How do I remove invisible fiberglass splinters?
July 22, 2006 6:08 PM   Subscribe

Invisible fiberglass splinters in my hands -- how do I get them out?

Helped a friend with a project that involved working with sheets of fiberglass . . . the gloves kept out most of the splinters, but quite a few still made it through. I managed to get the visible ones out with tweezers and then duct tape, but I apparently still have several invisible ones in my fingers, making it quite tricky & painful to do anything useful with my hands. Can I get them out? Or do I just have to wait until I shed a few layers of skin?
posted by treepour to Health & Fitness (20 answers total)
Hot water will help - not running water, though, just fill up a tub or something. Not sure if that gets 'em out or just makes 'em feel better. The splinters should be gone in a few days.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 6:17 PM on July 22, 2006

Benzocaine lotion can help in the meantime.
posted by IronLizard at 6:33 PM on July 22, 2006

Err, spray, actually.
posted by IronLizard at 6:33 PM on July 22, 2006

Best answer: Does soaking in warm water until you get "prune hands" make them any more visible? If you're really desperate, you can stain your skin with food coloring in the hopes that the fiberglass stands out a little better, but I don't know what it'd take to get the food color stains out afterwards!
posted by kimota at 6:44 PM on July 22, 2006

Kimota: having had fiberglass splinters in my own hands more than once, I think food color stains would be decent tradeoff for getting out even a few of them. Never tried it, though.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 7:06 PM on July 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: worthwhile advice in this DIY Usenet group thread.
posted by zek at 7:10 PM on July 22, 2006

Used to get those all hte time moving the cables for the lights in our theatre. The best remedy is to put duckt tape on the effected area, then heat it up a little, then pull it off. Repeat 2 or 3 times and it should get it.
posted by shanevsevil at 7:48 PM on July 22, 2006

Oh and don't get them wet. Not sure why but that will make them itch like crazy.
posted by shanevsevil at 7:51 PM on July 22, 2006

Try a paste of baking soda rubbed on the affected areas--works with invisible cactus spines.
posted by gokart4xmas at 7:59 PM on July 22, 2006

Elmers glue all over hand, let dry and peel off?
posted by maloon at 8:10 PM on July 22, 2006

How about covering your fingers with a thin coat of Elmers Glue? And then letting it dry and pulling off the coat?

In an extreem case a polyurathane glue such as PL Premium might help. It seems to stick to most everything. But it you put it on and let it set it will also pull off your top layer of skin.

How bad is it?
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 8:28 PM on July 22, 2006

I don't think you can get them out. But hydrocortisone cream should help the itching.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:19 PM on July 22, 2006

Packet of Epsom salts and enough hot water to cover your hand. Dump salts in and swish them about until they stop dissolving them dump some more for luck. Soak hand for 10-30 minutes, 2-4 times per day until all splinters work themselves out.
posted by fshgrl at 9:47 PM on July 22, 2006

Fshgrl, the question is whether that actually speeds up the process, or merely distracts you while it happens at its natural rate.

As the old saw goes, if you get the best medical care available it will take you 7 days to get over a cold, but left to itself it'll hang on for a week...
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:23 AM on July 23, 2006

polyurethane adhesive is very tenacious I got some on my hands and it took days for it to come loose .tape is best.
posted by hortense at 2:52 AM on July 23, 2006

Back in the day, when I used to install HVAC systems and handled fiberglass insulation on a regular basis, I used to get insulation off me by washing in a shower that was turned up as hot as I could stand it, and then switch it quickly to as cold as I could stand it after 15 minutes.

posted by bshort at 6:44 AM on July 23, 2006

Best answer: I've had pretty good luck with, of all things, cosmetic 'masque' products. My (then) wife used a cucmber mask from Body Shop that would go on like lotion, but then dry to a rubbery film that you could peel off. Since it was designed to soften you skin and pull out extra gunk, I thought it was a neat trick! Seemed to work pretty well, but I couldn't tell you how much of it was psycho-somatic. I don't suppose it really matters too much either!

I have since divorced, and now when I wind up with fiberglass splinters, I just shower, and if there are still itchy spots, I just suck it up and deal. If it was easy and fun, other people wouldn't get paid to do it... (mind you, I do my level best to stay away from fiberglass at all times because of this, but the bottom line is that it sucks)
posted by schwap23 at 12:38 PM on July 23, 2006

Best answer: It's too late for the original poster to benefit from this comment this time, but for the future, I highly recommend the application of a professional skin protectant before handling fiberglass. This type of product is effective in encapsulating the microfibers and dust from fiberglass in a chemical shield on the skin, which prevents them from embedding nearly as badly in the first place, and substantially improves the wetting of the fiber particles by water later, so they can be far more effectively removed by bathing. You do need to observe the 4 hour re-application time, but stopping to clean up and re-apply the stuff in the middle of a long work day is highly preferable to itching for days after exposure.

It is good to keep these type products around the household, for use whenever handling paint, cleaners, insecticides or lawn chemicals as well. And they are perfect for people whose hobbies get their hands really dirty, like gardeners and gearheads. Wouldn't be without it.
posted by paulsc at 5:53 PM on July 23, 2006

Epsom salts speeds up the process, definetely. It is an ages old cure for drawing stuff out. Hot water alone won't do anything.
posted by fshgrl at 7:00 PM on July 23, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks so much, all. So far I've tried duct tape, soaking in cold water (running and still), elmer's glue, magnifying glasses & tweezers (useless), and letting my hands get so wrinkly in water that I can see the fibers more clearly. I see now there are a few more suggestions I haven't tried yet . . .

It seems a few have dislodged (based on the fact that I don't yelp when a certain part of my hand brushes against something) . . . my hands were wet (both hot & cold water) for a greater part of today, and this really seems to have made a significant difference. I think duct tape, after multiple applications, also helped a bit. Elmer's Glue didn't seem to have the same intense tug as duct tape, though it did get down into the crevices of fingerprints.

One other thing, for what it's worth -- the stings are a LOT worse when the day is hot & hands are sweaty. As the day cools off, they become much more tolerable.

I think the remaining fibers broke off at skin-level then sunk deeper, which is why adhesive stuff isn't working on them.

I noticed that several comments have mentioned itching . . . strangely, I haven't had much itching at all. Rather, tiny but very intense and localized stings when a splinter brushes against something.

Thanks again, everyone!
posted by treepour at 11:36 PM on July 23, 2006

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