I have a friend who is just learning to weld. He noticed the eye protection I keep in my shop and asked me when it is appropriate to wear welding goggles and what type does he need? The answer isn’t simple because any factors are in play that determine which kind of protection is appropriate.
Welding goggles protect your eyes while welding. The amount of UV light protection is rated by the shade number of the goggles; the higher the number, the greater the protection. There is also the auto-darkening lens that works well for many applications.
To protect your eyes from the risks of welding, you must wear the appropriate eye protection. Different welding processes emit different kinds of hazardous rays that can cause eye injuries if not protected by a proper shade lens; therefore, welders must know what type to use.
In this guide, we will cover:
- Welding Goggles: Are they safe for welding?
- What shade lens do you need in your welding goggles?
- The Pros and Cons of Auto Darkening Welding Goggles.
- The best welding goggles
- The best welding auto-darkening welding goggles
- The best welding goggles for MIG welding
Welding Goggles – Are they safe for welding?
Welding goggles protect welders against sparks, harmful light rays (both visible and invisible), flying particles, heat, and molten metal. Sure, you could always wear a welding helmet, but a helmet may not be the most suitable in tight or awkward spaces.
Properly designed welding goggles are safe. They protect your eyes from ultra-violet radiation and have an impact-resistant lens and side shields to protect your eyes from heat and flying debris. UV radiation can cause damage to the lens, retina, and cornea of your eyes.
Often, when you have smaller welding jobs to do, a helmet can be cumbersome, and many users find it clumsy. High-quality welding goggles are customizable and offer optimal eye protection. They are ideal for wearing when heating, oxy welding, torching, cutting, plasma-cutting, grading, and brazing operations.
Some welding goggles come with more than one lens, which is nice because you can swap them out for different projects. Most are easily changed by unscrewing the lenses holders, making these a great option if you weld various metals.
Top-rated welding goggles also come with a shade rating (more about this later). For welding specifically, the rating should be between 3 and 13. The higher your goggle’s shade rating, the better and safer it is. Of course, this also depends on the type of welding you’re doing. I will talk about this in the subsequent sections.
Here is a summary of reasons why welding goggles are safe and much-needed protective gear for welding:
- Welding goggles prevent splashes of chemicals, molten liquids, tiny and sharp particles, and other debris from getting into the eyes.
- They provide a high degree of protection against flash burns caused by the welding arc.
- They protect the welder’s eyes from UV and IR rays – prolonged exposure to which could cause cataracts and eye cancers.
What Shade Lens Do You Need in Welding Goggles?
The type of welding you do will determine which lens shades are best for your eyes. Some welders might find themselves in need of darker lenses, while others prefer something lighter, but no one size fits all when it comes to eye protection.
Lens shade for MIG welding (Metal Inert Gas Welding)
MIG welding is best performed with welding goggles having a shade lens rating between 10 and 13. (A lens with a #13 rating is darker than the shade #10 lens). You must also choose your MIG welding goggles based on the amperage you use for the job. Higher your amperage, darker and higher-rated lenses you should use. Use the following pointers for selecting your MIG welding shade:
- Shade 10 – for MIG-mild steel welding with amperage between 80 to 100
- Shade 11 – for MIG-mild steel welding with amperage between 100 to 175
- Shade 12 – for MIG-mild aluminum welding with amperage between 175 to 250
- Shade 13 – for MIG-mild steel welding with amperage between 300 to 500
Lens shade for TIG welding/GTAW (Tungsten Inert Gas Welding)
For TIG or gas tungsten arc welding, choose a goggle or helmet with a shade rating between 9 and 11. The rating will also vary based on the kind of work you do and whether you do it indoors or outdoors.
For example, gas tungsten arc welding done indoors is best when done with 11 or 10 shade but with a 10 or 9 shade lens when performed outdoors. Use the following pointers for selecting your TIG welding shade:
- Shade 9 – for TIG mild steel welding with amperage between 5 to 20
- Shade 13 – for TIG mild steel welding with amperage between 150 to 250
Lens shade for Flux-cored welding
For indoor flux core welding, choose a goggle with an 11 or 12 filter shade rating. For outdoor flux-cored welding, opt for 11 or 10 filter shade-rating.
