Fog Machine Safety
Fog machines are awesome tools for elevating any situation with a fun, exciting, and mysterious blast of fog.
But if you’re using a fog machine, then you want to make sure that you’re taking the proper safety precautions, especially around children.
You may be asking yourself, what ingredients go into making fog in a smoke machine? What chemicals are present? Are they safe? And what about the machines themselves. How do they work? Do they get hot? How can I maximize safety and still get the amazing effects I need from these machines?
Basically, you want to make sure that you are handling your device responsibly without sacrificing effectiveness.
Don’t fret — we’ve got you covered. There are many kinds of fog machines out there from a lot of different companies. Some manufacturers are safer than others and it is nearly impossible to give a broad review of the safety of each and every machine and the particular methods and fluids they use.
Therefore, in this guide, we’re going to walk you through the basics and tell you the safest ways to use it. We’ll cover all the issues you want to know about, and also review some of our favorite/safest fog machine products.
What Is A Fog Machine?
Let’s get to the basics first. A fog machine — sometimes known as a smoke machine or “fogger” — is a device that produces a thick vapor closely resembling fog. Sometimes, it’s thick, pillowy, and dense. Other times, it’s more of a general mist swirling around near the floor. Both of these effects are created by the same machine.
You’re likely to see a fog generator used in the entertainment business, at concerts, as theatrical smoke in stage shows, or even at themed parties to give that extra spooky or dream-like feel.
There are many fog machines on the market, designed for all sorts of different events and venues. Not only are they being used increasingly professionally, but homeowners are starting to invest in fog machines for their own uses.
Whether it’s for small-scale parties, personal photoshoots, an impressive Halloween display, or just plain old fun, these smaller models are growing more and more popular.
How Do Fog Machines Work?
Every fog machine is a little bit different but there are two ways they produce fog.
Heated Fog Machines
The first type of machine has a pump, heat exchanger, and a tank for fog liquid as well as an input hole and output nozzle. When you turn the machine on, the heat exchanger can get as hot as 400 degrees F.
In simplest terms, this fogging machine works by heating up a substance known as fog fluid (or smoke fluid). It heats up the fluid using the internal heat exchanger, which turns the fluid into a vapor. The vapor is then blown out of the nozzle on the machine. Once the hot vapor exits the smoke machine, it mixes with the colder air, producing the “fog” substance you are familiar with.
These machines use different types of nozzles to control the density and spread of the fog. Large, round nozzles allow the fluid to escape slowly, creating larger clouds of smoke. Thin, small nozzles create wispy fog that forms in straight lines and covers wider areas without being as dense.
Another major type of fog machine is known as a “haze machine” This machine works in much the same way, only it doesn’t use a heater. Instead, an atomizer disperses a fine mist in the air. This fog looks a little different, but still creates a really cool effect.
Heat based machines use liquid that’s water-based, while aerating machines usually use and oil-based liquid. Because of this, the fog effect is different. While aerating machines create more of a mist than a fog, the oil and other ingredients in the mist reflect the light in a really cool way. This makes them the ideal machines for light shows and theatrical performances.
But that’s not all, yet another major type of fog machine is a fog chiller. Rather than heat the fog, these machines will actually chill the fog, producing fog that is heavier than the surrounding air, and sinks to the ground instead. These are called fog chillers, and they make low lying fog effect (similar to what you see off dry ice).
When talking about fog machines, you have to also mention fog juice. Fog juice is the primary ingredient you put inside the machine to create the wonderful fog effect. Below, we’ll examine these ingredients in more detail.
It’s most important to make sure you’re using the right kind of liquid for your machine. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation. Using the wrong kind of liquid may result in your fog machine clogging or over or underheating, which leads to safety issues and can break the machine.
Are Fog Machines Safe To Breathe?
In short, yes, but it’s worth looking at the differences between water-based and oil-based fogging solutions because each comes with its own precautions.
Water-based Fog Solution
Most fog machines are water-based fog machines. A water based fog machine will use a water-based solution made using water and glycols and glycerol. The fog produced by these solutions depends on the type of chemical being used. Basically, the more glycol in the mixture, the denser the fog that will be created. Glycols usually don’t last as long as glycerols.
Oil-based Fog Solution
Oil-based fog solution produces a longer-lasting fog but, as we said, it’s not the same type of fog. These solutions are usually made using food-grade oils, meaning they’re the same quality as the oil you eat, so they’re relatively safe.
