What does asbestos look like?

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to asbestos, and one of them is that its presence will be immediately evident in some way when you walk into a home or building. Unlike a gas leak or mold, there’s no obvious sensory indicator that there’s asbestos throughout the floors or walls. The best guess that could be made is a likely assumption of asbestos use based on the age of the building (or, more, the year it was built). The best course of action is to have a qualified asbestos expert test the concerning space and have a solid answer. However, it doesn’t dilute the curiosity around asbestos and what it actually looks like…

What actually is asbestos?

Asbestos is a carcinogenic silicate material that is naturally occurring and composed of thin fibrous crystals, with each fibre made up of microscopic fibres that, when released into the atmosphere, can be extremely harmful (even deadly) to humans and animals. When left undisturbed, it’s essentially harmless. However, the risk of abrasion (and its high consequences) make it a high priority for safe removal. There are six types of asbestos 

What does asbestos look and smell like?

Although asbestos itself is typically not something you can see (even if you disrupt the material), in its natural state it can be white, green, blue or brown and is fibrous. The texture is similar to any other common insulation material, though loses its visual presence once absorbed into other materials. 


There is no noticeable smell of asbestos either. However, trying to identify it through smelling could put you at harm if materials have been disturbed, as you risk breathing it in. Instead, you are likely to only smell the materials it’s in: often rock, insulation, fibro, vinyl or soil.


If you are concerned that a home you own, live in or working on contains asbestos, it’s vital not to investigate its presence on your own. Asbestos must be tested and removed under the NSW guidelines and laws, and facilitated by a licenced asbestos assessor, tested and confirmed by an accredited asbestos testing lab, and removed by licensed and registered removers.