How to clean asbestos

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How to clean asbestos

Asbestos is a group of fibers, both natural and man-made, that were widely used prior to mid-1970s to insulate buildings, prepare roof shingles and dry walls, and for the installation of cement pipes and floor tiles. While asbestos is still part of construction materials, certain fibers are no longer being used because of their highly porous consistency that makes them more likely to be inhaled.

Removal of asbestos is essential to prevent a number of serious respiratory problems. Because asbestos can be inhaled and remain in the lungs for several years, it can lead to anything from shortness of breath and coughing to lung cancer and even death.

It is essential to remove asbestos from a building to protect the health of people living or working there. Asbestos removal is also the legal responsibility of the owner of the building, and can only be done by licensed asbestos abatement contractors. Once a building owner identifies the presence of asbestos, he should try and have it removed as soon as possible.

Asbestos can be removed by a number of different methods, although controlled wet stripping is the preferred way because it controls the amount of dust released into the environment during removal. Dry stripping is another popular method for the removal of asbestos because it is inexpensive and relatively easy to do. However, dry stripping is not recommended in most cases because it produces a high level of dust.

If removing the asbestos is not feasible, it is also possible to seal it up so that it does not enter the environment. Sealing is sometimes preferred over the removal because it is quicker and produces less dust. The fibers can be sealed up with paneling or through the use of PVC adhesive or a bitumastic paint. Wallpaper and hardboard panels can also be used to seal asbestos in as long as a strong adhesive is applied.

Whenever someone is attempting to remove asbestos, workers should wear protective masks and label the area so passers-by are warned about potential risks. If homeowners thinks they have asbestos in their home, they should always contact a certified contractor to check the building and confirm these findings.

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Discussion Comments

A good post, and I would consider also asking about the safety steps that go into the job, not just the price quoted. This site seems to have some good info.

I was looking for some asbestos removal sites to find out more about these kinds of materials and the procedures too. Still after reading your article, it really helps. anon254286 March 12, 2012

I am a licensed asbestos consultant, and I can say this is very a informative article. People need to be educated. anon3202 August 16, 2007

just a guess, but maybe negative pressure means that they use a vacuum-like system to suck the asbestos away? anon3194 August 16, 2007

When a person says that asbestos is always removed under negative pressure, what does this mean? anon1079 May 14, 2007

This article is entirely inside out. I’ve been researching asbestos and abatement, and even the American Lung Association (not to mention all the federal agencies that regulate asbestos) say removal is the remedy of last resort, enclosure or encapsulation being absolutely preferred (although eventually it will have to be removed).

Also, there’s a whole lot more to removal than touched on here. It’s a very dangerous proposition, and someone taking the brief advice in this article could wind up badly exposed, their whole home contaminated, and in violation of numerous state and local laws. This is pretty irresponsible.

Asphalt tile (or Vinyl Asbestos Tile aka VAT) is named for the binder that holds the tile together. It was originally manufactured using material taken from natural deposits of pitch. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Asphaltum (a by- product of petroleum manufacturing) was substituted as the binder. One of the first resilient floorings made in volume was asphalt tile. This flooring was first produced shortly after the turn of the century and was considered very modern due to the colors and flexibility along with low cost when compared to many other floors. Asphalt tiles gained wide popularity because they were inexpensive and durable. When cared for properly, asphalt tile floors can last 15 years or longer.

Asphalt tile is made up of asbestos fibers, lime rock, inert fillers, and colored pigments, with an asphalt or resin binder. It is usually installed in nine-inch squares, which helps to identify it as PACM (Potential Asbestos Containing Materials). CAUTION: Never dry buff or strip asphalt tile due health risk. Refer to OSHA guidelines for proper maintenance.

As with most floors, regular daily maintenance is required. Without daily care, the floor tends to look dull very quickly, and can sustain permanent damage if not maintained. A water based treatment is the safest, since oil may damage the asphalt tile. Mopping can dull the finish, requiring rebuffing or new finish application. Never use a solvent or paste wax, which can harm the tile. Never use oil or solvents such as naphtha, gasoline, turpentine, or carbon tetrachloride for cleaning asphalt tile. Any chemical that is used on the floor should be tested on a small out-of-the-way patch of flooring first. Asphalt is a rather porous floor that benefits from sealing prior to applying the finish.

