How to Choose a Respirator or Dust Mask

In addition to proper ventilation, understanding how to choose a respirator or dust mask will go a long way toward protecting your lungs and health.

Home and garden projects frequently involve exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins — such as paint fumes, solvents, dust, adhesives, pesticides, and caustic cleaning products. This is in addition to the annual assault homeowners face from pollen and allergens. So, it’s important to wear protection before you tackle these types of projects. 

Respirators and dust masks aren’t all the same — there are different kinds to choose from, as well as a rating system for efficiency. At home and around the workshop, a particulate filter (dust mask) or chemical cartridge respirator should be all you’ll need.


N95 and R95 particulate masks
N95 and R95 particulate masks.

Particulate Filters

Disposable dust masks are particulate filters, the most common type of air-purifying device for home use. Particulate filters can be disposable or reusable with replaceable filters. They cover your nose and mouth and provide protection from airborne particles — including dust, mists, liquids and some fumes — but they don’t protect you from gases or vapors.

Particulate filters are rated by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health according to

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