Safe Ways to Handle Fiberglass Insulation

Fiberglass is made from glass and other fibers, with particles small enough to lodge in skin and lungs. It can be an itchy skin irritant and can cause respiratory problems for some people. Prepare yourself with a few precautions before handling rolls or bags of fiberglass insulation.

What to Wear

Fiberglass insulation may look like cotton candy, but it is no treat to work with.

Loose fitting long-sleeved shirts and long-legged pants keep fibers from contacting the skin and working their way into pores where they may become lodged.  The North American Insulation Manufacturers Association recommends not taping cuffs shut so that clothing may continue to fit loosely.

Since fibers can also tangle in hair, wear a cap or hat when working with fiberglass.  Once the work is completed, be sure to shower.

If you can stand it, rinse first with cool water so that pores stay closed.  Warm water can open pores and allow fiberglass to enter.

Personal Protective Equipment

A fitted dust mask or respirator denies fiberglass particles an entry to the respiratory system.  Dust masks that pinch shut around the nose are acceptable, but the best device is a respirator that tightens around the nose and mouth.

Gloves protect hands from contact with fiberglass, while safety goggles prevent contact with the eyes. 

Prepare the Room

Normally, fiberglass insulates attics, crawl spaces, basements and open walls.  Seal any cracks or holes in the space to be insulated so that fibers cannot enter the living space.

Duct tape or caulk will seal cracks shut.  Be sure to use a fireproof caulk around fixtures that generate heat, such as the fireplace, lights and heating devices.

Minimize Dust

Once released, fibers float in the air and take a long time to settle back down.  Try to minimize airborne fiberglass dust.

Keep insulation inside the package or wrapper as long as practical.  Keep cutting to a minimum and keep a sealable container close to the work area for material you need to discard.

Don’t use compressed air or compressed air powered tools when working with fiberglass.  Never use compressed air to dust yourself off after working with fiberglass.

The air will only serve to drive fibers into the skin. 

About the Author

Robert Korpella has been writing professionally since 2000. He is a certified Master Naturalist, regularly monitors stream water quality and is the editor of freshare.net, a site exploring the Ozarks outdoors. Korpella's work has appeared in a variety of publications. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Arkansas.

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