Safe and Healthy Spray Painting Tips

Updated: Jan. 04, 2024

Protect your health and future with a dust mask rated for chemical vapors

FH09MAY_HEAPAI_01-2 spray paint maskFamily Handyman
Spray paint is toxic, and cheap masks don't offer much protection. The best way to avoid permanent brain damage is to use an activated carbon mask—more expensive, but worth the money.

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Should I buy an expensive respirator for spray painting?

Activated carbon respirator spray mask

All spray painting tasks should be accompanied by a spray paint respirator. Protect yourself from chemical vapors with a high-quality respirator spray paint mask. Pick one that fits well and feels good, and be sure it’s easy to find replacement filters.

Check out this warning from a typical spray can label: “Repeated or prolonged exposure to these chemicals without the use of a proper respirator can cause permanent brain damage, as well as damage to your lungs.” But solvent-based spray paints aren’t the only products that present a health hazard. You’ll find similar warnings even on water-based spray paints and many insecticides.

What’s the best respirator for spray painting?

The less expensive, N95 particulate filtering respirators (disposable paper masks with two straps) do a great job of filtering out particulate matter. But they don’t adsorb toxic chemical vapors. To do that, you need activated carbon. Most $30 and up respirators have a P100 (100 percent efficiency and oil compatible) prefilter and an activated carbon filter for the chemical vapors. However, the $30 carbon filter respirators sold at home centers won’t protect you against every single toxic chemical listed on every manufacturer’s warning label. The bottom line is, any carbon filter respirator spray paint mask rated for solvents and paint is better than a disposable particulate respirator.

To save money over the long run, buy a spray paint respirator that accepts replaceable filter cartridges. But before you shop online, check out the availability of replacement filters at your local hardware or home center. You don’t want to be searching every store in town for the right filter for your spray mask in the middle of a project.

Video: How to Make a DIY Spray Paint Booth

Make this DIY spray paint booth and use it for all of your spray painted projects.The paint booth protects the surroundings from overspray and the painted project from dust. Watch this video to learn exactly how to build a paint booth with common materials. And, learn how to make the clever duct tape hinges. This paint booth folds up for easy, flat storage. Build a DIY spray paint booth today and you’ll use it for years and years. While you’re at it, learn how to remove spray paint.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • Activated carbon
  • P100-rated respirator