Thanks to the pandemic, respiratory masks are at the forefront of many minds.
But if you’ve ever undergone a home improvement project, you likely already knew the value of a mask from protecting yourself from mold, paint, dust, and chemicals.
Respirator masks are critical pieces of safety equipment when undertaking work that might produce hazardous chemicals, vapors, or particles. The last thing you want is for you or your family to breathe these toxins in.
Prolonged exposure to such pollutants could cause respiratory issues, ranging from mild discomfort to long-term damage.
Naturally, it’s not worth the risk. To ensure you and your loved ones are equipped for your next big project, here’s how to pick the best respirator masks.
Why Do I Need a Respirator Mask?
Respirator masks are crucial for home projects where pollutants and irritants might be present in the air. These can endanger the primary person at work and any bystander near enough to inhale the same particles.
Toxic air pollutants can cause serious health problems such as cancer, respiratory irritation, nervous system problems, and more. They may also trigger allergic reactions and cause damage to the lungs.
You likely have more pollutants in your home than you think. Common pollutants present in the home include lead, asbestos, mold, dust, radon, and carbon monoxide.
Air-purifying respirators remove small particles such as mist or dust from the air. They are lightweight masks that may come with a metal bar to conform to the bridge of your nose.
Some particulate respirators come with a carbon layer to remove odors, but they don’t always protect from vapors or gases. You can find these masks classified by a letter and number, as explained below.
The letter (N, R, or P) indicates the mask’s resistance to oils. Oils in the air may reduce the filter’s performance, so make sure you know if they’ll be present if you need a more resistant product.
A particulate respirator marked with N isn’t resistant to oils. R is partially resistant, and P is strongly resistant. The number that follows (95, 99, or 100) signifies how effective the filter is at removing particles.
It’s the percentage of particles the mask was able to extract in testing. In other words, the higher the number, the better the filter.
Particulate respirators are disposable, so don’t rely on reusing them. Anytime they're damaged or become difficult to breathe through, you should replace them to ensure good working order.
Suppose you’re going to be working with gases or vapors. In that case, you and your family need gas respirators to attach to a reusable partial- or full-face mask.
These are cartridges designed for specific types of vapors, so you should match the product you choose to the hazard you’re planning to encounter.
The respirators are color-coded. Commonly you’ll find:
- Black cartridges intended for organic vapors.
- White cartridges can be used with acidic gases.
- Yellow cartridges can be used for both organic and acidic gases.
- Green is designed for Ammonia gas.
Gas/Vapor respirators can be used more frequently as they can often be cleaned. That doesn't mean they’ll last forever - be sure to check for wear or damage before using the mask and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Replace the cartridges from time to time to maintain protection. Once the cartridge’s capacity to absorb is used up, it is no longer safe to rely on the mask to protect you from gases or vapor.
Simple Disposable Masks
We’ve all become familiar with the simple respiratory masks used across the globe to protect others from the current pandemic.
These masks are often used in home projects and can save you from dust and irritants, such as wood shavings.
Aside from keeping irritants out, their primary function is to capture saliva and other fluids from being released into the air. Well-fitted cloth masks can therefore help prevent the spread of illnesses.
As the name suggests these aren't reusable respirator masks. Quite soon you'll have to throw your mask away and replace it with a fresh one.
If you’re wearing a respirator mask during sport right now to reduce the spread of COVID-19, you may want to find sports masks for yourself and your family.
These masks are often more stylish and provide a tighter fit for daily use. Filters can also help make breathing easier. Our sports masks come with an ear loop to provide better comfort for several hours of use each day.
Picking the Right Size
Sizing for respirator masks depends on the brand you are purchasing from. They may have a sizing guide on their website to help you determine the best fit.
Often, masks come in small, medium, and large. You can calculate your size by measuring from the center of your mouth to about an inch past your mouth.
A respirator mask should sit flush against your skin and not allow air (and therefore pollutants) to drift in.
Best Practices for Wearing Respirator and Safety Masks
Protection from irritants and allergens is entirely dependant on the correct use of a mask. Therefore, you should always act on these best practices:
Pick the mask that is designed for your specific purpose. A particulate respirator mask won’t protect you from vapors. Picking the wrong equipment could leave you unprotected against harmful substances.
Air-purifying masks have to have a tight seal against your face. This means you should wear the right size and allow nothing to lift the masks up from your face. Beards, sideburns, or piercings could prevent successful sealing.
If you’re wearing eye protection as well, bear in mind that using a mask might fog up your glasses. Vented respirators prevent this and reduce the buildup of heat, making them more comfortable to wear.
If you start to notice odd smells when using the mask, play it safe and replace it. Most respiratory masks don’t last forever. In fact, many are disposable.
Pick the Best Respirator Masks for You and Your Family
Choosing suitable respirator masks for yourself and your loved ones is an essential step to keeping them and others protected. At Brookwoodmed.com, we offer a range of stylish and durable cloth masks for comfortable daily use.
Browse our online store today to find your ideal mask!