A picture of fiberglass, cellulose, and spray foam insulation in boxes, with a toxic skull symbol overtop all of them in the middle.

Removing fiberglass insulation isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you know what you’re up against, you can complete the project cheaply and safely. 

So, how do you remove old fiberglass insulation safely? 

Read on to learn the ins and outs of cheap DIY fiberglass insulation removal! 

How Do I Safely Remove Old Fiberglass Insulation?

To safely remove old fiberglass insulation, you must use the correct safety gear and equipment. First, you should seal the room, check for asbestos and other hazardous materials, and vacuum the insulation. Finally, dispose of the old fiberglass responsibly. 

Now let’s look at each of these steps in greater detail.

1.) Prepare Yourself and Gather Your Equipment

Fiberglass is well-known for its many uses, and it’s not common for it to cause serious injuries. However, it’s made of tiny glass particles, which, if inhaled or ingested over long periods or at high concentrations, can lead to more severe health problems. 

Fiberglass insulation shouldn’t damage the skin with short-term exposure, but it may cause a rash if you’re exposed to it over an extended period. It is also dangerous if inhaled, so it’s essential to use the correct safety equipment before removing it.

Proper fiberglass installation safety equipment includes: 

  • Long gloves
  • A fiberglass respirator or another suitable breathing mask
  • Safety goggles
  • Long, light clothing to avoid rashes and heat exhaustion 

Next, it’s time to consider the tools you’ll need to remove the insulation. Insulation removal vacuum cleaners are the most popular choice for the job, with a high-powered and high-capacity HEPA filter vacuum cleaner being the ideal option. 

It’s best to get one with a bag to collect all the insulation, as this will help with the cleanup later and make it easy to dispose of the old fiberglass. It will also expose you to fewer airborne fiberglass particles. 

Intec’s VORTEC Insulation Removal Vacuum is a 21-horsepower, high-resistance steel insulation remover. It’s portable, durable, and runs on gas, so there’s no need to worry about cables or finding a nearby outlet. 

The VORTEC® Beast High Powered Electric Start Insulation Removal Vacuum on the concrete next to an exterior brick wall
Courtesy of Intech

2.) Contain or Seal the Room

Sealing the room before getting to work ensures no fibers and potentially toxic materials can leave the space. 

There are several easy, inexpensive solutions to sealing a room, including:

  • Sealing all doors, windows, and gaps – cover and seal all doors, windows, vents, and openings in your home’s interior. You can do this using a durable plastic sheet and taping it over the area. 
  • Using plastic sheeting – if you’re working in an attic, fiberglass could drift through openings in the floorboards. Placing a plastic sheet on the floor will help avoid this and catch any leftover pieces that might come off during the removal process. 

3.) Check for Asbestos and Other Safety Hazards

It’s uncommon for modern insulation, including fiberglass, to contain toxic materials and potentially deadly chemicals. Things weren’t always this way, though. 

Before 1980, it was commonplace to use materials containing asbestos for new buildings, but this was found to be a severe health risk and was phased out. 

If you’re working on a house built before 1980, it may contain asbestos. Otherwise, it’s highly improbable that your fiberglass insulation has it. However, it may contain bacteria spread by vermin, so work cautiously. 

Asbestos is released when the insulation is disturbed, which will surge out during the insulation removal. This characteristic is why it’s crucial to test for asbestos before you begin taking down the insulation. 

A closeup on an asbestos-containing fiber in a pair of tweezers

Luckily, DIY home asbestos testing kits are widely available and affordable. 

Here’s how to test for asbestos:

  • While wearing the correct protective gear and after sealing the room, identify the area you want to test for asbestos. 
  • Spray a fine mist of water so that any dust present quickly settles. 
  • Identify the area you want to test, and take a small piece using a knife or pliers. 
  • Follow the DIY test kit’s instructions on how to continue. This process usually involves sealing the sample in a plastic bag and mailing it to the testing site. 
  • Send the sample off and wait a few days for the results. 

Even if the insulation tests negative for asbestos, it’s still vital to handle it with extreme care and take all the necessary precautions for your health and safety. 

Not every kind of insulation is prone to infestation, though. Find out how different insulation types can prevent bugs and pests, here

4.) Vacuum the Fiberglass Insulation

It’s not advisable to remove old fiberglass insulation by hand. Instead, it would be best to use a high-powered shop vacuum with a vacuum bag. This method is far quicker and stirs up less potentially-toxic dust. 

Fiberglass insulation, like rock wool, is quite spongy and foam-like, so it’s pretty easy to vacuum up with minimal disturbance needed from your end. You can also pull pieces apart and feed them into the vacuum if it’s solid. 

At this stage, the insulation will release an overwhelming amount of dust, which will gather on the floor if left unchecked. This accumulation is the last thing you want because, as we know, fiberglass insulation is toxic to inhale. 

If you can ventilate your space with air from outside, such as by opening a window or removing roof tiles to vent out the attic space from above, we advise you to do so. 

For a visual explanation of fiberglass insulation removal, watch the experts at Ceiling Suckers work their magic in the following video: 

Screenshot from a video on fiberglass insulation removal
Courtesy of Gideon Schuman

5.) Properly Dispose of the Fiberglass Insulation 

Once collected with an insulation vacuum, fiberglass insulation needs to be disposed of responsibly.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Place the insulation in strong plastic bags – seal them by tying them at the top, and consider double-bagging them if the load is heavy. 
  2. Remove the waste from your home – the old insulation shouldn’t stay in the building, and you should remove it as soon as possible. 
  3. Take the bags to a disposal site – fiberglass insulation can’t be disposed of in regular recycling or waste sites. Instead, contact your local county waste management or a local waste removal specialist for assistance. 

The Biggest Problem With Fiberglass Insulation

As we’ve pointed out, fiberglass insulation has many benefits but also significant disadvantages. 

The biggest problem with fiberglass insulation is that it doesn’t repel vapor, moisture, or seal. As a result, unwanted drafts are a common issue. In addition, the older the insulation gets, the less efficient it becomes, so you must replace it at regular intervals. 

Fiberglass insulation should never get wet. If it does, it can develop mold, causing it to degrade even faster and possibly impacting your health. 

However, using vapor barriers effectively avoids mold and mildew and decreases the effects of leakages and rainwater runoff. 

Final Thoughts

Removing old fiberglass doesn’t have to be a costly or daunting task if you follow the easy steps in this article. As long as you use the correct safety equipment, tools and methods, your old insulation should soon be a thing of the past! 

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