Lens shade for Stick welding
SMAW or stick welding should be done using welding goggles with shade lens ratings between 8 to 12, depending on the amperage you use.
The Pros and Cons of Auto Darkening Welding Goggles.
Auto-darkening welding goggles are one of the essential pieces of protective equipment you will use for welding. As the name indicates, the lenses transition from light to dark automatically. The goggles contain sensors in their lenses that trigger the auto-darkening feature.
The sensors are activated when you move from indoors to outdoors, in the presence of infrared light, or due to the flame of your welding torch. Some auto-darkening welding goggles have adjustable sensitivity so that you can customize them based on your needs. Note that you need batteries to operate your auto-darkening welding goggles.
Here are the pros and cons of auto-darkening welding goggles:
- Improved performance during welding
- Reduces neck strain in welders which comes with the ‘helmet nodding’ action. Welders need not lift their helmets or remove their goggles to take a closer look at the weld in progress. This reduces the need for rework.
- Welders can get into tight/cramped areas with a clear view and make awkward welds much easier.
- Auto-darkening welding goggles provide constant UV and IR protection to the user.
- Auto-darkening welding goggles run on batteries. This means that they work until the moment the batteries run out which means that you can get ‘flashed’. You need to keep battery backup on hand at all times; else your workday is over. (Some goggles come with low-battery indicators).
- Auto-darkening welding goggles are triggered by an arc. In some forms of TIG welding, the arc is very low in power and may not be directly in the front of your face. Resultantly, your goggle’s sensor won’t get triggered.
- As a welder, you may be laying in an awkward position which may shade the arc and you could end up getting flashed.
- You will be stuck with one shade in these goggles and won’t be able to customize the goggles to suit different welding needs.
- Finally, the biggest disadvantage of Auto-darkening welding goggles is the expense. If you are just a DIY welder on weekends, you may be better off with passive goggles.
5 Best Welding Goggles 2021 – With Reviews
1. KwikSafety Welding Goggles-Best overall
Hammerhead safety welding goggles from KwikSafety come in shade #5 (replaceable). Moreover, you get an extra #10 shade lens that you can use for various applications like TIG welding, MIG, etc.
They have a dimension of 2-inch x 4.25 inches and come with a flip-tab facility that makes it very easy for welders to see their work.
KwikSafety welding goggles are made with tough and long-lasting PVC material. They are also versatile and can be used in various applications like brazing, blow-torching, flame-cutting, and oxyfuel cutting.
Check out the features of KwikSafety welding goggles:
- Snug fit, soft vinyl frame
- 3x pressure equalizer for maximum airflow
- Flip top
- Vents to prevent fogging
- Safety certified to meet ANSI Z87.1 and CE standards.
- KwikSafety welding goggles even fit over regular/prescription glasses
- Shade is removable and replaceable
- No fogging
- Nose piece is a bit heavy and digs into the skin.
2. YESWELDER True Color Auto-Darkening Welding Goggles: Best Auto-Darkening Welding Goggles:
Want fast auto-darkening and reliable true-color viewing while wearing safe welding goggles? Then the YESWELDER auto-darkening safety welding goggles with dual sensors are your best choice.
These reliable goggles are suitable for MIG, TIG, and plasma applications, are compact, and can be worn in tight, cramped spaces. They also offer true color viewing with expansive panoramic views.
- 4.82 x 1.37 inches
- 1/1/1/2 optical clarity rating
- Conform to ANSI Z87.1 / EN379 CE / CSA Z94.3 standards.
- Weigh just 7.1 oz.
- Stepless switching time of less than 3/10000th sec
- Low-battery indicator
- Can be worn with hard hats, respirators, and eye protection
- Lightweight – prevent neck strain
- Long-lasting battery
- Not for oxy-acetylene welding. The sensors do not see the small flame and switch on, leaving the user blind while welding.
