What do you do for fiberglass rash?

I try to keep covered up while grinding fiberglass to repair canoes but but I somehow still manage to to get a rash or bad itch from the dust. Any suggestions for easing the torment?

Tyvek coverall suits are helpful for prevention.

Otherwise - if you can - rinse off (water pressure OK, don’t scrub while still covered with the stuff) and change clothes as soon as you’re done with that part of the job - before moving to next thing. Can minimize the problem (fibers in and on your clothes can spread. grind in, and increase it far beyond the initial exposure).

For some relief you might try a nice saltwater swim/soak. Seems to help with all sorts of skin issues.

lotion before, lotion after
Putting some lotion on might help the fibers work their way out.

Try something like this next time. http://www.mfasco.com/product_info.php/safety/barrier-creams-hand-cleaners/p/kerodex-%2351-dry-or-oily-work-skin-protectant-cream-4-oz-tube/cPath/50_397/products_id/4450

Avoid grinding and sanding
I much prefer to use a carbide scraper for shaping fiberglass. It doesn’t produce a fine dust and what it does produce falls on the ground, rather than getting slung into the air. Where a scraper won’t work, a rasp usually will and I use a four-way shoemaker’s rasp frequently. When I need to sand, I wet sand, so the dust is carried away as a slurry and never gets into the air.

Personally, I can’t see any use for a grinder when working on kayaks, canoes and other thin-skinned fiberglass surfaces. Perhaps one could be useful if you’re shaping thick Kevlar skid plates on canoes, but I never use one when repairing kayaks. They’re too hard to control and can do a lot of damage in a hurry. If I need more shaping power or speed than I get with hand tools and hand sanding, I use a random orbit sander with a vacuum attached. In tight quarters, a Fein Multimaster with a vac attached is the way to go.

One step further
When I sand glass, I set up a large box fan blowing at me and towards another exhaust fan sucking particles out the basement or outside with the wind. I always finish my work by vacuuming myself or any exposed skin. This includes a shop vac attached to the sander which is venting outside.

I worked griding and sanding
fiberglass after getting out of school for a while. This is the best thing I found to get the fiberglass dust off exposed skin. You need access to a air compressor. When finished grinding put talcum power on the exposed skin. The power mixes with the sweat and oil on your skin. That makes the Fiberglass dust attach to the power and you can blow off the power and glass dust with the compressed air. Sounds strange and my not get 100% of it off but it was better than trying to wipe it off and pushing it into the skin


prevention is the best choice …
… don’t let it get on your skin … why should you ??

And protect your eyes and breathing at the minimums …

That’s a bit idealistic. I can limit
exposure to FG grindings, but I can’t hold exposure to zero.

If you hike in the woods, you are going to brush against poison ivy. You can wade through it and get covered with rash, or you can limit it as best you can and get only occasional spots. But the only way to hike in the woods with zero exposure is to wear an environmental protection suit from head to toe.

Barrier Creams Work Great
I’m not sure where you can get these but any safety supply stores should carry them. Barrier creams work by clogging your pores efore you work with fiberglass. Apply the cream before you start work and rub it into your exposed skin really good…when you wash yourself later the cream comes off after the fiberglass has already been washed away…have used this in an industrial factory for years…I’ll try to find out the name of the cream we use but you should be able to find a similar cream where you are.


I suspect…
… the main benefit of the talc is visual - so you are thorough with the air. Like those tablets dentists give kids to stain their teeth and encourage more thorough brushing.

Years ago doing insulation, and sweep outs after (worse) - I used the shop compressor to dust off too. It does help (or at least gets it off your clothes to prevent more on skin), but have to watch the eyes.

I’d avoid any rubbing, talc, lotion, whatever - until after airing/showering.

true , 100% prevention is a bit idealist

– Last Updated: Feb-14-09 9:36 PM EST –

...... but for less than 10. bucks you can easily aquire the aforementioned full tyvek suit ... you get 25 of them for just over 5. bucks a piece .

It's better to keep the crap out of and off your cloths to start with , than to deal with the alternative method of after the fact ... the tyvek full cover suits are good for many other nasty jobs as well ... be a snowman and fear not .

disposable Nitrill gloves are a nice addition ...

open/closed pores
Bnystrom is seldom incorrect, but I’m not sure about his advice this time.

