You probably know that you can lose your fingers if you are not careful with welding. Did you know that you can lose your eyesight if you don’t wear the right kind o protective gear?
This is something that a lot of people take for granted. They mistakenly think that any pair of tinted glasses will work, including their favorite pair of wraparound ones. And if they find it uncomfortable, they don’t wear a pair at all and ignore the blinding light as they work.
They are unaware that wearing the wrong eye gear or not wearing any can have disastrous consequences. To keep your eyes protected, you must use the right kind. There are different ones available, but we will discuss the most commonly used ones: shades 14, 13, 12, 10, and 5.
Best welding glasses & helmets
We’ve searched the market for the best welding glasses & helmets to keep your eyes safe! If you’re simply in the market, here are our recommendations. Scroll down the page to see which welding glasses shade number applies to each type.
Welding Goggles versus Helmets
Wearing safety gear is important whenever you do any welding activity. When it comes to welding goggles vs. helmets, you may find yourself confused about which one to use. Don’t worry. You’re not alone in not knowing which safety glasses and eye protection to go for. They come in a range of designs and styles.
Some, newer safety goggles come with polycarbonate frames that distort the colors and prevent unnecessary glare and smoke exposure. Let’s get into the details so you can get the right piece for your needs. By the end, you can purchase the one that suits you.
It cannot be denied that a helmet offers more protection. After all, this headgear protects the wearer from the neck up. There’s an extensive list of things that a helmet will protect your face and neck from:
- ultraviolet (UV) light,
- corneal sunburn or flash burn (aka welder’s eye),
- and infrared (IR) radiation.
Metal bits from the base material are also something you will want to avoid. On the other hand, glasses can only protect your eye area.
Because goggles are more compact, they are less intrusive to wear. Meanwhile, a helmet is much bulkier and can feel constricting for some. They can be uncomfortable for some to the extent that wearing them can affect their work. That is why they would rather wear glasses despite offering less protection.
Goggles used to be preferred by many because it is perceived to be better for visibility. Helmets with passive or fixed lenses made it harder for the wearer to see clearly. Fortunately, more of the manufacturers are now offering ones that offer clearer views as you weld. Good models also include interchangeable and auto-darkening lenses.
But if you are using conventional ones, you still need to wear glasses and your helmet to protect your eyes.
For some people, they are also a hassle to wear. Conventional helmets with passive lenses must be used in different positions before, during, and after. Beginners need to get used to the darker shades, which may seem like a nuisance.
As a fix, auto-darkening lenses are used so that the craftsman can wear them at all times. The lenses will adjust themselves based on the amount of light detected. Helmets with auto-darkening glasses also have varying features available, such as:
- They can only have a fixed shade that darkens to shade number 10 when it senses an arc. They can also have a variable one with different options that darken to the appropriate level of protection. The protection will depend on the amount of light detected.
- Different reaction times indicate how fast the lens will darken to a certain level once it detects light.
- Number of sensors installed to detect the light
- Various viewing sizes
- Delay controls that allow you to set how long it stays dark after it no longer detects an arc.
- Sensitivity controls allow you to set the light sensitivity before it darkens to a suitable level.
Choosing between goggles vs. a helmet will just be a preference for the craftsman. The helmet is the best option for those who prioritize safety and don’t mind the added bulk. Goggles are best for those who need a clearer vision when working and fewer intrusions. If you decide to wear goggles, you need to be extra careful to avoid injury to the exposed parts of your face and neck when working.
Are They Safe?
If you are getting your first pair, you may notice the different options available. OSHA explains welding glass shade numbers as an indicator of the filter lens’s amount of protection. In particular, the number represents the intensity of UV and IR radiation that it allows to pass through.
It’s important to know that they are only safe if you make sure that you get the appropriate rating for the job.
The darkness of the filter increases with the shade number, which then decreases the amount of light that passes through the lens. This means a pair of glasses with a number of 14 is darker, allowing less light to pass through than one with a lower number. It offers better protection from the brightness of the light than a pair with a number of 11.
Glasses and some helmets normally use lenses with fixed shades. Some newer units come with auto-darkening lenses that automatically adjust the shade when the sensors detect an arc.