All vinyl/asphalt tile flooring installed prior to 1981 is presumed to have asbestos unless proven otherwise. The following requirements and prohibitions apply to maintenance of such flooring:

No sanding of this flooring material; Wet floor stripping must use low abrasion pads at speeds below 300 rpm; Dry buffing may be performed at any speed as long as the flooring has sufficient finish to prevent the pad from contacting the flooring material.

Consider using the Stop Light System to document how many coats (preferable 7-10) on floor tiles that are unbroken and not exposed to the air.

Recommend to the property manager that the tiles either be removed properly or covered over with another floor product such as tiles or carpet with a barrier underneath.

Require workers exposed in any way to dispose of contaminated clothing including shoes.

Through asbestos remediation, VAT is becoming a thing of the past, however there is still plenty of it in buildings so know what it looks like and how to safely maintain it. Go to for specific details on maintenance. Your comments and questions are always welcome. I hope to hear from you soon. Until then, keep it clean…..

Mickey Crowe has been involved in the industry for over 35 years. He is a trainer, speaker and consultant. You can reach Mickey at 678.314.2171 or [email protected]


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Workplace Germs And How They Can Be Avoided

It is only appropriate to start this blog post with a warning: Asbestos fibers are extremely harmful to your health and should only be removed by a professional asbestos abatement company to completely eliminate risk to your health. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to a number of debilitating and even deadly medical conditions.

Although we recommend professional asbestos remediation any time asbestos is found, should you choose to do it yourself there are several things you need to know—which we will highlight in the sections below.

Protective Equipment for Safe Asbestos Removal

Wearing the right protective equipment is essential to safely removing asbestos from any structure. Asbestos fibers primarily impact the body when inhaled, so an appropriate breathing apparatus is critical. For many construction jobs, ordinary single-strap dust masks are sufficient, but not for asbestos remediation. Asbestos fibers are microscopic—several times smaller than the width of a human hair—and can find their way through standard single-strap dust masks.

At a minimum, you should utilize a twin-strap disposable P2 mask, but ideally, you’ll want to use a half-face filter respirator for maximum protection.

When the work is complete, do not immediately remove your mask. The mask should remain on until your contaminated clothing has been removed, bagged, and sealed. Asbestos fibers will attach themselves to fabric and removing your mask before removing the contaminated clothing may cause you to inhale fibers.

Since clothing used during the remediation process must be disposed of, we recommend using disposable coveralls with an attached hood (or disposable hat) and disposable gloves. Simply washing clothing is insufficient; the clothes must be thrown away after use for maximum protection.

Do’s and Don’ts of Asbestos Removal

When removing asbestos, you should always work in a well-ventilated area.

You should do everything possible not to disturb the asbestos fibers as this can cause them to become airborne. Start by spraying asbestos covered surfaces with a low pressure water hose. This will help minimize the amount of fibers that become airborne during the removal process.

When you are removing building materials containing asbestos, remove them with caution. Do not approach this project like a standard demolition. Removed materials should be carefully removed and stored. Excessive force and carelessness can increase the amount of asbestos fibers in the air.

Do Not

The do nots are mostly the opposite of what you should do. Never user a high pressure water hose to wet surfaces, as this can loosen asbestos fibers.

Do not toss materials containing asbestos around or slide them across one another, as this will also increase the amount of asbestos fibers in the air.

Additionally, do not crush, sand, cut, or scrape asbestos covered surfaces. This will only increase the number of fibers in the air and create an unhealthy environment around the job site.

Professional Asbestos Remediation

For effective—and safe—elimination of asbestos from your property, youneeda trained and licensed asbestos removal company. The asbestos removal team at Action Restoration has the experience, skills, and tools necessary to ensure that the asbestos in your building is removed as safely as possible. Our professional asbestos removal team will take all necessary precautions to protect you and your employees or family members from harm during the asbestos abatement procedure.