So… are they safe?
In short, yes. That said, there are a lot of manufacturers and it’s impossible to say that they’re all maintaining the proper safety standards they should be. The best thing you can do is use a fogging liquid from a reputable company that you trust. Not only will you get noticeably better fog (as you can see in this video), you’ll also get a substance that is safe for everyone involved.
Although fog machines are safe, they still need to be used properly. Like any machine, they come with a set of guidelines that must be followed.
Therefore, another thing you can do to make sure you’re being safe is to use the machine to the exact specifications of the manufacturer. To start, use the right type of liquid. These machines are designed to work with specific formulas with different ingredients. Every fog juice will not work with every fog machine. Using the wrong one can create unhealthy byproducts.
If the machine doesn’t get to the right temperature for the fluid, you might have a problem. For example, if it underheats, the machine creates a lot of residue.
Not only is this residue not safe to breathe, but it also coats everything and creates a slipping hazard. There’s also a chance it can settle on any food at the event and cause even more problems.
There are some other exceptions. People who already have respiratory issues, like asthma or allergies, may find the fog irritating. In this case, it’s probably best that they avoid it. If this isn’t possible, as little fog as possible should be used, just in case.
In most cases, the fog from these machines is safe for healthy people - including children - to breathe in occasionally. People who are around large amounts of this fog regularly, like someone who works as a performer or doing movie production, should exercise more caution.
Different Types of Fog Machine Fluids
Although the kind of fog machine liquid you choose depends on the make and model of your device, here are some of the best fog fluids on the market, all of them readily available on Amazon.
These fog fluids are all excellent choices. But the best choice for you will depend on your machine, as well as the type of fog you want to make. Each fog fluid is formulated for creating a fog of a certain density.
This 1-gallon water-based fog fluid is perfect for 400 to 1500 Watt fog machines. It creates a long-lasting high output of fog and is non-toxic, non-staining, and non-hazardous. This fluid is made from pharmaceutical-grade chemicals, each approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).
People who use this fog liquid commented that the large bottle lasts a really long time. Something pretty common with this liquid is that the fog filled the whole room rather than settling to the ground. If you want fog that settles, you may need to look at a fog chiller to get the look you want.
This fog juice comes from Chauvet, another trusted name in fog juice and fog machine equipment.
This fog fluid is formulated for use in all water-based machines and is able to generate thick fog without staining or leaving any residue. It is non-toxic, non-flammable and unscented; it also produces a high output of long-lasting fog.
You get a lot of product with this one - two 1-gallon bottles. Even if you use your fog machine regularly, it should still last you quite a while. This solution was specifically made for Chauvet fog machines but can be used with other brands, too.
This Amazon’s Choice product gives you one quart of this premium water-based fog machine fluid.
The fog formula itself is clean, dry, odorless, and gives you a high-density formula guaranteeing a disperse fog and a good hang time. FogWorx Fog Juice can be used with any water-based fog machine and optimized for devices with as few as 400 watts of power. This solution is made in the USA from pharmaceutical grade chemicals that are approved by the FDA.
As it states on the package, this is “high density” fog. If you want fog that is really noticeable and thick, here’s what you want. However, be careful of safety concerns with this fog. Be careful not to release too much into a small room, or you could end up obstructing people’s vision.
Something we like about FogWorx is that they offer a variety of different types of fogging liquids. Of course, the high density is one of our favorites, but they also make a juice designed to give you low-lying fog without needing to worry about a fog chiller. Depending on the look you’re going for, this might be just what you need.
As with all Froggy products, you can trust the ingredients in here. It’s made with non-toxic ingredients, and leaves little to no residue across surfaces. Froggy’s only uses de-ionized water and pharmaceutical grade chemicals in of their fog juices.
And finally, we have another quality fog juice from Froggy’s. As you can see by now, different fog juices are designed for different fog effects. This one is designed to create low-lying for in an indoor setting. Low-lying fog juice needs to be used in a fog chiller to have its desired effect, because the fog needs to be cooled so it will sink to the ground.
All that being said, we put this product on our list because it’s simply a great fog juice. It creates the perfect low-lying effect for theatrical or entertainment purposes, and it dissipates quickly to cover a large area.As with all Froggy products, you can trust the ingredients in here. It’s made with non-toxic ingredients, and leaves little to no residue across surfaces. Froggy’s only uses de-ionized water and pharmaceutical grade chemicals in all of their fog juices.
