Closeup on a homeowner gripping a a fiberglass insulation batt barehanded as he installs it on a wall

Working with insulation is a must for anyone trying to save on energy costs and go green. However, insulation tends to stick to your skin even if you touch it only briefly. 

So, how can you get it off?

Keep reading for the various methods you can use to remove all the different types of insulation from your skin and avoid developing an itchy rash. 

How Do I Get Get Insulation Off My Skin?

The best way to remove insulation is to wash the area with mild soap and cold water. You may then use duct tape or pumice to remove the dried shards. Some DIY enthusiasts suggest using solvents such as thinners, acetone, or gasoline for stubborn residue. However, preventative measures are better than reactive ones.

Fortunately, there are several tips and tricks you can use to get rid of annoying insulation residue. 

1.) Remove Insulation Shards Using Tape

Fiberglass insulation tends to form shards when dry. These shards penetrate the skin, causing an itchy rash. You can use duct tape to dislodge the flakes from your skin. This method is unsuitable if spray foam is dried on your skin, but it will also work with cellulose insulation. 

Here’s how to use tape to remove insulation shards from your skin:

  1. Lay a strip of duct tape on the affected area of your skin.
  2. Press gently to ensure the tape sticks well.
  3. Pull the duct tape off slowly to avoid being too harsh on your skin. 

Note that if you have body hair, you can expect to remove some of it. This method is considered more painful but highly effective.

2.) Take a Cold Shower To Remove Insulation From Your Skin

Fiberglass insulation tends to dry into shards, whereas cellulose insulation forms a fine powder. In both cases, simply dusting off the residue isn’t enough to remove the particles from the skin. 

A cold shower will close your pores and allow you to scrub away any tiny particles of the insulation material in your skin.

A homeowner in a shower holds her hand under the showerhead to test the water temperature

On the other hand, a hot shower will open your pores, allowing the particles to travel further into the skin and cause more irritation. So, take a cold shower and scrub moderately with mild soap to remove insulation from your skin.

3.) Removing Fiberglass Insulation From Your Skin

Although you might find references on the internet about using solvents such as vinegar or acetone to remove fiberglass, no authoritative sources support these theories. These solvents may worsen your skin condition. 

Fiberglass can cause contact dermatitis when the tiny shards of fiberglass or spicules embed themselves in the skin. 

The areas most at risk include:

  • The face 
  • Neck
  • Forearms 
  • Hands

Fiberglass may also cause respiratory issues. Common symptoms include a bad cough and burning eyes.

It is best to seek medical attention if you believe you are suffering from fiberglass dermatitis. Medical professionals may prescribe you antihistamines or corticosteroids to treat the condition.

If the condition is minor and the affected area is small, you should follow these steps:

  1. Avoid rubbing or scratching the affected skin, as this will break the fiberglass into smaller particles
  2. Wash the affected area with mild soap and rinse copiously with cold, running water
  3. Once your skin is dry, place tape over the affected area, or remove visible fibers with a tweezer
  4. Seek medical attention if the condition persists

4.) Wipe Off Wet Spray Foam or Wet Cellulose

Spray-on insulation is convenient and often necessary to fill gaps that would otherwise allow air and noise into your home. However, it’s messy and easy to get on your skin. 

You can follow these steps to ensure the insulation doesn’t set on your skin:

  • Keep a wet cloth nearby when working with spray foam insulation—or even wet cellulose spray. 
  • Before the spray sets, you can easily wipe off the insulation material using the damp cloth because the water has not evaporated and the soluble compounds have yet to dry.  
A homeowner wiping his face with a wet rag to remove wet insulation residue
  • After wiping, wash the area with mild soap and cold water. 
  • Once thoroughly dried, apply lotion or mineral oil to avoid irritation. Some people prefer to use coconut oil, which works as well.

This method works with open-cell spray foam, wet-spray cellulose, or any other type of spray foam. Make sure you act quickly if your skin comes in contact with spray foam because it can become hazardous immediately. 

5.) Use Gasoline To Dissolve Dried Insulation Material

Even though this is a significant fire hazard with potential health effects, many people claim they have successfully dissolved dried insulation material (cellulose and others) using gasoline. However, scientific evidence cannot support this insider secret, but some sites encourage the method.

There are many industrial gasoline applications, so this is no surprise.

