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What to Wear to Install Insulation

Updated on December 9, 2012
Man in a protective suit
Man in a protective suit | Source

Every type of construction project requires proper work wear in order to stay safe and prevent injury. While insulation work is typically not thought to be dangerous, there are certainly some health risks associated with the installation of many different types of insulation. Breaking the types of insulation being installed into categories will show what type of clothing to wear while installing the insulation products.

Fiberglass Insulation

Installing fiberglass insulation requires you to cover as much of your body as possible to avoid getting the small glass fibers embedded in your skin. Wearing disposable coveralls that come with a hood works very well for covering your body completely and is simply thrown away at the end of the job. They can be purchased at almost any hardware store and are typically found in the paint department.

Eye protection prevents glass fibers from causing irritation or possibly even infections in the eye. Safety glasses work well for this application.

Latex or rubber gloves work well on the hands to prevent the hands from getting glass fibers on them and spreading the fibers onto other parts of the body.

In order to prevent inhalation of glass fibers, a dust mask is the minimum recommended covering for the mouth and nose. Inhalation of glass fibers can cause a lot of pain and can have adverse lung health effects. This is why it is recommended to wear a respirator instead of a dust mask to fully prevent fiberglass fiber inhalation.

Cellulose Insulation

Cellulose poses no health risks or irritation to skin, so it can be installed in just about any type of clothing option.

Cellulose is very dusty when installed so it is recommended to wear a dust mask to prevent inhalation and safety glasses to prevent the dust from accumulating in the corners of the eyes.

Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam insulation requires disposable coveralls as the spray foam adheres to almost any surface including skin. This also means that covering the face becomes an important element to installing spray foam.

A respirator must be worn when installing spray foam as the off gassing during install can be deadly if inhaled for prolonged periods of time. This covers the lower part of the face. Lab goggles have to be worn to prevent the over spray from getting into the eyes. The rest of the face should be coated with Vaseline. This will prevent the spray foam from sticking to the skin.

Latex or rubber gloves should be worn to protect the hands.

Hazardous Materials

There are a few types of insulation that exist in homes prior to 1970 that you should not expose yourself to. These insulation typically contain asbestos and /or formaldehyde. Here is a list of these insulation materials:

Spray foam insulation 1965-1975 – Formaldehyde – Dark yellow, considerable shrinkage around framing

Fiberglass insulation 1935-1970 – Formaldehyde – Orange color, sparkles in the light

Vermiculite – 1900-1970 – Asbestos – Looks like small shiny rocks, typically in attics and sidewalls, loose fill

White duct wrap or plumbing pip wrap – 1850-1960 – Asbestos –White cloth wrap used for insulating hot water pipes and duct work in older homes

If you encounter any of these types of insulation, you should leave it alone. The only ways these insulation materials will harm you are your family is if it is disturbed. Removal of these insulation types should be performed by a licensed contractor specializing in hazardous material removal and remediation.

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    • Bob Daley profile image

      Bob Daley 

      5 years ago from La Grange, Illinois

      Excellent article! There are some manufacturers who will provide a suit, gloves, and mask for you, like Spray Foam Direct, but it's always good to make sure you know what you're getting when you order insulation kits. You may need to buy the suit extra, and it's ALWAYS worth it. Safety first!

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