Check labels for certification
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Noncertified masks won’t keep sanding dust out of your lungs.
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Disposable certified respirator
Look for the N95 label on the mask, which means the mask is at least 95% efficient and will protect against drywall dust.
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N95 mask with valve
More expensive masks offer additional comfort features like an exhalation valve.
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For the highest level of protection against dust, consider investing in a heavy-duty respirator with replaceable filters.
There’s a huge difference between a cheap mask and the expensive ones. A
cheap mask may filter out bees and
mosquitoes, but it won’t reduce your
exposure to small particles.
Dust masks are officially called
“Particulate Filtering Respirators”
and are certified by the National
Institute for Occupational Safety and
Health (NIOSH), a department within
the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. The certification
markings denote the respirator’s filtering
efficiency and ability to handle
oil mists or oil-based particles. An
N95 marking on a respirator means
that it has at least a 95 percent filtering
efficiency and shouldn’t be used
in the presence of oil mists or oilbased
particles. If you check the label
on the bargain masks, we bet you won’t
find any NIOSH markings.
First look for a NIOSH-certified
respirator with a minimum rating of
N95. Then consider the comfort features
of the different respirators.
Respirators with multiple headbands,
soft nose foam and a foam face
seal may cost a bit more, but they’re
also more comfortable. Since a large
drywall sanding project involves a
lot of physical exertion, consider a
respirator with an exhalation valve.
The valve makes breathing a lot easier.
It’s well worth the extra cost. For
the ultimate in comfort and protection,
consider a “half mask” rubber/
silicone respirator with replaceable
filter elements. Make sure you
read the instructions and put the
respirator on properly for the best performance.