How to Get Fiberglass Out of Skin

Fiberglass is a synthetic or man-made material that consists of tiny fibers of glass. It is a common source of insulation in homes. Fiberglass can enter the environment when it is manufactured, packaged, used, and disposed of by insulation workers and others. Once exposed, you may experience pain, itching, skin irritation, coughing, and wheezing. If you have recently been exposed to fiberglass and believe it is in your skin, it’s important to remove it right away and see a healthcare provider for next steps. 

Woman scratching arm


Science Photo Library / Getty Images

Being Exposed to Fiberglass 

Being exposed to fiberglass is most likely to happen at work. Fiberglass is used in insulation, walls, ceilings, and ventilation ducts. If fiberglass materials are damaged, they can release tiny particles into the air. These tiny particles look like dust. When this happens, we may touch, ingest, or breathe them in without realizing it.

Workers who install or fix insulation are at an increased risk for coming in contact with fiberglass. If you work in construction, electronics, plastics or wind energies industries, you may also be at increased risk.

If the insulation or structures in your home contain fiberglass, it’s unlikely that you will ever be exposed. Fiberglass exposures are usually only a risk when you’re handling damaged materials or moving them around the house. 

How to Limit Exposure

If you plan to work with home insulation, pipes or other fiberglass-containing materials, there are steps you can take to protect yourself:

  • Open a window to improve ventilation and air quality
  • Wear a mask and goggles to prevent particles from coming in contact with your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Wear loose-fitted clothing with long sleeves and pants to prevent your skin from coming in contact with the particles. Loose-fitted clothing will help prevent skin rubbing and irritation
  • Opt for clothing that is tightly woven to prevent fiberglass particles from being able to reach your skin
  • Wear leather gloves with a smooth finish and steel-toed boots while working
  • If you are working with materials overhead, such as insulation, a head covering may be helpful
  • Once you are finished working, use a shop vacuum to clean up any microscopic fibers
  • Wash your work clothes separately from other clothing in your household, and rinse the washing machine when you are finished

In addition to personal actions you can take, there are federal rules for reducing exposure as well. As of 1999, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) established guidelines for limiting workers’ exposure to fiberglass. According to the recommendations, during an eight-hour workday, a worker should not be exposed to more than “one breathable glass fiber per cubic centimeter of air.” This is meant to ensure that there is enough airflow to prevent the inhalation of fiberglass. 

How to Remove Fiberglass from  Skin

After working with fiberglass or performing any home renovations, inspect your skin for any irritation. If you notice a red, itchy rash on exposed skin, you may have come into contact with fiberglass. Follow these steps:

  1. First, leave your work area to prevent the inhalation of fiberglass particles
  2. Wash the area with mild soap and cold water immediately. The sooner you can wash the fiberglass off, the less irritation it would cause. Avoid hot or warm water since this will cause the pores in your skin to open and lodge the fiberglass deeper into the skin
  3. If you are able to see larger particles of fiberglass, gently remove them with a cold washcloth or by applying and removing an adhesive tape to your skin.
  4. Once you have washed the area, remove your clothing and wash it separately from other laundry
  5. Never scratch or rub irritated skin; this could spread the fiberglass and cause more irritation 
  6. If you are concerned that fiberglass particles entered your eyes, flush them out with clean water for at least 15 minutes. Your employer may have an eyewash solution available as well
  7.  If you continue to experience skin irritation and pain, see your healthcare provider.

Risks of Fiberglass 

The risks of working with fiberglass are usually short-term, and symptoms should resolve once the fiberglass is removed. The long-term effects of fiberglass exposure are not well documented.

Skin Irritation 

If fiberglass particles become lodged in your skin, you may notice a red, itchy rash known as contact dermatitis. This usually occurs on any skin that was exposed while working with fiberglass. Contact dermatitis refers to skin irritation caused by contact with an irritant, and is the most common type of occupational skin condition. Fiberglass exposure can also cause skin peeling and small lesions or blisters.

Other Complications 

Being exposed to fiberglass can lead to respiratory symptoms as well. If fiberglass is inhaled, larger particles can get trapped in your airway and smaller particles can travel to and settle in the lungs. This can lead to coughing, sneezing, itching, and worsening of asthma symptoms. When fiberglass is ingested into the gastrointestinal tract, it is usually eliminated through bowel movements. If you have noticed any of these symptoms after working with fiberglass, it’s a good idea to see your healthcare provider. 

Risk of Cancer

Fiberglass exposure can lead to irritation, but it has not been linked to cancer. According to the Wisconsin State Department of Health, the National Academy of Sciences reviewed studies on fiberglass exposure in workers in 2000. The academy found that "glass fibers do not appear to increase the risk of respiratory system cancer" in workers and do not qualify as a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) agent. 

A Word From Verywell

Fiberglass is a synthetic material made from tiny pieces of glass and can be irritating if touched or inhaled. There are easy ways to remove fiberglass particles that are lodged in the skin at home, and fiberglass exposure is generally not life-threatening. Wearing proper protective equipment while doing construction work involving fiberglass is the best way to prevent this problem from happening.

If you have been exposed to fiberglass during work or think fiberglass has touched your skin, gently wash the affected area with water and a mild soap. If you continue to experience skin irritation or pain, see your healthcare provider for medical assistance.

Was this page helpful?
7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Washington State Department of Health. Fiberglass. Updated 2020.

  2. Illinois Department of Public Health. Fiberglass. Updated 2020

  3. Peate WE. Occupational skin disease. Am Fam Physician. 2002 Sep 15;66(6):1025-32.

  4. United States Department of Labor. Synthetic Mineral Fibers. Updated 2020.

  5. Owens Corning. Material Safety Data Sheet. Updated 2007

  6. Insulation Institute. Health & Safety. Updated 2020

  7. DermNet NZ. Fiberglass dermatitis. Updated July 2020.

Additional Reading