3. Ram-Pro Shade #5 Welding Goggles-Best Budget Buy
These shatter-resistant welding goggles from Ram-Pro are ideal for the home welder. They protect against heat and optical radiation and are also great for cutting and grading jobs. The best part: you won’t spend a lot on them!
- Adjustable width (max 6.75”)
- Removable tint lenses for clear vision
- Weigh less than 3 ounces
- Made with rigid plastic body
- Versatile use: can be used for steampunk costumes, MIG and TIG welding, plasma cutting, etc.
- Anti-fog glasses
- Scratch resistant
- Not too comfortable.
4. Mekeran Welding Goggles – Best Welding Goggles for MIG Welding
MiG welding needs welders to wear shade lens ratings between 10 and 13 to prevent flash burns. In step-less control, you can adjust Mekeran welding goggles between light shade DIN 4 to a dark shade of DIN 5-DIN 9 / DIN9- DIN 13.
They feature two sensors on the upper corners of the lightweight frame. The view is also nice and clear. Mekeran welding goggles are lightweight and great for small welding projects.
- Equipped with two sensors for precision control
- Viewing size 4.82 x 1.37 inch with optical clarity 1/1/1/2.
- Versatile enough for a wide range of TIG, MIG, plasma, and grinding applications.
- Dials for controlling sensitivity, shade, and delay time.
- Value for money
- The shade/darkness is not consistent – darkest in the center and lighter at the edges.
5. Miller Electric Welding GogglesBest Welding Goggles with Hood
Many welding jobs are in areas that are tight and inaccessible. Wearing helmets isn’t possible here, which is why you need a welding mask plus goggle combo like Miller Electric welding goggles.
Miller Electric welding goggles’ compact design is ideal for gas welding, cutting, MIG, TIG, and Stick welding jobs. The brand also makes a similar mask that you can use with respirators/ventilators.
The mask itself is made of silicon and is replaceable. It can fit many different face profiles.
- Lightweight – weigh less than 2 lb.
- Can be used with hardhats
- Can be used with Rx/Magnifying lens frame
- Adjustable controls for 5,7,9,11, and 13 dark shade and light state shade 3.
- Replaceable silicone skirt
- Meets CE/ANSI/CSA/AS NZ standards.
- Ideal for tight spaces
- Tend to fog up.
Are welding goggles safe? What shade lens is the safest for welding?
Welding goggles from top manufacturers and with proper shade rating can make welding activities safer. They protect your eyes from arc light, heat, dust, debris, UV rays, and IR rays. It is recommended that welders use shades between #10 and #13 to prevent flash burns.
Can you wear sunglasses for welding?
You should not wear sunglasses for welding; they do not offer the same degree of protection as welding goggles do. They are far too light and cannot protect your eyes from the flash burns that a welding arc produces due to visible, UV, and Infrared light rays.
Do welders go blind over time?
With proper protection, welders don’t go blind. It is important to note that, over time, exposure to IR and UV rays in the welding can cause blindness, cataracts, and other serious vision problems. Pick the right lens shade for the kind of work you are doing. A shade of 10 is recommended for most tasks. If you see spots after welding, your shade is not dark enough. In this case, go a shade higher.
What is the minimum shade for welding?
Depending on the amperage, the minimum shade for welding is seven. For oxy-cutting jobs, use shades between 3 and 8 depending on the amperage and plate thickness.
Welding goggles with the correct lens shade rating can protect your eyes from heat, UV and IR light, sparks, and molten metal. Choose a shade lens rating that is most suitable for the job and amperage used.
You should also be able to see the work you’re doing clearly and without straining your eyes. Make sure the goggles fit snugly, are lightweight and comfortable, and have vents to prevent fogging.
Based on these, we recommend KwikSafety Hammerhead welding goggles. They conform to ANSI Z87.1 and CE standards, are made with durable PVC material, and come with removable and replaceable shades. They also fit over prescription glasses and are suitable for most MIG and TIG welding tasks.
Do check out our other recommendations as well.