Asbestos - Asbestos Work Area Preparation - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

Pre-cleaning the Work Area

Why do I have to pre-clean?

Cleaning the work area before you start asbestos abatement is considered an integral part of preventing potential asbestos exposure. Whether you are setting up a full containment, a glove bag, a mini-containment or removing intact facility components ("wrap and cut"), the pre-cleaning process is important because:

  • Asbestos fibers are sometimes found in the dust on horizontal surfaces, such as window sills, shelving and floors. Asbestos fibers can also be found in porous or cracked surfaces. These fibers could potentially become airborne during the set-up process. Once airborne, these fibers could contaminate the work area and expose workers setting up the work area.
  • Cleaning the area where critical barriers will be placed helps the critical barriers remain in place during the project, since the work environment is negatively pressurized and often wet and humid.
  • Identifying and managing slip, trip or fall hazards during the course of cleaning the work area may prevent injuries from occurring during the asbestos work.

Where should I be pre-cleaning?

If you are setting up a containment, you are required to clean all surfaces within the asbestos work area. If you are setting up a glove bag, a mini-containment or conducting "wrap and cut", you are required to clean all surfaces within 10 feet of the work area.

How do I pre-clean?

For all types of removal procedures, you must pre-clean with HEPA-filter equipped vacuums and/or wet wiping methods. Never use a broom to dry sweep the work area or a nonHEPA-filter equipped vacuum to pre-clean.

What about all these items in the work area? What do I do with them?

You must remove all movable items from the work area. Items such as clothing, books, boxes, toys, chairs, tables, bottles, personal items, etc. must be removed from the work area. However, before you remove any items or objects from the work area, you need to inspect them for contamination.

If the item or object is not contaminated, simply remove it from the work area. If you suspect the item or object may be contaminated with asbestos, it must be cleaned by:

  • Vacuuming with a HEPA-filter equipped vacuum; and/or
  • Wet wiping

If the item or object cannot be cleaned, it must be disposed of as asbestos waste.

What about items in the work area that I can't move? What do I do with them?

If you have items than cannot be moved out of the work area, such as shelving units, washers, dryers, work benches, air compressors, mechanical equipment, etc., these items may be left in place provided they are:

  • Cleaned by vacuuming with a HEPA-filter equipped vacuum; and/or
  • Wet wiping


  • Covered and sealed with a 6-mil polyethylene sheeting critical barrier.

How do I find out more information?

For more information about asbestos, contact the Asbestos Program at MDH through the internet or by telephone at (651) 201-4620.

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Updated Wednesday, 29-Sep-2021 11:39:32 CDT