Project Description

Respirators (Face Masks)

You know you need to protect yourself from smelly paints and sanding dust, but when it comes to picking a respirator or face mask, you are at a major loss. N-95, P-95,  these sound like Star Wars names.

The down and dirty.

Not all respirators (face masks) are created equal and you should tailor the one you use to your project.  Consider the particles, gases and vapors in your work environment, exposure time and comfort desired. Is there lead paint or asbestos present? Oils?

What particles. I don’t see any!

Even though you don’t see the particles there is a good chance they are in the air when you are sanding, scraping and spraying. Types of particles can include, wood sanding dust, joint compound sanding dust, household dust, latex paint particles, oil paint particles, asbestos, lead paint particles.

Don’t forget about those vapors and gases!

Vapors and gases can also be present in your work environment. You know that stinky smell found in paint, stains and floor finishes? Well those smells are a good indication that volatile organic compounds (VOC) are present. These products release or “off gas” in the air and can be harmful.  Think high school chemistry. Special respirators need to be worn for maximum protection. See our chart below.

(It should also be noted that not all VOC’s have a bad smell, so make sure to read the product label.)


Consider Comfort

Comfort costs more, but can be worth it if you are working for long periods of time or in hot environments. You have:

Nose Clip: Helps it conform to your nose.

Valved vs. Not valved: Valved respirators allow for your breath to escape to keep you cool. These are particularly good for hot steamy days.

Face Seals: Respirators with a face seal have a perimeter of soft material that conforms to the shape of your face, provide you with additional comfort.

Half Face Mask with Cartridge: You can purchase the mask separately from the cartridges and reuse the face mask with different types of cartridges particular to your project. This type of respirator offers you the maximum protection. There will be a higher cost upfront but is a great option if you do a decent amount of home improvement work.

Different types of respirators


We highly recommend you read the links below. They provide incredibly valuable information on respirators.

3M Cartridge Information

3M Respirator Selection Guide

ottom Line. In the end it is a big matrix of options. Valved with no faceseal, non-valved with faceseal.  It can go on and on.  What matters most is you purchase the correct filter for the project.