Which respirator is best?
A respirator is a device you wear to protect you from inhaling dangerous substances. A respirator is used to keep dust and particles from being inhaled when doing things like cleaning and painting. People who work around solvents and toxic chemicals protect their lungs by using respirators.
If you are looking for a consumer-grade respirator that effectively blocks 97% of organic vapors, gases, fumes, pollen, dust and other airborne particles, try the KISCHERS Reusable Half Facepiece and Anti-Fog Goggle Set.
What to know before you buy a respirator
There are several different types of respirators, each designed for a specific purpose. All respirators cover the nose and mouth, and some cover the eyes, too.
These are the simplest and least expensive type of respirator. They also offer the least protection because they are only effective at blocking and filtering airborne particles. They do not protect the wearer from chemicals, gases or vapors. The well-known N-95 facepiece respirator is called an air-purifying respirator because it cleans particles out of the air before you breathe it.
These are full face respirators that have a filter cartridge that fits inside a canister. Straps secure the facepiece to form a seal around the wearer’s head and face. When the user inhales, air is pulled through the filter to remove particles or chemicals. This type of respirator needs to match the filter type to the particular substance the user does not want to inhale. There are filter cartridges that protect against more than one hazard but no filter that protects against all dangerous conditions.
Powered air-purifying respirators
This type of respirator is a lot like a gas mask, but uses a fan to blow clean air through the filter. Because the air is pushed through by a fan, constant positive air pressure is created, making it easier to breathe through than a gas mask. Powered respirators need batteries to operate. Powered air-purifying respirators use the same filters as gas masks and therefore need to match the filter type to the hazardous condition.
Self-contained breathing apparatus
This is the respirator that is standard equipment for most of today’s firefighters. They use their own tank to supply clean air, so you don’t need to worry about filters or threat types. Self-contained breathers are very heavy and require special training. Big air tanks carry bigger supplies of clean air, but all are limited to some defined capacity.
These are designed to be used only in emergency situations where you need to escape from a dangerous area. They are usually hoods of some type and are designed to be used from 15 to 60 minutes. Some manufacturers offer escape respirators in different sizes.
What to look for in a quality respirator
Full face respirators cover your nose, mouth and eyes. They provide better sealing overall and the eye protection built into full face respirators is typically superior to that provided by goggles or safety glasses. Full face respirators are best suited for use in environments where your eyes and entire face need to be protected. On the negative side, full face respirators are heavier, bulkier, less comfortable to wear and prone to fogging up. To avoid fogging, look for full face respirators with built-in flow valves.
Half face respirators do not cover your eyes. Half face respirators work better for people who wear eyeglasses. They are also the choice of people who must also wear other protective equipment, like the hard hats that are mandatory on construction sites. Half face respirators are the choice of people who work in environments where the eyes don’t need protection or when the user would prefer to wear less restrictive goggles.
How much you can expect to spend on a respirator
Basic half face respirators for common painting tasks cost from $20 to $50 or so. Full face respirators from reputable manufacturers cost from $100 to $200.
Are all respirators one size fits all?
A. More manufacturers are offering respirators in small, medium and large sizes. This is a real plus for those with heads that are bigger or smaller than average.
How do you know if your respirator has a proper seal?
A. For typical respirators, place your hands over the filters or cartridges and exhale gently. The facepiece should bulge slightly. If it does not, reposition the mask on your face, adjust the straps and test the seal again. If you cannot establish a secure seal, do not use the respirator.
What’s the best respirator to buy?
What you need to know: This respirator’s dual filtration system effectively blocks 97% of organic vapors, gases, fumes, pollen, dust and other airborne particles.
What you’ll love: This respirator is made of premium food-grade elastic silicone gel and is ideal for painting, sawing, grinding and sanding. The adjustable headbands are flexible and comfortable and provide a good seal without being too tight or too restrictive. This respirator comes with a pair of goggles and eight cotton filters.
What you should consider: This respirator is not a pro-grade device.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top respirator for the money
What you need to know: This budget respirator is useful for anyone who works around paint spray, fumes and dust particles.
What you’ll love: This respirator is best for grinding, chipping, sawing, sanding, machining, painting, masonry work and general maintenance activities. This respirator is compatible with all 3M bayonet-style cartridges and filters and comes in its own storage bag.
What you should consider: Filters are not included, so be sure you buy the ones made to fit this respirator.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This full face respirator mask is pro-grade with superior comfort, unobstructed visibility and a constant positive pressure blower to circulate filtered air.
What you’ll love: This respirator provides maximum protection for toxic fumes and particles. It comes with a battery pack that lasts up to eight hours, a charger and flow indicator. It is an ideal choice for those working around lead and asbestos.
What you should consider: People with smaller heads and faces may have difficulty achieving a tight seal.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
David Allan Van writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.