Ideally, you want it to be cold (pores closed) when working with fiberglass…it will always irritate you worse in hot weather when pores open to sweat.

But once afflicted, wouldn’t you need the pores open again to better remove it? I would think a hot shower would be better than a cold one for this purpose.

All I know is what we were told

– Last Updated: Feb-15-09 11:56 AM EST –

Cold water washing is apparently standard practice in industrial settings, or at least it was at the time. Perhaps that has changed, as have many other things in the past 20 years. If anyone has a reference to the contrary, I'd like to know about it. As it is, I just avoid creating fiberglass dust as much as possible and take steps to confine exposure to my hands only, if any exposure at all.

I checked the OSHA site, but couldn't find much of anything either way, other than that they emphasize the need for washing. One thing that's important when washing is to use a soap that lathers well and lots of it, as that helps to lift the fibers from your skin. It may be necessary to scrub with a cloth or brush if the contamination is severe, which is what OSHA recommends for asbestos, which is also fibrous.

I respectfully disagree with air blast!
I respectfully disagree with air blast clean up for skin or the shop. Too much potential for embedding fibers, and increased opportunity for fibers to reach eyes nose and mouth, and previously unexposed skin. Plus, the fibers are now evenly distributed all over everything in your shop area. Use other methods, remembering prevention is superior to decontamination. For example, sweeping compound will aid in collecting fiber dust on floor, reducing airborne particles.

A little sweat due to protective barrier creme/coveralls/clothing/facemask/respirator is better than itching for weeks, or developing a long term sensitivity- a serious issue where I work with chrome, nickel, and abrasive compounds. Other posters have reported their longterm reactions to boat building materials.

I strongly agree with BNystrom and Pilotwingz, especially on the Personal Protective Equipment. Goggles and or faceshields are appropriate. Only a brief mention was made of breathing protection. Those paper masks just don’t do the job. Get a 1/2 mask respirator, silicone is even better than rubber. North brand P100 with inlet particle traps are what I use. There are filters for more then just dust. Organic solvent filters prevent that “laquer thinner headache”. Who wants to be dizzy while using sharp tools?

For those who are curious, here is a link to the Owen-Corning Material Data Safety Sheet.


If you threw away that paper that came with your fiberglass matting and epoxy , just Google the brand, manufaturer or material and the letters MSDS.

Don’t overreact when you read these. But be aware of & use the precautions they contain.

Be Safe,


Well I wouldn’t call it a cure but a method to get the small shards of fibers off of you:

Get some tape, clear packaging works well because it’s really sticky, wrap it around your hand with the adhesive side out.

Pat the area of the rash. Rotate the tape or apply more when the stickiness appears to be gone. You’re removing the source of the rash.

If the skin got red before you did this, it’ll take some time for it to settle back down. But relief is almost instant for me


JEM Watercraft

found a remedy…
…at a website called “eHOW”

In “Step 1” they suggest starting your shower with water as cold as you can stand it & then proceed to as hot as you can stand it. Repeat if necessary.

If that’s not enough torture for you, Step 2 advises (and I’m not making this up!) applying duct tape (or packaging tape) to your skin & then peeling it off.

The more I think about it, maybe this is one of those “spoof” sites set up by some sadistic sicko who wants to see how many people they can get to voluntarily inflict pain upon themselves???

applying duct tape
I guess applying it to the skin would work but ouch!

The method I described with wrapping it around your hand and patting the effected areas does pull on the body hair a bit.

But it’s not as bad as putting a strip of it on your arm and then ripping it off.


JEM Watercraft

If your itching its too late already …
Keep skin bare ( no lotions etc. ) and it will go away. Next time. COLD water ( flush not blast ) from hose for a little pressure asap when done sanding and no rubbing. Tape on hand works if you want to deal with that.

New set of sanding clothes once in a while too.

I think the air hose is ludacris, sorry.

Bryan, sanders don’t kill thin skins … people do. : )

That’ the NRA’s slogan
I’m referring of course to the “Nautical Repair Association”. :wink: