Do respirator masks do the job?

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Forum topic by Clarence posted 12-31-2009 07:24 PM 12467 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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125 posts in 3132 days

12-31-2009 07:24 PM

I went out to my “shop” last night for the first time since the holidays began, and I ran some white wood through the jointer. That outing confirmed what I had been fearing—that I am super-sensitive to dust in general and wood dust in particular. I had a box fan blowing out an open window, and I was wearing a stack of about four of the white gauzy masks. Even so, within an hour the familiar throat-tickling and hacky cough that I had endured for all of November while working to restore an old desk, had returned.

My question: do the cannister type respirator masks work? If so, what brand or style works best? Price is no object (within reason). It is becoming obvious that as I get older the abuse I have inflicted upon my lungs and bronchials through the years is catching up with me, and that if I intend to use these thousands of dollars in tools I’ve bought to enjoy in my retirement I’m going to have to solve the dust problem. I can create plenty of open-air circulation through my shop through windows and doors, but I realize that there will still be plenty of fine dust left to knock me on my butt.

Ideas appreciated.

-- Getting old is a good thing, but being old kinda stinks.

22 replies so far

View bsherman's profile


76 posts in 3553 days

#1 posted 12-31-2009 08:23 PM

This one works fine for me. A real respirator is actually much more comfortable than the guazy masks too. This was a surprise to me. I’d been avoiding getting a respirator because I thought it would be uncomfortable. I actually wear this one when cutting the grass too. (Scares the kids.)

When I’m using it, I can’t even smell the grass/sawdust.

-- Brian

View Jeff Heath's profile

Jeff Heath

67 posts in 3095 days

#2 posted 12-31-2009 09:01 PM

As I have gotten older, I have developed a similar problem as you. It’s serious for me because I earn my living in woodworking. I spent a week in the hospital 2 years ago due to a reaction from cutting plywood.

The respirator’s work very well, as long as the filter you use is rated for the product you are trying to protect yourself from.

you might also want to consider a fully enclosed head gear with fresh air circulating through it. They are available for about $280.00, and are alot more comfortable than a respirator, which causes my face to sweat quite a bit, especially when exerting myself during, say…....hand planing.

-- Jeff Heath

View yarydoc's profile


417 posts in 3170 days

#3 posted 12-31-2009 09:45 PM

I wear one when I’m working on anything that makes dust or fumes. I have a 3M brand and a Moldex brand. Both do a good job but the moldex is lighter so I use it the most. I have found these masks are a lot less expensive than sinus medicine and doctor visits. I only wish I had thought of this when I was younger.

-- Ray , Florence Alabama

View noblevfd's profile


48 posts in 3483 days

#4 posted 12-31-2009 10:19 PM

I have same problem . I get that tickle then the cough dust mask didn’t work for me either bought double filter respirator at lowes made for dust and fumes 35-40 dollars and it works fine , fits good used it when I sealed the garage floor worked great on the fumes so it works that way also———- Bob 3-m mask I think


View JimmyNate's profile


124 posts in 3376 days

#5 posted 12-31-2009 10:31 PM

For the respirators to work properly, they need to seal to the face so that you aren’t just breathing air through the sides. Bad news for the bearded.

Question for Jeff: do you know if the fully enclosed head gear has this limitation? What do you use?

-- "We are what we repeatedly do; excellence then is not an act but a habit." ---Aristotle

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4186 days

#6 posted 12-31-2009 10:58 PM

I have the Triton mask and I kick myself when I don’t put it on. What I like about it is it is the mask, safety “glass” visor and ear protection all in one.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Andrew's profile


709 posts in 3224 days

#7 posted 12-31-2009 11:04 PM

I have the trend airsheild, I think it works pretty good, I am happy with it, I like it, especially for turning.

-- Even a broken clock is right twice a day, unless, it moves at half speed like ....-As the Saw Turns

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4151 days

#8 posted 12-31-2009 11:40 PM

I looked at the Trend Airshield for installing insulation and wasn’t happy with the size of particles that its filters let through. The conclusion I came to is that you either pay $35 for the activated charcoal respirators, or you pay $1200 for the 3M HEPA positive pressure systems. And the $35 was as good, it just didn’t cover the eyes (I ended up going with a pair of $70 powered blower paintball goggles that had foam of roughly the same density as the Airshield for its filters) and required more effort to breath than a positive pressure system (I’m relatively fit).

Not that for a lot of applications the Trend or Triton wouldn’t be just fine, I just wasn’t happy with it for installing insulation in my crawlspace. Make your own call.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View a1Jim's profile


117119 posts in 3603 days

#9 posted 01-01-2010 12:00 AM

The right respirator with the right filter should be a big help. You might make sure your skin is covered too.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Jeff Heath's profile

Jeff Heath

67 posts in 3095 days

#10 posted 01-01-2010 12:36 AM

JimmyNate: The airshield pro creates pressure inside the helmet, and air leaves the helmet area, but particulates get trapped in the filters before they enter the face area. You are basically enclosed in a slightly pressurized helmet with air flow.

-- Jeff Heath

View Viking's profile


880 posts in 3221 days

#11 posted 01-01-2010 12:42 AM

Here is a Powered Respirator at Woodcraft for $70.

Going to get one after the holidays.

-- Rick Gustafson - Lost Creek Ranch - Colorado County, Texas

View RetiredCoastie's profile


999 posts in 3209 days

#12 posted 01-01-2010 02:24 AM

I have a North brand respirator that has particle filters, and chemical filters. They are now about $30.00 for the half face. Mine works great and the particle filters for mine are $3.50 for two filter packs. The key is to make sure that the mask fits your face without having to cinch down the straps so tight that it hurts, you may have to try on several different styles to find the right one for you. Look in the yellow pages or on line for an Industrial safety company where your located and they can help fit you with the correct mask. I get my filter packs from a company called AIRGAS and they have masks as well so most companies that sell bottle gas should have respirators as well. I priced masks at the big box stores and they are a rip off. They wanted $7.50 for 1 particle filter pack and mine takes 2 so I found AIRGAS and the were $3.50 for two.


-- Proud Supporter of Homes For Our Troops

View KayBee's profile


1083 posts in 3272 days

#13 posted 01-01-2010 03:35 AM

I second RetiredCoasties’ advice, get it fitted. If you don’t have a good seal, it doesn’t really matter what brand of respirator you have. If you’re a ‘furry faced fellow’ at all, respirators won’t seal properly. Not having a good seal, which isn’t the same as pulling it tight, is almost worse than no respirator. You breathe a bit harder with a respirator and pull more dust further into your lungs if there is a leak. Different brands fit different shape faces.

-- Karen - a little bit of stupid goes a long way

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3787 days

#14 posted 01-01-2010 03:42 AM

I’ve mounted an air cleaner on the ceiling that exchanges all the air in my shop about every 8 minutes. It filters out dust down to 1 micron. every power tool has a port that I can attach the hose of my dust collector to. I even use an orbital sander that can be directly attached to a shop vac.

It’s my opinion that resperators are the last item on the protection list.


-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View drfixit's profile


318 posts in 3170 days

#15 posted 01-01-2010 04:08 AM

Growing up basically in a body shop, I’ve used a 3M brand respirator for years that was designed for automotive and industrial paints. They work great. This pic is like mine, but I also have prefilters installed on it.

But one work of advise, if you have one, keep it in an air tight place. If you have any dust floating in your shop it seems to find its way right to the mask… then when you put it on, the first few breaths is a lung full of dust! I keep mine stored in a gallon zip lock bag.

-- I GIVE UP!!!! I've cut this @!&*!% board 3 times.... its still too short!

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