Tyvec Coverall Fashion Shoot

17 Dec
Even a sloppy amateur (see: early blog posts) can make strong and durable repairs on fiberglass with the magic of modern epoxy resins and fiberglass cloths. They’re great, right? Except the more I work with the stuff the more I daydream about learning how to slowly and painstakingly build boats out of wood. Fiberglass is just awful to work with, and especially to grind on. Still, a good safety and comfort regimen can go a long way and over time I’ve figured out just the right fiberglassin’ fashion to allow me to dive into a dusty boat with a grinder for hours and emerge itch free. 
Here’s my gear:

The most expensive item here is a full-face respirator, which will run you $100-$200. Buy one. Don’t wait. My 3M respirator is easily the best $150 I’ve ever spent on safety gear. the full-face version is vastly superior to a half-face ‘standard’ respirator . This is true for working with epoxy and working with grinding and cutting tools- in both cases it makes a much better (double) seal on your face than a half-face respirator and it protects your eyes. Cartridges are about $15 a pair and ought to be replaced as soon as you start to get a whiff of the stuff they’re supposed to be protecting you from, or earlier. Keeping your cartridges in a closed ziplock bag will extend their working life but they still ought to be replaced at least every two weeks. If you can’t afford a full-face respirator, or are working in too tight of a space to use one, get a good half-face one and please, don’t settle for a dust mask! They’re no good against epoxy fumes and not much better for fiberglass dust because they don’t create a proper seal on your face like a respirator does.

Now, suiting up. I start with a Tyvec or similar painters/splash/protective suit. ‘Chemical’ ones are often stronger and better quality construction if you can find them. I always get the kind with a hood and go for an XL or XXL size which makes it easier to protect my ankles and wrists.

 Hands and wrists are next. Buy yourself an expensive box of extra-thick, long wristed nitrile gloves, I promise it’s worth it. I tape them on under my suit.

You can extend the life of your expensive ‘disposable’ gloves by wearing cheaper disposables over the top and replacing the top layer when they tear or get too sticky, This also keeps epoxy off your hands when your gloves tear. You can even clean good gloves a few times and re-use them. Vinegar works pretty well for cleaning uncured epoxy or a splash of acetone (this will weaken the gloves a bit though, don’t use much). You can also just rub your gloved hands in a pile of sawdust to get most of the gunk off.

Head, neck and face protection should be multilayered. My base layer is a painter’s ski masks that you can buy at any hardware store.

I haven’t found a good source for foot coverings that are long enough to tape to the tyvec and not crazy expensive. Plastic bags work ok, but they rip easily. Since taking these photos I’ve discovered a new trick: cut the legs off an old tyvec suit about at the knee and tape the foot hole shut to make extra-long tyvec booties you can put on over your shoes,

Then another layer of face protection- the respirator.

Put your hood on over the top of the respirator or put the hood on and the respirator over the top of it.


…and ready to go!

Take it all off in reverse order, keeping in mind that everything will be coated in fiberglass dust if you’ve been sanding and grinding on things. I usually take a shop vac to my head and neck area, then I blow off with compressed air, then I use the shop vac again on each joint as I take hood//gloves/booties/painter’s mask off.

So there’s one approach to complete dust protection. It may sounds like a lot but once you’ve put it all on and taken it off a couple times you’ll find it only takes about two minutes. It’s cheap and works very very well for eliminating fiberglass itch if you’re careful about it. 

Of course there’s still no solution for the unavoidable Tyvec side-effect of basting in your own sweat…

This article was syndicated from Safe At Harbour But Meant For The Sea: DIY Sailing with Paul Calder


  1. Paul Calder

    Thanks John, I should have been more clear and pointed out that whether you put the hood over or under the respirator straps you should make sure that the seal of the respirator against your face is not compromised by any of your other safety gear.

  2. john

    Great suggestions but putting the respirator over the top of the hood is not the correct way to wear a respirator. You need a properly selected, fitted and maintained respirator with a good seal between the face and the face-piece of the respirator, which includes a clean-shaven face, to assure the respirator is effective. Consult the manufacturer’s recommendation and protect your lungs.

  3. David Casey

    Good article and information on how to keep that nasty junk off you. I know the sweaty feeling of wearing a tyvec suit all to well. After reading this article, I will try to get a full face mask next time I need to work on fiberglass. I always wear about three pairs of disposable cloves at a time, that way when the top layer gets to sticky or tears, I can peel it off and keep right on working. Thanks again for the information. May you live itch free.

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