Stainless-Steel Ruler and Mist Bottle for working with glass mosaic tile

Two Mosaic Safety Tips

A stainless-steel ruler and a spray-bottle filled with water are all you need to avoid the most common injury and the most serious risk associated with creating mosaic artwork.

Stainless-Steel Ruler

The most-common injury caused by glass mosaic tile occurs when the an artist uses there hand to wipe a work surface free of tile cuttings.

Even if the work surface looks clean or relatively clean, there are tiny slivers of glass that make long razor cuts in any hand or arm casually slid across them.

These slivers are hard to see. I’m not talking about the tesserae or odd cuts or anything easy to see at a glance.

You will see blood if you sweep a cutting surface with your hand, no matter how carefully or gently you try to do it.

Pro Tip: Always use a straight edge such as a stainless steel ruler to sweep the tile to the side instead of using your hand, and keep your blood inside where it belongs.

Stainless-Steel Ruler for working with glass mosaic tile
Stainless-Steel Ruler for working with glass mosaic tile. The tile in this photo are 8mm Morjo Recycled Glass Mosaic Tile.

A stainless-steel ruler is useful measuring and marking cuts too. It has a finer gradient marked (1/64 inch) than school rulers and most tape measures.

Powdered Grout Safety

Powdered grout and mortar products are caustic and contain pulverized silica and other minerals that generate fine dusts.

You should avoid getting this dust on your skin and in your eyes and airways, but this is not difficult.

I always wear an N-95 mask when mixing mortars and grouts, and I mix them outdoors.

However, a mask can’t protect you when you take it off and you still have dust on your clothing or hair, and a mask can’t keep your workplace clean.

The most-effective way to protect yourself from dust is to minimize the amount of dust you create.

spray bottle for mist-mixing powdered grouts and mortars
spray bottle for mist-mixing powdered grouts and mortars

You can do this using a spray bottle to mix the water into the powdered grout by misting instead of pouring water on top of the powder.

Start stirring slowly and mist intermittently as needed. You can do this while generating virtually no dust.

I’ve gotten to the point where I can do this process without creating any dust, even when the batch is very large and a water hose with nozzle is required instead of a spray bottle.

You can keep track of how much water you have misted into the grout by keeping track of how much is in the bottle.

You can also track how much water you have added by looking at what is being produced by the mixing.

The goal is to produce a grout or mortar that has the consistency of stiff bread dough.

You don’t want runny grout or mortar because it won’t harden properly.

Adding water slowly by misting (instead of pouring) makes it easier to avoid that problem.

Pro Tip: I always mist the area where I will be mixing grout so that the surfaces and the air over them are saturated with humidity. The humidity helps dust precipitate from the air faster and keeps mortars from skinning over. Run a humidifier if needed.




9 responses to “Two Mosaic Safety Tips”

  1. Bosha Gordon Avatar
    Bosha Gordon

    What is the best thing to use to clean mosaic glass once it is set and dry?

    1. Joe Moorman Avatar
      Joe Moorman

      Hi Bosha,

      Ordinary glass cleaners such as Windex if you are talking about cleaning. If you are talking about removing grout residue, then water is what I use. However, that is effective when the mosaic was properly wiped post-grouting as the grout was hardening. If you have grout residue from insufficient wiping, then you might need to use a 10 or 20% vinegar solution. The catch is that the solution can damage the grout between the tiles, and so you have to be quick and rinse thoroughly.

  2. Trish Collins Avatar

    Hi Joe, I totally agree with your tip about using the spray bottle to add H2O to any powdered substance.
    I do have to disagree with your tip about shard/splinter removal. If there is any chance of the slivers bouncing, flying, sliding or landing on the floor, I get the willies. Not only will they cut your hands, they will stick in the soles of your shoes and you will find them deposited in the room next door or kitchen, and even in your pet’s feet. (Experience talking.) I teach my students (using vitreous and stained glass) to have that spray bottle handy & a sheet of paper towel: squirt the paper towel and wipe the cutting surface away from the floor to the top of your surface. Turn the paper inside out and around throughout the day & keep cleaning. At the end of the day pick up anything left in the pile with another wet towel and place in the garbage.

    1. Joe Moorman Avatar
      Joe Moorman

      Hi Trish,

      These are great points, and I completely agree.

      Finished clean up should always involve a vacuum with HEPA filter and a wiping of the worksurface with a wet paper towel. I even do this sort of clean up every few hours if I am working in a long binge.

      Using a straight-edge to slide tile definitely isn’t a substitute for the final clean up as you point out.

      The purpose of the steel ruler is for all those many, many times in between when you casually wipe a tile or two out of your way with your hand only to realize that you are suddenly bleeding.

      I have hardwood floors in the den I am currently using as my home studio, and so I couldn’t agree more with your point about the floors. (Naturally I make the larger stuff at my warehouse studio which has a concrete floor.)

      I also reuse paper towels over and over in the studio like you are doing.

      Please email us pictures of your work!

  3. Riley McLaren Avatar
    Riley McLaren

    hi Joe,
    awesome flower pot work. very inspiring. about to cash out and buy a bunch of stuff to make flower pot mosaics. would like to attempt to mimic the ones you have posted, with my own flair of course. could you perhaps please email me the necessary equipment needed? i just don’t want to buy things that won’t get used as all. looking forward to your response.


    1. Joe Moorman Avatar
      Joe Moorman

      Hi Riley,
      I recommend glass mosaic tile instead of ceramic materials. I recommend mounting the tiles using thinset mortar from the building material store instead of glue. You would need the Mosaic Glass Cutters and some safety glasses, and everything else is a matter of preference.

  4. maxine greenberg Avatar
    maxine greenberg

    Would it be best to always use prepared grout if you have compromised lungs??

    1. Joe Moorman Avatar
      Joe Moorman

      The way I proposed by misting is the most effective way I have found, but I would consider having someone else mix up the grout for me.

  5. MRS Corey L Ross Avatar

    I have been doing self designed mosaic art themes for about 15 years and my art instructors have always advised using a wooden box with a flat opening to prevent carple tunnel syndrome when I work on a mosaic design for alot of hours, Unfortunately I have never had the fortune of finding a wooden box designed for mosaic cutting safety, and now I am doing an aquatic and nautical Pacific New Zealand Maoori Abalone paua seaside scene and I am using mass quantities of bright blues, saphire blue, to outline the star fish ,and I am doing this patio table art theme in a crowded art class, and dont want anyone getting stainglass mosaic tile bits in their eyes or face or the floor.

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