Welding Eye Protection Basics: A Guide to Welding Hood Lenses

welder setting up plasma cutter

Welding Buddy Experts

October 27, 2021
welder working on metal frames

When welding, you need to see the smallest details of a workpiece closely and clearly. It allows you to produce safe and precise results. However, welding isn't for the naked eye. Exposure to infrared light and solid particulates can cause serious damage to your eye and may even lead to permanent blindness.

Thanks to welding hood lenses, you can now weld with solid eye protection. They're part of the personal protective equipment (PPE) list every welder should have. But a welding lens can be a little complicated for beginners. What exactly is a welding lens? How do you use it? Are there different types of lenses? How do you maintain them?—these are just a few of the questions we bet you have right now.

The Anatomy and Purpose of Welding Lenses

Welding lenses are pre-installed parts of a leather welding hood that protect your eyes against light, radiation, and solid particles coming from the weld. They are divided into two—a front and a shaded lens.

The front lens is made of plastic and prevents dust and debris from entering the eye. Meanwhile, the shaded lens is made of tinted glass and primarily protects you from radiation.

Are Welding Lenses Necessary for All Types of Welding?

Absolutely. It might be okay if you're only looking at a distance, unreachable by the light and sparks. However, you can't do that on actual welding work. You need to get closer, and it can be very dangerous without PPE. Hence, wearing the right and well-functioning welding lenses is necessary.

Types and Construction of Welding Lenses

While you don't have to worry about installing lenses as they're pre-installed, you may add another type of lens when necessary. Welding lenses differ on the type of welding and shade level that you need to perform with clarity and precision.

Adding or Replacing Welding Helmet Lenses

When is the right time and situation to add or change your welding hood's lenses? Here are three reasons that can serve as your guide:

  • First, if the clear lens becomes dirty, or the batteries stop charging properly (for auto lenses with solar batteries).
  • Second, you need welding hood replacement lenses for prescription glasses, so you won't have to wear or switch them out when you're welding.
  • Third, when the shade level of the current lens lacks the strength to minimize the intensity of radiation.

Once you have a clear reason, you need to determine whether you need to add or replace a clear or shaded lens. Some types of clear lenses include cheaters and magnifying lenses. Both magnify, correct, and enhance your detailed view of the workpiece.

Some welders find cheater lenses for welding hoods ideal for most TIG welding work, while some think welding hood magnifier lenses are generally more effective. Miller welding hood lenses are one of the most popular, particularly for pipeline welding hoods.

On the other hand, you install shaded lenses when you need to darken the filter and reduce the intensity of light radiation.

Overall, lenses differ in the type of welding process, personal preference, and eye adjustment requirements as per your optometrist's instructions.

welding hood lenses auto-darkening

How Do You Install Additional/Replacement Clear and Shade Lenses?

Welding helmets differ in structure, but the following points are generally applicable when installing welding lenses.

For clear lenses:

  • Install additional lenses inside the helmet, not outside.
  • You clip the additional lens into brackets or tabs located on either side of the lens mount.
  • Don't forget to test the helmet before using it in actual welding. Ensure the lenses don't slip off or make your vision unclear.

For shaded lenses:

  • Find a finger tab and pull the shade frame from the welding hood.
  • Put the lens to the frame and then return to the helmet. Some helmets have tabs in the frame that help hold the lens steadily.

Welding Lens Maintenance Tips

Maintenance is important in welding because it produces a lot of fumes, dust, and particulates. They can cause dirty and foggy lenses, so you have to clean them thoroughly after use. In addition, clean lenses prevent eye damage. Here's how you perform welding lens maintenance.

What to Clean

There are no special cleaning requirements exclusive to welding lenses. Instead, maintenance revolves around wiping dust and washing and rinsing the lens to remove fogginess and to keep it clear.

If you use auto-darkening lenses, you have to clean the sensors and solar panels to keep the helmet and battery functioning properly. When regular maintenance no longer works, you must replace the lens.

What to Use When Cleaning

The materials you can use for welding lens maintenance are common, so they are easily accessible. Here's a checklist to get you started.

  • A non-abrasive cloth to wipe the dust away.
  • Washing liquid (shampoo, shaving cream, toothpaste, or anti-fogging cream/film/wipes) and a damp cloth to remove grime and clear up fogging.
  • Ventilators or small, clip-on fans (preferably designed for welding) to avoid fogging.
  • Raw potatoes (yes, you're reading that right). You should cut these in half and gently rub them on the lens.

How to Choose a Welding Lens

Choosing the right welding lens depends on modifiable factors rather than fixed standards. These are:

  1. The type of welding you're conducting.
  2. The amps you're using.
  3. The material of your workpiece.

Those are for the shaded welding lens choices. When looking for clear lenses, find a one-size-fits-all type. Its main function is to put a barrier between you and the welding fumes and particles, so it's not that complicated.

However, you need to be more careful in choosing the shaded lens. Shaded lenses come in different shade levels, 13 as the highest and darkest and 4 as the lowest. The shade indicates how much protection you get against bright welding lights, UV radiation, and sparks at high amperage and proximity.

Miller and Optrel are some of the most popular brands of high-quality welding lenses. They're not exactly super expensive, but if you're short on budget, there are more affordable options waiting for you in the market.

Final Thoughts

Welding lenses are a crucial part of the PPE fundamentals. You rely on your vision throughout the entire process, so you must protect it at all costs. Lenses protect the eyes and allow you to get a clear view of the workpiece details simultaneously.

To keep it functioning and long-lasting, you need to take care of it well. Make sure it's thoroughly cleaned or properly replaced when necessary. Moreover, be mindful of the factors we mentioned above when looking for a welding hood lens. This information allows you to take a huge step closer to a safe, precise, and fun welding experience.

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