How to Choose a Dust Mask

Protect your lungs from harmful dust

Drywall dust is hard on lungs, but a properly certified dust mask will protect you from most of it. Avoid bargain masks; look for the N95 certification.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Check labels for certification

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.

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Required Tools for this Project

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  • N95 Dust mask