When inactive, it has a shade number of 3 or 4 and will darken up to number 13 when it finally detects light. The maximum protection these auto-darkening lenses have varies, but the majority of them use 13 as the maximum.
The minimum numbers recommended by OSHA will not just depend on the type used but also on the amperage or arc current. Their ideal protection and ranges are as follows:
- SMAW – from 7 to 11
- Gas Welding – from 4 to 6
- GMAW – either 7 or 10
- Oxygen Cutting – from 3 to 5
- Flux Cored Arc – either 7 to 10
- Gas Tungsten Arc Welding or GTAW – either 8 or 10
- Heavy Air Carbon Arc Cutting or CAC-A – 11
- Light Air Carbon Arc Cutting or CAC-A – 10
- PAW – from 6 to 11
- Heavy Plasma Arc Cutting or PAC – 10
- Medium Plasma Arc Cutting or PAC – 9
- Light Plasma Arc Cutting or PAC – 8
- Carbon Arc – 14
They normally range from 2 to 14, with 2 being the lightest. There are also special ones that offer zero protection, even numbers 1.5 and 1.7. Welding activities generally require numbers higher than 2.
Shade Number 14 Welding Glasses
If you want the darkest possible option, you need to look for welding glasses with shade number 14. It is so dark you can hardly see anything with it, which makes it unsuitable for use outside work.
The dark shade allows the filtration of up to 99% UV and IR radiation, making it ideal for any work. They’re great for arc welding at high amperage like TIG. They are typically used for heavy industrial work and not for small projects like those done at home.
These look completely black and are mostly available with glasses and some helmets with fixed lenses. Ones with auto-darkening lenses often do not have this level of protection available.
Shade Number 13
You can go a shade lower, number 13. It will still keep your eyes well-protected and is a grade alternative if you find shade number 14 too dark for you. Pros who prefer dark lenses often prefer to use these compared to ones labeled number 14.
These are also cheaper. That is why they are common on any protective eyewear, including those equipped with auto-darkening lenses. This is often the darkest option available for welding glasses. It will only be used for non-industrial projects involving light and heavy-duty work. You can also use this level of protection for all types of welding that you may do.
Shade Number 12
For many, the welding glasses equipped with shade number 12 are more comfortable to use than shade numbers 13 and 14. This is because these are just enough to let them see the light coming from the arc while being comfortable for them to do so even for hours. Some get eye strain when they use darker lenses. They are also ideal for use in all types of welding, ranging from light-duty to non-industrial heavy-duty use. They’re especially great for those with high amperage.
Both glasses and helmets offer these protective lenses. Most older models of helmets with fixed or auto-darkening lenses have this as their darkest one.
Shade Number 10 Welding Glasses
If you know that your projects will only require you to use a medium amperage, use welding glasses with a shade number 10. They’ll still be suitable for you. They are typically considered the middle ground because they are not too dark or light. But despite being marked as number 10, you can see that different lenses marked as such seem to have a different shade. They can either be greenish or blackish.
Products that use this level of protection tend to be manufactured for specific uses because of this issue. Specific models are often created for specific types and not for general use.
Despite this, they can be used for all types, but not when using high amperage. Do note that those doing work inside a garage may find them too dark for them to work with.
Aside from traditional glasses, they are available in helmets with fixed and auto-darkening lenses.
Shade Number 5 Welding Glasses
For light work, shade 5 welding glasses are usually sufficient. It should not be used if your work activity involves arcs, such as MIG and TIG. They’re not dark enough to shield your eyes from the very bright light of the arc. That is why these are used only for cutting and grinding metals. It can also be used for brazing and other torch work, including an oxy-acetylene one.
These not only come in black or green tints, but various manufacturers also make mirrored and polarized versions. It makes them look like ordinary sunglasses. There are even some sunglasses with this level of protection you can use for the light welding-related activities we mentioned.
If you need to wear prescription glasses if working with these machines, it may be a bit harder for you to choose the right pair. It’s especially the case if your pair of prescription glasses is already tinted.
Those in the middle of the range are a safe bet in such cases. Aside from choosing the right one, you must also choose the right product to accommodate your prescription glasses.
Time needed: 10 minutes.
There are several things to consider before you go buying welding glasses. Here is the step-by-step procedure for choosing the right fit.
