The 7 Best Dust Masks and Respirators for Woodworkers
Woodworking is one of the most rewarding professions and hobbies because you get to create some fantastic pieces from scratch.
But, there are also a lot of waste and by-products that you have to deal with when doing some woodwork such as wood dust.
Every time you saw, mill, drill or sand lumber you will produce some sawdust or wood dust. And although it is still a useful material for making various other wood products it also poses some significant danger to your health.
Inhaling sawdust can result in a myriad of issues, and so it is always a good idea to have some dust mask or respirator when working in the workshop.
But, before you buy a woodworking respirator or dust mask it is important to understand what the two are all about so that you can get the best dust mask for woodworking or respirator.
Table of Contents
- Wood Dust Danger
- What are N95, N100 of NIOSH?
- Dust Mask vs. Respirator
- 7 Best Dust Masks and Respirators
Wood Dust Danger
When working in the workshop, many woodworkers tend to assume that the most significant danger comes from the power tools as they can result in bodily injuries.
But, this is almost never the case because wood dust poses more risk to woodworkers than the machinery in the workshop.
Although caution is still necessary when dealing with power tools, wood dust is what many woodworkers tend to overlook.
The large and visible sawdust and chips are easy to manage and get rid off through your dust collection system, but the minute dust that you cannot see is what causes the problem.
Inhaling the tiny invisible wood dust particles (those that are below 10 microns) is the most damaging element. And while you can cough out most of these particles those that are about 2.5 microns or smaller are the most dangerous.
The 2.5 micron and tinier wood dust particles will settle at the bottom of the lungs where some can get absorbed into the blood streamed and then filtered out by the liver.
But, the remaining wood dust particles that do not find a way out of the body can lead to allergic reactions, lung disease and in some cases also cause cancer.
And so having wood dust masks and respirators could not be more crucial for a woodworker.
What are N95, N100 of NIOSH?
As you are shopping for woodworking respirators and dust masks there are some terms that you are likely to come across and they include N95, N100, P99, and NIOSH. If you are buying one for the first, these terms can be a little confusing.
NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) is the organization in charge of reviewing, inspecting and testing respirators for approvals. And the body provides some minimal requirements for any respirator to get approval.
The filters on the NIOSH approved respirators will have a number (usually a letter followed by a number) to indicate their efficiency.
If you get an N95 respirator, it means that it will trap 95% of the airborne particles passing through it while the N100 will capture around 99.97% of the airborne particles or it has an efficiency level of 99.97%.
The letter N, on the other hand, means that the respirator will be useful in trapping particulate aerosols that do not have oil. For the P100 filters, it symbolizes that the respirator is 99.97% effective against all particulate aerosols including the oil-based one.
Picking between the different respirators can be a little hectic when buying for the first time. But if you deal with regular wood dusts from cutting or sanding experts recommend that you should at least have an N95 respirator.
95% is also the minimal level of filtration that NIOSH will approve.
The N95 is the most common type and seems to work fine for most woodworkers. But since you cannot always be sure of what kind of particulate you will be dealing with the N100 or even the P100 respirators will be an even better choice.
Dust Mask vs. Respirator
When searching for something to offer protection from inhaling wood dust you will in most cases need to pick between the dust mask and respirator.
#1 Dust Masks
The dust masks do not come with a NIOSH approval. And they are disposable filtering face pieces that you should wear when dealing with non-toxic dust nuisances such as when mowing, sweeping or dusting.
It is vital for woodworkers to note that even the best dust mask for woodworking will not be ideal for filtering toxic dust and vapors because they are not respirators.
A respirator, on the other hand, must have NIOSH approval and a number to indicate the efficiency. And although in their basic form they will look like dust masks you can always tell the two apart since respirators will have a NIOSH label and most will also have two straps.
Which One is Better?
Many woodworkers will often go for a dust mask as it is cheap and convenient to use. However, the paper dust masks do not always fit well, and so you will end up with gaps which mean that you will still be taking in some of the unfiltered air with the wood dust particles.
Also unlike the respirator which has a soft rubber interior, the paper material of the dust mask is not very comfortable to wear for extended periods.
A proper woodworking respirator will fit well as long as you get the right fit and you do not have a lot of facial hair between the mask and your face.
Respirators are also comfortable to wear all day, and you will hardly realize you are wearing one.
7 Best Dust Masks and Respirators
#1 3M 8661PC1-A Home Dust Mask
The 3M 8661PC1-A is an excellent choice for a dust mask when you want something cheap and disposable for use when dealing with non-toxic household dust. And it will come in handy for various projects around the home.
