Is it safe to power wash asbestos shingle?

Deborah C
by Deborah C
My husband is worried power washing may release toxins into our garden and lawn. We also have small children that play all over the yard.
  4 answers
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Jun 21, 2012
    are you sure these contain asbestos? Have you had it tested? The best thing to do when asbestos is about is to leave it alone. Check out this article I wrote
  • Hi Deborah, I got your message, but still figuring out how to respond in that fashion as its lost in web land somewhere. So I will respond here. Power washing of asbestos wall tiles can be done, but its condition must be considered first. If there is fraying on the edges of the tiles, the answer is no. If the tiles are in really good shape, and your only looking to clean them, not prep for paint. Then as long as your using a lower pressure wand with the fan spray you will be fine. If you use the point type tip or higher pressure you can eat into the shingles which can release some tiny fibers of the asbestos which is exactly what you do not want to do. I would suggest to err on the side of safety. There are several great cleaning systems that you can purchase from the big box stores that utilize your garden hose and some cleaning chemicals that you may want to try first. If your thinking about cleaning to prep for painting, a good scrubbing with a pole brush will work fine as well. Just remember the asbestos that is in these shingles is a bit different then that on pipes. It was used as a binding agent to hold the singles together. Unless you scrape, drill or destroy the shingle the asbestos pretty much stays were it is. With power washing you are removing a fine layer of material that could expose these fibers making them a bit more dangerous. But as long as you have a good quality coat of paint on them, they are safe around people and pets. I would however be more concerned about lead paint in the soil. The older shingles many times were painted with white lead and oil paint that chalked as it weathered. This chalking contained lead which would washed into the soils surrounding the house. You should not allow your children to dig or play right next to the house, nor should you plant your veggie garden in that location without first having the soil checked for lead. This can be done by taking a few samples of the soil and placing it in a plastic bag and send it to any of the several hundred labs all around the country. Each test will run around $30 or so. Be sure to mark where you took the samples at on each bag so you know where the results are from. You can also ask the lab to check for asbestos in the soil as well if your siding is in poor shape and is falling apart. Hope this helps you out. Bob
  • Steve Spinks Steve Spinks on Mar 26, 2015
    I learned the hard way that power washing asbestos will bring up the fibers, making a great place for mold and mildew to thrive. Don't do it!
  • Chris Bennett Chris Bennett on Jul 17, 2015
    @steve spinks what did you do after you did powerwash that? was it a hazmat situation?