Here are a few tips for doing this safely:

  • Use a cloth dipped in gasoline to dab at the area instead of dousing it in gasoline
  • Work outdoors and away from flammable materials 
  • Wear a mask to avoid inhaling gasoline fumes
  • Immediately wash the area that came in contact with the gasoline

6.) Apply Paint Thinner To Remove Mineral Wool Insulation

Another widely popular and easily accessible industrial solvent is paint thinner. Although no real scientific or medical journals promote the use, some sites encourage this method. There are many different types of paint thinner, and only some of them will work to remove mineral wool insulation from your skin. 

Some suggest mineral spirits are the best paint thinner for removing mineral wool insulation. Meanwhile, turpentine is a better option for cellulose insulation because it contains plant material. Other paint thinners are flammable, so be cautious with what you use.

Solvents like thinners can affect indoor air quality, so ensure adequate ventilation. You can read more about air quality in our article, How to Test Your Indoor Air Quality (4 Things to Look For)

Regardless of the paint thinner you use, limit your skin’s exposure to the thinner because it is also an irritant. Rinse your skin thoroughly with cool water after, and make sure to wash it with mild soap.

In addition to mineral wool insulation, paint thinner is often used to remove oil-based paints.

7.) Rub a Pumice Stone on Dried Spray Foam

Once spray foam dries, it forms a hard substance that can be difficult to clean off your skin and any other surfaces it contacts. However, with pumice stone and a little elbow grease, you can remove dried spray foam from your skin.

Ensure that you gently rub the pumice stone to avoid causing abrasions on the skin.

Here are a few steps to help get the best results from a pumice stone:

  1. Allow your skin to soak in hot water for 10 minutes before using the pumice stone.
  2. Soak the pumice in hot water to reduce friction and protect your skin. 
  3. Rub the pumice stone while applying slight pressure.
  4. Move the stone in a circular direction, occasionally switching between clockwise and anticlockwise rotation. 

8.) Use WD-40 To Dissolve Spray Foam

Another insider trick to removing insulation materials from the skin is WD-40. This lubricant is well known for being a heavy-duty degreaser that will help lubricate and even remove rust. Among the million uses for this fantastic product, many suggest you can use it to dissolve dried spray foam. 

However, medical or scientific evidence is lacking to support this method—you should do so at your own risk!

Closeup on a homeowners's hands as he sprays WD-40 onto a finger in order to remove spray foam insulation
Courtesy of instructables

The process is not that complicated: rinse it thoroughly after use, and apply lotion to the affected area to restore some of the lost moisture.

Do not leave WD-40 in contact with the skin for too long because it is a strong chemical compound and can cause irritation. Preferably use gloves when handling it, even to spray it on other surfaces.

Tips To Avoid Getting Insulation on Your Skin

Despite the various methods you can use to remove insulation material from your skin, prevention is always a better approach.

Here are a few tips for keeping insulation away from your skin:

  • Apply baby powder before working with insulation – rubbing baby powder on exposed areas of the skin creates a barrier between your skin and any insulation material. This barrier makes it more difficult for the irritants to stick to your skin. Focus on the face and neck area because both are more exposed.
  • Wear a uniform or old clothes – unless you work as a contractor or in the same field, you probably don’t have a work uniform for similar tasks. However, you can wear old clothes that cover your hands and sleeves.
  • Apply lotion to soothe irritation – skin lotions and oils are necessary to help alleviate any itchiness caused by the insulation. Make sure to brush away any particles on your skin before applying the cream. 
A homeowner with her palm faced up containing a small pile of baby powder, as the bottle sits on the tabletop below
  • Use antibiotic cream to decrease the chance of infection – irritated skin is prone to infection, especially when foreign objects (the insulation particles) lodge in the skin. Over-the-counter antibiotic cream can spare your skin from this issue. 
  • Avoid scratching – even if you are covered in clothes as you work with insulation, scratching can introduce some particles to the skin and irritate the area. 
  • Wash clothes and towels separately – the clothes you wear when working with insulation will likely have fine dust from the insulation particles. Washing them with the rest of your laundry will spread the dust around. Also, separately wash the towels you use to dry off after washing the insulation residue from your skin.
  • Take a cold shower anyway – even if you didn’t expose your skin to the insulation material, try to take a cold shower just in case.

Using the tips and tricks mentioned above will help prevent irritation caused by insulation, mainly fiberglass. 


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