To find the most reliable information about the safe removal of asbestos dust, you should first consult the EPA website on the matter. At you will find many valuable resources pertaining to asbestos, namely, how to locate it, its dangers and what to do after you find it. Also listed are the laws regulating asbestos in public and commercial buildings. As a homeowner, you are not bound by the regulation. However, because asbestos containing materials or ACM are still found in a majority of homes, identification, handling and removal procedures and recommendations do apply to your situation. If you locate asbestos dust in your home, it requires action. In all cases, the EPA recommends professional removal due to the extreme health hazard asbestos fibers pose. That said, you still ought to be knowledgeable of what the process entails.

Asbestos Danger

Asbestos is only a health risk when its microscopic fibers become airborne. Asbestos at risk of this is said to be friable, that is, crumbly or dusty. Old batt insulation, wall texturing, spray-on acoustical coatings and old adhesives are particularly prone to friability. Asbestos dust is especially dangerous as it is in a state whereby it may be inhaled. At this point it is imperative that you hire a professional to deal with the problem. Even if you have an idea of the process, incorrect removal can be potentially dangerous for your health and others in the household.

Safe Asbestos Dust Removal

When you hire a professional asbestos removal service, make sure they are properly licensed and bonded and certified at the federal level. The EPA has strict guidelines regarding the removal, so you should never hire a firm that cuts corners. The proper removal starts with an evaluation of the space to determine how much ACM is present and where it is. Next, you should receive a contract from the firm detailing the cleanup work they will undertake. This should specify the laws and applicable regulations they will follow.

As for the actual removal, full body safety gear and clothing is a requirement for all asbestos workers. This includes disposable suits, gloves and high-rated respirators. For large jobs, some contractors provide on-site showers to in effect decontaminate before leaving the quarantine zone. The area in which the removal takes place must be sealed off from the rest of the home. To do this, plastic sheeting and duct tape is used. Central heating or air conditioning systems must be off during the work. All ACM must be kept moist during cleanup. This reduces the amount of asbestos fibers that go airborne as well as makes the cleanup easier. When removing large pieces of asbestos containing drywall, pipe or other large objects, it is best to keep them intact. Breaking them into smaller pieces increases the spread of dust.

Proper Disposal

Everything disposable used in the work site is required to be placed in sealed, labeled plastic bags for disposal. This includes work clothing, ACM and equipment used to clean up and contain the ACM. Wet rags and mops are used after removal to wipe down all surfaces. A HEPA vacuum cleaner may be used but never a regular vacuum cleaner.

Knowing these regulations for yourself helps ensure you pick a qualified asbestos removal contractor whom you can trust to do the job right. If you see any unsafe behavior, you can point it out, referring to the contract you have with the firm. After removal and cleanup, it is advisable that you hire an unaffiliated air inspector to test for asbestos particles to make sure the job was done well.

Floor tiles often contain asbestos. Because of this, you must perform routine floor care very carefully so you don’t cause asbestos fibers to get into the environment. Follow these guidelines to reduce the chance of releasing asbestos during your floor maintenance activities.

Stripping Vinyl Asbestos Floor Tiles

  • Strip the floor as few times as possible.
  • Only strip the floors when the building is not occupied (during the summer and other vacation periods).

Before you begin, make sure you thoroughly understand how to operate the machines. Know which pads are for which types of floor-care maintenance operations.

First, apply a compatible floor finish remover or stripper with a mop. Allow enough time for the stripper to liquefy the finish. (Make sure you know how to safely handle the different chemical products used in this activity. If you have any questions or problems, consult with your floor finish products manufacturer for advice.)

Always strip the floor wet. Scrub the floor using the least abrasive pad or brush possible. Generally the black pads are the most abrasive, the white pad the least abrasive. Run the machine at a low rate of speed (175-300 rpm’s).

Use a wet vacuum, preferably one equipped with a HEPA filtration system, to thoroughly clean the floor and remove the old wax and finish.

If necessary, repeat this operation until all the existing finish is removed.

Thoroughly rinse the floor after all existing finish is removed.

Finishing Your Asbestos Floor Tile

Applying a Sealer

If you can, apply two or three layers of a good sealer to the tiles before you apply your finishing coat. This helps to keep contact with the floor tiles to a minimum during future floor maintenance activities.