These masks will conform to the contours of your face to provide a custom and comfortable fit, and they will also adjust tightly over your nose's bridge to prevent gaps.
The 3M 8661PC1-A also feature a soft nose metal piece that is gentle on your skin and useful in ensuring that the mask maintains its shape for maximum efficiency and to make it a comfortable dust mask for extended use.
Each of the masks is also lightweight enough, and you will hardly even notice it on your face.
#2 SAS Safety 2985 Non-Toxic Dust Mask
For those that use dust masks often, the SAS Safety 2985 will be a good pick as they offer a lot of value. The dust masks are also efficient in ensuring that you do not breathe nuisances such as pollen, airborne dust, and particulates.
SAS Safety makes the dust mask with an adjustable nose piece that ensures that it conforms to your face shape perfectly.
This dust mask comes with a single strap elastic band to make it simple to wear or remove.
Also, note that like most other dust masks it will not offer NIOSH approved respiratory protection.
#3 Universal 4528 Dust Mask
If you also need to wear goggles and safety glasses, the Universal 4528 dust mask will be the best option for you as it has a low profile that makes this possible and will not obstruct your view,
Each dust mask also comes with the soft metal nosepiece that will adjust to the contour of your nose bridge to provide a comfortable fit.
And since this is a non-woven materials filter it will conform to the contours of your face for a custom fit.
Lastly, at a maximum weight of just 1/7th of an ounce for each piece, these are some of the lightest dust masks that you can get.
#4 Amston N95 Respirator
The Amston N95 disposable one-time use respirators are handy to have in the workshop when you do not feel like wearing the bulky half facepiece respirators and for quick projects like sanding and cutting.
These disposable respirators have a NIOSH N95 rating. And they feature an adjustable and flexible metal nose clip that will contour around your face to provide a custom, comfortable and secure seal to prevent you from inhaling toxic air and contaminants.
The low profile makes it easy to maintain a natural breathing rhythm, and it also means that you can use it with other protective equipment such as helmets and goggles.
And like most other disposable respirators the Amston N95 will also come with two elastic cloth straps for a comfortable fit.
#5 3M 8210 Plus Particulate Respirator
The 3M 8210 is another excellent NIOSH approved disposable respirator that also has a rating of N95. And it also features a two-strap design and welded point attachment for a secure seal.
An adjustable nose clip design not only provides a secure and comfortable fit but also helps to minimize the likelihood of fogging when wearing goggles and other protective eyewear.
This respirator will work with a variety of personal protective eyewear and hearing protection, and it will never come in your way when working thanks to the low profile design.
#6 3M 7501 Half Facepiece Reusable Respirator
Comfort and safety are and will always be the two most critical things to watch out for in a respirator and the fact that the 3M 7501 provides both makes it one of the best respirators for woodworking and many other workshop activities.
The advanced silicone material on this respirator makes it feel soft on the face and very comfortable.
And it also has a unique adjustment design to provide a custom and comfortable fit while also reducing the pressure points.
Breathing is also more relaxed when using this respirator than with many others as it uses the impressive 3M Cool Flow Valve design.
The exhalation valve will direct your exhaled breath and the moisture downwards instead of upwards like many other respirators to prevent fogging and make cleaning easier.
#7 Elipse P100 Half Mask Respirator
The low profile, natural breathing, and comfort are the three things that set the Elipse P100 apart from many other half mask respirators on the market.
Its low profile ensures that it fits well around the nose to provide a natural field of view and ensures that it does not interfere with other protection equipment like glasses and welding hoods.
The respirator is also both latex and silicone free which for some users is a big deal. It contours well to the face to provide an excellent seal with no leaks and the non-slip strap are easy to adjust for maximum comfort.
Another feature that makes this one of the best woodworking respirators is the large non-return central valve. This valve reduces user’s breathing resistance and minimizes the build-up of moisture inside the mask.
And with a rating of P100, it will trap 99.97% of airborne particles including the oil-based aerosols.
Wearing the best dust respirator or dust mask when working in the workshop might not sound necessary for some woodworkers, but it is critical for your health.
The tiny wood dust particles and other particulates can affect your health adversely, and so you should never take chances.
Since the dust masks and respirators will come in many types and brands, there is always something for every woodworker.
And in most cases, you will not even spend a significant amount of cash to get one.
Getting a woodworking respirator can help to prevent short and long-term ailments and so it will always be a worth the investment whether you are a hobbyist, DIYer or professional woodworker.