How to Remove Asbestos Insulation From the Pipes

by Randy Craig; Updated September 26, 2017
Caution sign warning of asbestos hazard

Years after researchers revealed asbestos to be life-threatening, knowing how to remove asbestos insulation from pipes remains a sought-after skill. Asbestos insulates pipes and ceilings in older homes and buildings and requires careful, cautious removal. Ideally, the work should be done by a professional, but individuals who follow strict rules and safety procedures can also remove asbestos insulation from pipes.

Items you will need

  • HEPA-filter respirator
  • Eye protection
  • Disposable coveralls and cap
  • Rubber gloves and boots
  • Tank sprayer (2-3 gallons)
  • Liquid dish detergent
  • 8-inch putty knives
  • Asbestos waste disposal bags
  • Duct tape and electrical tape
  • Encapsulant (latex asbestos sealing product)

Preparation and Removal of Asbestos Insulation from Pipes

Step 1

Remove all furniture. Close and seal windows and vents. Turn off all heating or air-conditioning units. Shut off electrical power. Use an outside circuit if lighting is needed. Detach any light fixtures and wrap exposed wires with electrical tape. Post warning signs to ward off onlookers or unexpected visitors. These steps will help minimize exposure and asbestos contamination, according to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

Step 2

Build the containment area around the asbestos-insulated pipes by attaching the plastic sheeting to the floors and walls with duct tape. Allow plenty of overlap (6 to 12 inches). Seal all seams with duct tape. Lay a second layer of plastic on the floor. Overlap the sheets but do not seal them with tape.

Step 3

Build an air lock (or isolation area) between the containment area and the other parts of the house or building to serve as a decontamination area where workers can get out of their contaminated coveralls and dispose of them properly. Use an adjacent room as the airlock, being sure to cover the entryway with two sheets of plastic with slits down the middle to serve as a “door.”

Step 4

Mix a few drops of the detergent with a few gallons of water in the tank sprayer. Soak the asbestos with the detergent and water, allowing the solution to penetrate the surface completely. Wait about 20 minutes and scrape off some of the material to check for saturation. Spray the area again if the solution has not thoroughly soaked the asbestos, advises the Utah DEQ.

Step 5

Scrape the asbestos into approved disposal bags with a putty knife. Ensure that it is thoroughly damp. Spread the encapsulant over the pipe surfaces that the asbestos covered to seal them, preventing further contamination from residual asbestos.

Step 6

Zip up the containment bags and seal them with duct tape. Seal large amounts of asbestos (and the plastic sheeting, when finished) inside 55-gallon drums. Mark all containers or bags as containing asbestos. Spray the plastic sheets in the containment area. Remove the plastic, starting at the point furthest from the exit. Bag and seal the plastic. Spray yourself inside the airlock. Spray the airlock walls. Remove your coveralls and equipment, starting with your boots. Bag and seal your workclothes and the remaining plastic.

Tips

  • Check with local and state regulations on required wording and letter size for labeling containment bags or drums.

    Contact the environmental agency in your state (such as the department of environmental quality) to locate an approved landfill or waste disposal facility. File any necessary paperwork such as a Waste Shipment Record.

Warnings

  • Do not use power tools or sanding and sawing motions to remove asbestos. These actions are more likely to spread asbestos fibers.

    Use only vacuums approved for asbestos containment. Do not sweep or use regular vacuums to clean up asbestos.

About the Author

Randy Craig has been an education and parenting writer and editor for more than seven years. He served as editorial manager for National PTA's "Our Children" magazine and helped lead PTA's Men Organized to Raise Engagement Committee. He earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ball State University and authored the book "Reclaiming Your Readers: Proven Methods for Reader-focused Writing."

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images