Fiberglass is a synthetic material that’s made of extremely fine fibers of glass. It’s commonly used in the insulation of your home or office. Exposure typically only occurs if the material is disturbed, such as during a renovation.

If you do come into contact with fiberglass, the fibers can pierce the outer layer of the skin, causing pain and irritation. Though it should not affect your health in the long term.

Keep reading to learn how to safely remove fiberglass from your skin. We also include practical tips for working with fiberglass.

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, if your skin has come in contact with fiberglass, few, if any, are likely to enter your body.

However, it’s still important to take steps to remove fiberglass from your skin as soon as possible. Prompt removal can help prevent skin irritation. It can also help prevent it from entering your body through your eyes, nose, or throat.

If your skin does come into contact with fiberglass, take these steps to remove it:

  • Immediately wash the exposed area with warm water and mild soap.
  • Wipe the exposed area with a washcloth to help remove fibers from the skin.
  • If fibers can be seen protruding from the skin, carefully remove them by putting tape on the area and then gently removing the tape. The fibers will stick to the tape and pull out of your skin.

What not to do

  • Don’t scratch or rub affected areas, as that may push fibers into the skin.
  • Don’t remove fibers from the skin using compressed air.

Irritant contact dermatitis

If your skin comes into contact with fiberglass, it may cause an irritation known as fiberglass itch. If this irritation persists, see a doctor.

If your doctor feels that the exposure has resulted in contact dermatitis, they may recommend that you apply a topical steroid cream or ointment once or twice a day until the inflammation resolves.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), touching fiberglass shouldn’t result in long-term health effects.

In the short term, along with irritating effects on the skin, exposure to fiberglass may also cause:

Exposure to fiberglass can also aggravate chronic skin and respiratory conditions, such as bronchitis and asthma.

What about cancer?

In 2001, the International Agency for Research on Cancer updated its classification of glass wool (a form of fiberglass) from “possible carcinogenic to humans” to “not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans.”

According to the Washington State Department of Health, deaths from lung disease — including lung cancer — in workers involved in the manufacture of glass wool aren’t consistently different from those in the U.S. general population.

Fiberglass is most commonly used for insulation, including:

  • home and building insulation
  • electrical insulation
  • plumbing insulation
  • acoustic insulation
  • ventilation duct insulation

It’s also used in:

  • furnace filters
  • roofing materials
  • ceilings and ceiling tiles

The largest risk of fiberglass exposure is for those who work with the material. To keep yourself safe when working with fiberglass, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene suggests the following:

  • Don’t directly touch materials that may contain fiberglass.
  • Wear an N95 mask to protect the lungs, throat, and nose.
  • Wear eye protection or goggles with side shields.
  • Wear gloves.
  • Wear loose-fitting, long-legged, and long-sleeved clothing.
  • Remove any clothing worn while working with fiberglass immediately following the work.
  • Wash clothing that was worn while working with fiberglass separately. According to the IDPH, after the exposed clothing has been washed, the washing machine should be rinsed thoroughly.
  • Clean exposed surfaces with a wet mop or a vacuum cleaner with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
  • Don’t stir up dust by dry sweeping or other activities.

Exposure to fiberglass can result in painful, itchy, irritated skin. Taking steps to prevent exposure and knowing how to safely remove fiberglass from the skin can help protect your health.

If skin irritation persists, see a doctor.