Types of Fog
Now that we’ve mentioned the top types of fog machine juice, we’ll give you a quick rundown on the types of fog you can create with a fog machine.
This is meant as a complement to the above section, so that you can understand the different types of fog that are achievable with different fog fluids. Because a big part of fog machine safety is understanding your fog machine, and making sure you are using it to create the intended type of fog:
The first type of fog is known commonly as haze, and is produced with a “haze machine”. It is important that you have the proper machine to produce haze, and that you aren’t putting improper juice in non-haze machine.
Haze is the most transparent type of fog, and is almost completely invisible. It is meant to amplify light shows, as the lights dance through the fog, zipping across the room in a magical display.
Medium density fog is perhaps the most common type of fog. It is thick and noticeable, but not so thick to obstruct vision and to cause safety concerns. It’s ideal for entertainment venues and parties, special effects, concerts and performances, and everything in between!
The thickest fog available. High density fog is so thick that it is nearly opaque. As a result, it’s not a great choice for events, because it obstructs vision too much. However, it’s an excellent choice for theatrical effects and performances.
Low-lying fog is fog that has been cooled to lie low to the ground. It envelopes the floor, and creates a very cool “rolling fog” effect that is great for parties, special effects, theatrical performances, and more.
Fog Machines Overheating and Underheating
Another potential safety concern with fog machines is that they can underheat and overheat. The biggest problem with this is that the machine won’t reach the right temperature for the fogging fluid you’re using. Not only can this produce a lot of residue, as we mentioned, but it can also produce chemical byproducts that could be harmful.
Underheating also runs the risk of fluid residue collecting underneath or adjacent to the machine. Any spillage near the machine is a slipping hazard.
Like we said, as long as you follow the instructions that came with your fog machine, you shouldn’t have any problems. The ingredients in the fogging mixture themselves aren’t toxic and, as long as the device is cared for properly, there’s no reason to worry.
Most fog machines are built with the utmost professionalism and safety precautions in place - many of them list their materials and safety checks directly on the box to make it easier for you to pick the safest model.
General Fog Machine Safety
Remember, in some cases, these machines are heating a liquid to gas, so your fog machine gets very hot, very quickly. How hot? Believe it or not, some of them can reach as high as 400 degrees F.
Keep the machine away from papers, curtains, books, Halloween decorations, or anything else that could easily catch on fire. You should also give the machine time to cool after each use before packing it up or even touching it. Failure to do so could result in a burn.
If you’re using a machine with an extension cord, keep the cord far away from wet surfaces. Of course, this goes for any electrical appliance, but it’s worth mentioning.
Our last big tip is to keep an eye on the fog machine as your event progresses. You should have a good idea of how long it takes for the machine to run out of fog liquid. It’s really easy for a fog machine to burn out if it runs dry. This could cause irreparable damage so be sure to refer to your manual for more specific instructions.
Conclusion – Responsible Fog Machine Ownership
Now that you know a little bit more about fog machines and fogging liquids, hopefully, you’re feeling more confident about their safety. Being around these machines every once in a while at a party or concert is completely safe. But if you work as a performer or a stagehand, it’s a good idea to be extra cautious.
It generally doesn’t matter if you’re using a water or oil-based fogging liquid as long as you buy from a reputable company. As you can see from the products we recommended, some brands proudly use FDA approved chemicals which is about as safe as you can get.
The biggest thing to remember is that you have to use your fog machine properly. Read and follow all the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Using the wrong fogging fluid at the wrong temperature in the wrong machine can have some nasty side effects. If the temperature is incorrect, the fog can contain harmful chemical byproducts and break the machine.
Finally, some people are sensitive to the fog that these machines produce, regardless of how careful you are. People with asthma, allergies, or other breathing problems might have a hard time. The fog is also safe for kids, but use caution around those with breathing sensitivities.
Can You Use Low Lying Fog Juice in a Regular Fog Machine?
You shouldn’t do this. Fog juices make a big, noticeable difference in the quality of smoke produced.
A regular fog machine is not built for producing low lying fog. In fact, putting low lying fog juice in this machine will not create low lying fog, because the fog needs to be cooled for this to occur. You will not achieve your desired effect.
How Do You Properly Clean a Fog Machine?
Properly cleaning a fog machine is essential for its proper care and safe use. Depending on how often you use it, and the quality of the fog juice, you’ll have to clean it more or less often. Here is a full guide on cleaning your fog machine.