How to Get Fiberglass Out of Skin

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

When fiberglass enters your skin, it's important to wash the area as soon as possible to help remove any of the pieces. You can gently wipe any larger, visible pieces of fiberglass off your skin with a damp cloth. If there is still irritation, you'll need to see a healthcare provider. Fiberglass shards will only continue to cause problems if it stays in your skin. Glass Fibre Textiles

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.

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Here's how to get fiberglass out of your skin, step by step:

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.  

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

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. 

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.

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.

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:

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. 

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.  

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.

Eventually, fiberglass splinters may work their way out, particularly when it's a small amount. However, they can cause discomfort, and if they aren't removed, may transfer to other areas of the body.

There doesn't appear to be scientific proof that vinegar helps get fiberglass out of your skin. Health providers typically recommend washing with soap and water.

Washington State Department of Health. Fiberglass.

Owens Corning. Material safety data sheet.

Insulation Institute. Health & safety.

Illinois Department of Public Health. Fiberglass.

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

United States Department of Labor. Synthetic Mineral Fibers.

Camacho I, Rajabi-Estarabadi A, Eber AE, Griggs JW, Margaret SI, Nouri K, Tosti A. Fiberglass dermatitis: clinical presentations, prevention, and treatment - a review of literatures. Int J Dermatol. 2019 Oct;58(10):1107-1111. doi:10.1111/ijd.14407

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Fibrous glass.

By Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH, is a health writer with over a decade of experience working as a registered nurse. She has practiced in a variety of settings including pediatrics, oncology, chronic pain, and public health.

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How to Get Fiberglass Out of Skin

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