&start=20&sa=N&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.&fp=a45fb9900ab724d2&bpcl=35466521&biw=1440&bih=696

I must say I smiled at the idea of 'not actively inhaling the fumes' - so it's ok to overheat flouro wax but hold your breath for the 15 minutes it takes? And in a well-ventilated room? Plenty of people are not prepared to open wide the front door and a window when it's minus 5 or 10 outside. I think this rather misses the reality of some recreational skiers' approach to all this. I have opened a hotel door to a wall of smoky fumes...
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fair point about the overheating issue.

But consider the usage...

Of those who do their own waxing, how many use a cheap generic iron?

Of those, who's irons are too hot?

Of that subset who then go on to use fluoro waxes without upgrading their iron? : considering the higher, and more specific melting points of fluoro waxes I'd expect a significant proportion of that subset woud upgrade, but let's assume some don't.

And of those that don't upgrade their iron, do it once or twice and see the smoke coming off and think to themselves : meh, doesn't matter, and ignore it

And of those that ignore the smoke and are daft enough to get a lungful of the stuff and not ventilate the room.

And of those that happen to get a lungful of the stuff once, forget how vile it was and do it every time they wax a pair of skis (bearing in mind that they may not use fluoro waxes every time they do a set of skis)

And then, even if they use fluoro wax everytime, how often are the going to do it? two, three times a season?


You see what I'm getting at.. The risk is real, yes. Undoubtedly.

However, I think the chance of it causing any significant problems in reality is very small.
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Unfortunately a large proportion of Hotels do not even have a ski room with an electric point (and good light) so you have to either do it secretly in your room (trying not to get wax and p-tex on the carpet) or pay to have it done
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snowball, surely that's what balcony areas are for in the winter wink

On a more serious note on the odd occasions I've needed to wax or repair my own skis I've asked the hotel if they minded if I did this outside and asked if they had an old newspaper to catch any drips, on no occasion has a hotelier said no, one even asked if I needed to use an iron and would I like to borrow theirs and their extension cord ! If you ask a hotel they are more likely to be good about such things, I never wax inside as even waxing at the correct temp you still get the smell of hot wax and you don't want to upset other guests, I get back early and do any maintenance before 99% of the other guests return. On a sunny February afternoon you can do the job in a few mins and have good light to do it, don't wait till after dinner snowHead
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Monium, bobmcstuff, To answer the question about proportion of fluorine-based additives in wax.

AIUI Fluoro waxes are made up of a regular paraffin/hydrocarbon base with about 4% of fluoro-based additive.

Of the additive itself, it's not ALL a fluorine compound, so again, we're talking very small quantities.

I know none of the wax manufacturers will tell you what proportions they use, but my guesstimate of 4% is based on research carried out in 2006 by researchers at Lyon university ( Isabelle Rogowski, Didier Leonard, Jean-Yves Gauvrit, Pierre Lanteri ) into the "Influence of fluorine-based additive content on the physical and physicochemical properties of ski gliding wax"

Having tested mixtures ranging from 0% to 50% fluorine-based additives, they identified that around 4% gave the best performance.

I think it's safe to assume that Toko, Swix, Holmenkol, Data, Solda and the rest are all probably around the same level.
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feef, ....you're absolutely right to estimate the reality of the risk. But I think back to the original question (on the equipment forum) - 'is it sensible to use a cheap travel iron?' - and these are the risk

- damage to skis through bad temp control combined with poor knowledge and skills in applying wax and using the iron
- damage to self and others around in ski accommodation by poor use of potentially toxic materials

So, on balance, 'is it sensible to use a cheap travel iron?' - imho no - buy a proper iron and read up on waxing or better still go on a short and quick course.
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valais2 wrote:

- damage to skis through bad temp control combined with poor knowledge and skills in applying wax and using the iron
- damage to self and others around in ski accommodation by poor use of potentially toxic materials


You can do both of those with a 'proper' iron if you don't know what you're doing.

I have a digital Toko iron, which displays the temperature accurately on a readout.

Equally, I have used a cheap Rowenta flat iron myself in the past, and not had any problems as I know what to look for in both how the wax acts and watching the base carefully (you can often see the base heating up as the edges absorb more heat first you can see the tabs of the edges under the base by the way the wax is softer over those areas before, and for a few seconds longer than on the base itself)

IMHO, understanding the method, process and risks are far more important than the kind of iron you chose.
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feef, agree entirely....it's skills and knowledge which counts....

I've used rubbish irons in extremis and because of knowing what to do and what to watch for, it's fine, as you say.

My own trajectory of learning what and knowing how:

- watched ski techs and asked them questions
- had a couple of goes under their supervision
- noticed the contradictions in the way they did things and what they said, and so read on the subject and kept asking questions
- bought a crap iron since it was easier to transport and immediately regretted it
- read some more
- bought a dakine iron
- went on Jon Coster's course
- prep'd over 200 skis during the season - read more and asked more questions
- and then prep'd and prep'd season after season
- never stopped reading and asking questions
- built up a proper workshop, and the good tools (not always the most expensive) always last longer, do a better job, and are quicker

But I guess this isn't so far off your own history if you worked as a tech.


Last edited by After all it is free Go on u know u want to! on Sat 27-10-12 11:12; edited 1 time in total
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I hope you wear a respirator as you'll still be at risk from airborne particulates which are metabolised in the body into the harmful chemicals even if you don't burn the wax. NehNeh

Also don't lick the piste. Toofy Grin
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meh, damn; have I been smug?...didn't mean to be...

And I can feel another thought coming on...no I don't wear a respirator (the research suggests that they all leak, one way or another and so aren't good against gaseous toxins), and hydrocarbon waxes don't give you nasty particulates which metabolise in the body - as far as I know - unlike flourinated waxes

...damn I've gone all smug again...

licking the piste is a tradition where we are, is it not in Iceland too?
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