Asbestos Testing: How to Test Indoor Air for Asbestos

Safety tape that reads, "Warning Asbestos Removal, Keep Out"
  • 2 hours
  • Advanced
  • 30
What You'll Need
Clean water
Dish detergent
Zip lock plastic bags
Spray lacquer
Garden sprayer
Spray bottle

In an older home where asbestos may have been used in its construction, you should arrange for asbestos testing. This testing will include samples of air or material that may contain asbestos fibers. If possible, arrange for a certified asbestos inspector to inspect for these fibers. Should that not be possible, you can send your samples to an accredited laboratory for testing. When using this method of testing, you should take the following specific steps as a caution in preparing your samples.

Step 1 - Protect Your Health

In preparing materials you suspect may contain asbestos fibers, avoid releasing these fibers into the air by cutting, breaking, tearing, or sanding materials that may contain asbestos.

Step 2 - Prepare Work Areas that May Contain Asbestos Dust

In areas where you work or where you may spend time, prepare these materials and surfaces by wetting them down with a sprayer that contains a mixture of water and dish detergent. By including the detergent in your spray water, you allow the mixture to better penetrate asbestos fibers that may be present. This is accomplished by a reduction in the asbestos fiber surface tension, allowing water to penetrate the fiber and prevent it from becoming airborne.

Step 3 - Identify Materials that May Contain Harmless Asbestos

broken slate flooring

Asbestos fibers may not always be harmful to your health. Learn to identify materials that may contain asbestos but that may not be harmful to your health. Asbestos in some construction materials such as roofing, floor tiles, and siding are not as likely to disintegrate or crumble. Unless they are broken, crushed, or otherwise disturbed, they are not as likely to release harmful fibers. To avoid the release of asbestos fibers from these materials, always avoid repairing or renovating areas of your home that may contain asbestos.

Step 4 - Check for Materials in Your Home That May Contain Asbestos

To help control the spread of asbestos fibers in a home that may have asbestos materials, check suspected materials for cracks, tears, water damage, or scratches that could be a source for asbestos fibers to be released into the air. If repairs are planned for areas of this type, always arrange for certified professionals to remove these materials before you begin working on them.

Step 5 - Collect Asbestos Samples

asbestos fibers

If you plan to collect asbestos samples for testing, be sure you follow safe procedures. Limit the size of your material sample to one square inch. The laboratory you submit your sample to will not need a larger sample than this. Place your sample inside a plastic zip lock bag. Then place this bag inside another zip lock bag or other container that is airtight. Label the bag, including your sample material description, the material it was taken from, and the date it was taken. Seal the edges of the material from which the sample was taken by spraying them with clear lacquer. Remove asbestos dust from the sample area by wiping it up with a wet, disposable cloth or paper towel. Then, dispose of the towel or cloth.