Buying Guide

Best Safety Equipment for Painting

Masks and Respirators

Breathe easy by donning the proper respiratory health gear when working with harmful substances.

  • Many microscopic and scent-free particles can get into your airway during painting and renovation projects, so having the right type of protection is critical.
  • Masks guard against nuisance-level, non-toxic dust and pollen.
  • Respirators offer protection against harmful chemicals, vapors and mold spores.
  • Particulate, or filtration respirators, protect against solid particles while gas and vapor respirators offer protection against non-solid substances.
Comparison of Masks and Respirators
Description Feature/Benefits Other Considerations
full face respirators & masks Combination Respirator Protects against solid particles as well as gases and vapors Available in multiple configurations Ideal for use with no-oil spray paint and solvent vapors Reduces exposure to fiberglass installation dust May be somewhat heavier
Dust - Respirator Masks Dust Mask Protects against dust, pollen and other solid particles Does not protect against harmful chemicals and vapors
Gas & Vapor - Respirator Masks Gas and Vapor Respirator Protects against harmful gases and vapors Available in multiple configurations Does not filter out airborne particles Chemical filters or cartridges should be checked to ensure they are in working order prior to use
Odor - Respirator Masks Latex Paint and Odor Mask Particulate respirator that protects against nuisance-level paint odors, latex paint and pollen Blocks dust encountered during sanding, drywall sanding, rust removal and installation of fiberglass insulation Lightweight and comfortable
Fiberglass - Respirator Masks Sanding and Fiberglass Respirator Particulate respirator that lessens exposure to pollen and dust when sanding particleboard and drywall Can be used for protection during the installation of fiberglass Can filter dust and debris while you sweep out the garage or basement Lightweight and comfortable

Cartridges, or filters, are responsible for blocking harmful substances.

  • If located in a metal shell, cartridges are referred to as canisters.
  • Many respirators feature a dual-cartridge system with one on each side of the mask.
  • Most cartridges are designed to only filter out one particular substance, so OSHA created a color-coded system to denote what a given cartridge protects against:
  • Orange filters protect against dust, fumes and mist.
  • Black filters protect against organic vapors.
  • Blue filters protect against carbon monoxide.
  • Yellow filters protect against acid gas and organic vapor.
  • HEPA filters protect against particles as small as 0.3 microns.
Effectiveness and Maintenance

One of the most important steps to ensure effective filtration is achieving a proper fit.

  • If the respirator is loose, harmful vapors will be able to get inside.
  • Make sure the unit is covering both your mouth and nose at all times.
  • Respirators are rated by the APF, which determines what proportion of contaminates get filtered out.
  • Replace a mask or respirator if it shows signs of physical or structural damage.