I've got an old house with some asbestos tape on the heating vents, and some old floor tiles which are asbestos suspects as well; duct cleaning firms won't do cleaning on the vents with the tape present. Do I really need to call in the space suit guys to get rid of it? If I just cover it with new foil tape, will that encapsulate it safely? Should I just rip it off myself?

2 Answers 2


It's not really that serious in most cases. In tile or siding, it isn't a hazard unless it is broken down, generating dust that you are breathing. Even then, a lot of tile is like 1% asbestos. If you can get it up without breaking it too much, you're basically fine.

Pipe insulation that is soft is more of a problem. You can probably do it yourself if it's a small amount. It may very well be illegal though. Get a respirator like this http://www.amazon.com/MSA-Safety-Works-817664-Respirator/dp/B0009XW3ZS, take a heavy plastic bag, tape it around the insulation so it's mostly sealed, and then spray it down with water so it's saturated and won't generate dust. Then remove it, dousing with water as needed. Seal it up in the bag and dispose of it lawfully.

I was an asbestos abatement hygienist for 3 summers, and I took airborne fiber readings of thousands of hours of removal being done. Although negative air containment systems were in place on those jobs, I had probably 10 concerning readings out of thousands.

Asbestos is like smoking cigarettes in my opinion. One day isn't going to hurt you. Every day for 5 years will hurt you.

  • 7
    It may not be serious and could probably be removed easily by anybody, but in most places it is illegal to remove it without a license and proper equipment. Even if you remove it you may find it hard to dispose of properly since you are not licensed (I assume), so you may have to bury it in the garden to hide the evidence.
    – Tester101
    Jul 22, 2010 at 20:03
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    Asbestos is like smoking cigarettes - I would never, ever, ever smoke a single cigarette around my children, or any children for that matter. So your analogy is correct, which makes your answer completely invalid and dangerous. Jul 23, 2010 at 22:45
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    I understand that perspective to some degree, as long as it's based on fact. If you want to be 100% safe, I hope you aren't walking around a city breathing car exhaust as well. The fact is, I worked with asbestos contractors for 3 summers and what they do to do the job "safely" is basically what I described. Removing a small amount of intact tape is an extremely low risk thing that many would feel fine taking. Otherwise, encapsulation with duct tape is a perfectly adequate solution as well.
    – Peter
    Jul 24, 2010 at 3:39
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    I know someone who did their own asbestos removal from his heating pipes. He did exactly as Peter said - paper suit, mask, wet down. Based on his research he could not find a SINGLE instance where minor asbestos "exposure" led to any harmful effects. The asbestos issues are from people working in an industrial capacity around asbestos for long periods of time. I don't think it is a real big deal. The only issue is the waste...
    – Tim
    Oct 16, 2010 at 23:13
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    There are many laws with the removal and disposal of asbestos and even limits to how much can be done by one-self, even in your own home. Regarding the risk -- asbestos fibers cannot be broken down by the lungs, ever. It is not like smoking, in that with smoking, the lungs at least have a chance to try and repair themselves. While a controversial statement, it is said that even a single fiber can lead to cancer. To me, it is less like smoking and more like Russian-roulette. Maybe you'll be fine, but why advocate for someone taking the risk just because you did work in a professional setting?
    – Jacob S
    Jun 3, 2015 at 17:33

Get a professional. Asbestos dust is a real killer, and frankly it's not worth the risk of residual dust - especially if you have young childeren.

In Australia the Queensland government even have a "Dob in a neighbour" program if you think that someone is doing DIY asbestos handeling. That's how serious it is.

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    Ok, after getting downvoted for my answer, I decided to read more from the Queensland source. Part of their guide includes instructions on how to DIY on small, low risk asbestos sources, just like the original question stated!
    – Peter
    Jul 29, 2010 at 22:07
  • How do you know it is a killer? Please point me to some research that shows a home removal of asbestos is a risk.
    – Tim
    Oct 16, 2010 at 23:14
  • Do NOT touch Asbestos, I am a Queensland based Home Automation Installer and Systems Integrator. If you think it is asbestos stop work and call an asbestos remover. The fines in Queensland for touching Aspestos are over $125,000 May 20, 2013 at 22:23
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    Update: Queensland is back to following international best practice; small-scale DIY asbestos removal is OK again. Yes, every dust fiber is a theoretical risk, and so is every time you cross the road. Practical benefits just outweigh theoretical risks. That is why smoking is not like asbestos removal.
    – MSalters
    Aug 31, 2019 at 23:42

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