Applying the Finisher

Again, apply several thin coats of a good finisher. Allow each coat enough time to cure and dry before applying the next coat.

Dry Buffing the Floor

Make sure your floors are well sealed and /or finished before you begin. Run the machine used to buff the floor at a lowest rate of speed possible (300-1100 rpm’s).

Maintaining Your Floor Tiles

Routine Cleaning

Use a wet mop for routine cleaning whenever possible. If you do dry mop, don’t use a petroleum-based mop- it eats away at the wax.

Spray Buffing

Whenever you spray buff with a polishing or rejuvenator liquid, use the least abrasive pad possible. Run the floor machine at a lowest rate of speed possible to get the job done (175-300 rpm’s).

Wet Scrubbing

Whenever you wet scrub the floor with a neutral cleaner or water, use the least abrasive pad possible. Run the floor machine at a lowest rate of speed possible to get the job done (175-300 rpm’s). Use a wet vacuum, preferably one equipped with a HEPA filtration system, to pick up the resulting liquid. After the floor is dry, re-coat it with a compatible finish.

The Four Main Points to Remember

  • Use the least abrasive pads you can.
  • Operate the floor machine at the lowest rate of speed as possible.
  • Use a wet vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter to pick up liquids resulting from floor maintenance activities.
  • Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when using any floor cleaning and finishing products.


April 2, 2013 – Posted by: Steven Kazan – In category: asbestos exposure

How to clean asbestosWhether you’re cleaning your home for yourself or in preparation of a sale, you need to be careful if the house was built before 1980. In such cases, asbestos exposure can be a real hazard because the mineral appeared in a wide range of products, such as insulation and fireproofing materials.

Recently, I read the Home and Garden column of The Telegraph, a newspaper in Georgia. In a Q&A, a reader asked the columnist about the best way to clean the cobwebs off a popcorn textured ceiling.

Wear protective gear and proceed carefully
In response to the reader’s question, columnist Gene Austin noted that asbestos was a common component of popcorn textured ceilings in homes that were built during the 1960s and 1970s. Austin advised the reader that, before doing any major cleaning, it’s important to first test the ceiling for the presence of asbestos. Although there are do-it-yourself kits that provide the tools to collect samples to send to a laboratory, this work can also be performed by certified professionals.

If these tests show that the ceiling is made with asbestos, there is only the threat of danger if the material is disturbed. This is why it’s important to approach asbestos using only the utmost level of caution. Austin advised readers to mist the area, as damp popcorn is less likely to flake, and very gently remove the cobweb with a paintbrush. He also recommended not touching the ceiling at all.

I’d also like to take this advice even further and recommend that while performing this work, you should always wear respirator facial masks, eye protection and head covering. Once the job is done, your clothes need to be disposed of. And, if at any point the popcorn begins to flake or break off, work needs to stop immediately.

A ceiling that contains asbestos may be a drawback in any efforts to sell a house because you need to disclose the fact that asbestos is present. There are several ways to handle this. If the asbestos is in tact, the best thing to do is leave it alone. Otherwise, you should hire a professional to remove it.

When it comes to popcorn-textured ceilings, the best way to cover them is by using suspended ceiling tiles, which provides more protection than drywall. Still, the presence of the asbestos needs to be disclosed.

Make sure the professionals are qualified
Remember – asbestos was present in as many as 3,000 consumer and industrial products by the mid-1970s. This is responsible for the trends we are now seeing in the incidence of diseases like malignant mesothelioma.

If you decide to work with a professional to solve your home’s asbestos problem, remember that there are no federal laws requiring these individuals to be specially trained in handling asbestos. These regulations often fall under state and local laws, which you should consult in order to ensure that you are working with someone who is knowledgeable. Once a job is complete, make sure the people you hire provide you with written assurance that they followed all safety measures.

How to Clean an Asbestos Shingle Roof

How to clean asbestos

  • How to clean asbestos
  • How to clean asbestos
  • How to clean asbestos
  • How to clean asbestos

LESLIE: Now we’re going to take a trusty cleaning question from Ken in Missouri.

Ken, what are you looking to clean?

KEN: An asbestos, slate-shingled roof.

KEN: Well, they look like slate but I’ve removed a couple of them and there’s a piece of paper on the back of one of them from 1952 and it says asbestos.

TOM: OK. OK, they’re probably asbestos. They’re probably not slate. They’re probably asbestos. Because in the 50s, it was common to use a cement asbestos roof tile. Slate is going to look more like the slate that you might walk on and it exfoliates; it gets like delaminated. But the asbestos – here’s the good news about asbestos. It almost never wears out. So the roof, structurally, is probably fine.

KEN: Very, very fine. Yeah.

TOM: But the bad thing about it is it looks horrible. It grows – it attracts moss like you can’t believe it and it just really looks nasty. So you can clean it but I have to warn you that you’re going to have to (inaudible) it.

LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Is this a do-it-yourself project or is this something you should hire a professional for safety issues?

TOM: You know, it’s really – yeah, it’s really hard to clean because here’s why: it’s hard to walk on that stuff; it’s hard and it’s slippery. But what you can do …

KEN: And it’s extremely steep.

TOM: Yeah, it’s very steep. Here’s what you could do. If you want to try to clean it, you’re going to have to get a high pressure washer and you’re going to have to apply a cleaning solution to that first. It’s going to be one that is bleach-based or has a mildicide in it. You’re going to have to spray that down and let it soak and, after that, you can use the pressure washer to clean the roof and brighten it up. But the other thing is if you use too much pressure, you’re going to start to blast some holes in that asbestos. So this might be a situation where you’re just going to have to do a little bit of maintenance but you’re never going to get that asbestos shingle roof real bright, shiny white. You know what I mean, Ken?

KEN: Yep. Yeah, I do.

KEN: Well, a contractor wanted $12,000 to replace it.

KEN: Tear off the shingles, dispose of them, and put a new roof on.

TOM: Well you know, interesting you talk about disposal. I hope he’s not running the cost up on disposal because in most parts of the country, disposal – removal of cement asbestos shingles is not regulated because that asbestos is held inside of a cement binder, so there’s low risk of any exposure to that. But disposal is regulated, so disposal is a little bit more tricky. But the removal is not that difficult. But if you ever do decide to reroof, make sure you take off the old ones because you don’t want to trap that under asphalt shingles. That would just make a big, stinking mess. OK, Ken?

KEN: OK. I appreciate it.

TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

As a first priority removing asbestos-containing material (ACM) must be considered. Where ACM cannot be removed and must be sealed, painted, coated or cleaned, there may be a risk to health. Such tasks can only be carried out on ACMs that are in good condition. For this reason, the ACM needs to be thoroughly inspected before the work begins.

There is a risk to health if the surface of asbestos cement sheeting has been disturbed (eg from hail storms and cyclones) or if the sheeting has deteriorated as a result of environmental factors, such as pollution. If asbestos cement sheeting is so weathered that its surface is cracked or broken the asbestos cement matrix may be eroded, increasing the likelihood that asbestos fibres could be released if disturbed.

If treatment of asbestos cement sheeting is considered essential, a method that does not disturb the matrix of the asbestos cement sheeting needs to be used. An airless sprayer at low pressure is preferred to rollers or brushes on exposed (or unsealed) asbestos as rollers and brushes may cause abrasion/damage and result in fibres being released from the surface of the material. Under no circumstances can ACM be water-blasted or dry-sanded in preparation for painting, coating or sealing.


In addition to any equipment required to complete the particular task (eg paint, paint brushes, paint rollers or airless spray gun/equipment) the following equipment may be required on site before the work begins:

  • disposable cleaning rags
  • bucket of water and/or a misting spray bottle
  • sealant
  • spare PPE
  • suitable asbestos waste container
  • warning signs and/or barrier tape.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

  • See guidance on selection and use of protective clothing
  • It is likely that a class P1 or P2 half-face respirator will be adequate for this task, provided the recommended safe work procedure is followed. For further guidance on selecting appropriate respirators see Appendix H of the Managing asbestos in workplaces Compliance Code


  • Where paint is to be applied, appropriate respiratory protection to control the paint vapours/mist must also be considered.