How do I choose welding glasses?
- Determine what shade number you need
It is of utmost importance to choose the right shade of glasses to protect the eyes from harmful radiation. Welders’ flash or arc-eye inflammation of the cornea can be painful and severely damaging if not avoided through adequate safety equipment.
For this, you must wear the correct shade of glasses. You can determine the right shade by considering the AWS or ANSI guidelines. Match them with your grade of welding and amperage. For instance, MIG and TIG welding requires a shade between 8 and 10 that lets in only a tiny bit of light.
If you perform various tasks that require goggles, you can go ahead and buy two. Soldering by torch only requires shade 3, and you can go for shade 10 for MIG.
- Determine the brand
You can conduct brief market research for each shade and find which brand is best. For shade 10, Athermal welding glasses are a great choice. In the shade 5 range, Miller Electric shade 5.0 is the best option.
- Figure out the Features You Want
Innovations in the field of glasses provide you with even more choices. Auto-darkening welding glasses have made it easier for the routine welder to control how dark or light they want the shade to be. You can control it easily with the touch of a button. These are lighter than regular glasses and have an option to fit your prescription lenses into the frame. If you’re worried about protecting your face, you can fit a faceguard right into the goggles.
You can also look for qualities and features like shock and heat resistance. Airflow and included microfiber bags are things you may want to look for.
Can I Use Them to Look at the Sun?
Since you know that they can shield your eyes against UV rays, you may be wondering if you can use them to look at the sun. The question is important, particularly during a solar eclipse. After all, it is not a phenomenon you experience every day.
Yes, they can be used to directly look at the sun but only with the right shade numbers. This means not all products can be used as an alternative to the proper eyewear when watching a solar eclipse.
According to NASA, the ones that can be used to look at the sun should be number 12 or higher. Anyone lower than that should not be used for such activities. Ones labeled 12 through 14 are dark enough for you to look at the sun safely. However, the most recommended is number 14. It is the darkest available, but some say this is too dark.
Despite this protection, staring at the sun for a long time is not recommended. While the risk is minimized, there is still the slightest chance of experiencing long-term issues the longer you look directly at the sun. It’s the case even with the right type of protective eyewear.
When you’re welding aluminum or steel, you want proper protection against impact, debris, and light exposure.
What shade glasses do you need for welding?
The higher shades in the range of 8 through 13 are recommended for welding. The lower numbers are generally saved for tasks that can afford to let light pass through. For gas welding of a light nature, shade 4 is recommended. Medium and high welding require shades 5 and 6 for adequate protection.
What do shade welding numbers mean?
Shade numbers reflect how much light and radiation can pass through the lens’s filter. The higher the number, the lesser the amount of light and radiation allowed to pass through. American Welding Society (AWS) has a list of recommended shade numbers for various types of welding.
The highest shade of welding glasses is shade 14. These goggles are seriously dark and only let about 1% of light and radiation through. If you want to stare at a solar eclipse, these are the only shades you can look safely through without harming your eyes.
What shade is best for MIG welding?
MIG welding is metal inert gas welding and is an arc welding process. This type of welding is generally used for thicker materials and is faster and more effective than TIG welding. For this type of welding, you should buy shade numbers 10 to 13, depending on the intensity of the welding. Never use sunglasses or swimming and other types of goggles for welding.
What type of welding helmet should I get?
When searching for welding helmets, you may be left spoilt for choice. Safety and other factors are crucial in deciding the right fit. If you look carefully, you’ll find that not all helmets meet the standard safety requirements, according to ANSI. The recommended standard for welding helmets is ANSI Z87.1- 2003. This number means that the helmet has been approved by the American National Standards Institute in the current 2003 standard. If you only spot “ANSI approved,” that doesn’t mean it also passes the recent 2003 standard.
Apart from safety, you can also choose the mode of power in your helmet, including battery or solar. You can also get a combination of both. It’s also essential to pay attention to the helmet’s weight, as long working hours will stress your neck and shoulder. If the helmet is heavy, it’ll add an uncomfortable amount of weight to your spine. It’s also necessary for you to consider the type of task you’ll generally be performing before you go choosing a helmet. If it’s always MIG welding, choose the helmet according to this.