Respirators ensure the safety to your respiratory system in environs where you might even need immediate medical attention if you’re not wearing one.
But a respirator has a lot of different facets that you need knowing. And even a small defect in a minor part may be catastrophic.
Then again you can’t buy one and expect it to keep you safe everywhere all the time, can you?
To relinquish you from the agony of researching about respirators and being in a dilemma about which one to buy, let me guide you all the way from how it all works to choosing and buying the best respirator.
What is a Respirator?
If I try to define respirator in words then I’ll have to say that respirators are those PPEs that covers a portion of your face including the nose or the full of it by sealing on to your face in order to give you filtered and safer air to breath in.
This is a PPE that is must have equipment as per the protocols of many industries and laboratories or the Health Organizations of the respective countries.
You’ll get to know if it’s physical and design aspects soon enough and that’ll tell you a lot about its the purpose of existence, demand, popularity and above all reliability.
Best Respirator for Welding and Stuffs Reviews
Not all respirators are worth the money. You will have to take a look at what you are getting for the money that you will be paying. Here we listed down some of the respirators that money can buy with very few drawbacks that we have also pointed out quite briefly.
1. 3M Rugged Comfort Quick Latch Half Facepiece Reusable Respirator
It’s the 3MTM 6500 series, that um talkin’ about.
Features and Benefits
Ergonomics of this half facepiece respirator is on a whole new level.
Somewhat similar to the headgear of a welding helmet, it also has what they call a head harness assembly. It’s adjustable or customizable with those push buttons like the baseball caps.
Even has two straps to hang on to your head and distribute the force to reduce the pressure and thus enhancing comfort.
As long as you don’t have any beard on your face, the gasket is made out of resilient silicone will seal on to your face to ensure the absolute protection.
Even attaching filters or cartridges is miraculously easy. All that you’ll have to do is to align ‘em with the attachment on the facepiece and keep rotating till it doesn’t anymore. 3M also came up with this slick guiding mark. So that you’ll be able to align filters and cartridges at ease.
Even a retard can put this thing on easily. First, you’ll have to place the facepiece on the face while pulling the head harness high. Secondly, place the head harness in position after you’ve adjusted it to your liking. Lastly, grab the bottom straps and hook ‘em up.
Oh, did I mention that the bottom straps come with this hook thing so you can attach it without having to buckle on or snap on to anything?
It’s all up to you to control how tightly the respirator will grab on to your face. And can be done effortlessly. Pull the ends of the strap to tighten. To loosen it up pull the other portion of the strap i.e. from the back of the buckle.
The biggest issue about dust masks, helmets and respirators are taking it on and off all the time. 3M put in a lot of time to plan its design to have given it this really handy and ergonomically favorable feature, the quick latch mechanism.
To take the respirator down you’ll just have to pull the quick latch mechanism, and it’ll rest on the drop-down position i.e. below the chin. Then to set it back in the position you’ll have to push the quick latch back in position after carefully placing the facepiece in place.
The position of the exhaust is another big thing about this respirator. It’s placed perfectly to never fog up your glasses.
And yeah it obviously passes the positive and negative feed check test. So, you can rest assured about how good it’ll seal on to your face.
This thing’s awesome and all but like everything has a limit to what it can handle. You can use it at a max of 10 x Occupational Exposure Limit. And you should never dare to use it in an environ with less than 19.5% oxygen. Otherwise, you’re screwed.
2. Safety Works 817663 Multi-Purpose Respirator
Comes with cartridges.
Features and Benefits
Coming in a fairly nice re-closable package the respirator is just far more than fairly nice.
It’ll not put any strain on you whatsoever. Why am I saying this? Cause, the respirator’s just 1.5 lbs. But being lightweight doesn’t affect the quality at all. This respirator’s got approvals from both OSHA and NIOSH.
The 871663 by 3M definitely fulfills one of the very fundamental issues. It won’t be blurring your vision by fogging up your spectacle or safety glasses. How? Well, the exhaust valve, it’s placed perfectly to prevent the moistures from getting up. More importantly by ensuring there’s no gaping hole.
The pair of cartridges that comes along with this is approved by OSHA, NIOSH and is P100 rated by NIOSH. Being P100 rated means you’ll be fine wearing this in an environ with acids, lead, asbestos, ammonia. You can even be spraying paints or pesticides with no second thoughts.
High-quality elastic straps will make the facepiece hold on to your face nicely and fit perfectly. Elastic straps apply just the requisite amount of pressure.
On top of the straps being elastic, this respirator has a mechanism to adjust your strap length just by pulling the straps.
Gasket’s made out of soft rubber to relinquish the use of any gaping holes.
Cartridges here are indeed good but not perfect enough to protect you from urethane paint.
More importantly, the head harness isn’t adjustable and is made out of plastic, that’s a bummer.
3. 3M 07193 Dual Cartridge Respirator Assembly
Features and benefits
Just like the previous one, this one packs two cartridges along with a few extra filters too.
Has every other feature of a respirator that you would possibly want. Dual strap head harness holds the respirator on to the face and the lower strap does the same.
You can easily lift the respirator down from your face just by pulling off the head harness. And as for the lower strap, it does hold respirator to your face. But more importantly when you’ve put the respirator in the hang down position then it’ll keep hanging by holding on to the respirator.
You guessed it right if you thought that the straps are made out of elastic. But you can even tighten and loosen it to your liking just by pulling the ends of the straps and pulling the back of the buckle straps.
Soft and rubbery gasket diminishes the chance of any gaping holes. The gasket has a large enough surface of contact to your face to reduce the pressure by spreading the force.
It would have been better if it had the adjustable head harness. Nowadays a lot of the respirator has this feature.
But the thing that makes this model a bit out of date is the permanently attached cartridges. Cartridges are big bulges from the respirator and they can get destroyed in a hundred different ways. So, almost all the manufacturers and models nowadays have replaceable cartridges.
4. 3M 6000 Series Half Facepiece Reusable Respirator
Soft, Comfy and Awesome.
Features and Benefits
Nice and large surfaced gaping holes fit on to the face perfectly. There’s no chance of gaping holes whatsoever.
There’s plenty of different cartridges and filter by 3M to fit on this respirator. Beside taking cartridges on and off is quite effortless and easy to understand. All you’ll have to do is align the cartridges or filters with the bayonets of the respirator and rotate it one-quarter of a revolution i.e. till it rotates. And do just the opposite to take the cartridges off.
The adjustable head harness on this respirator is a thing of the future. Dual straps on the head harness to reduce pressure. Besides dual straps do reduce the chances of the head harness slipping off. The main thing is that both of the straps on the harness is adjustable. How? Just like a baseball cap.
Putting on this respirator is an absolute piece of cake. First, adjust the head harness to your liking, then put the harness on. Secondly, attach the facepiece to your face i.e. just hold it in position. Lastly, hook the lower straps.
I might not have told you but the lower strap has this hook mechanism to be attached. Easy right? No Velcro, no buckle just hook ‘em up and be done with it.
As for tightening and losing it, just pull the strap ends to tighten. To loosen, push the back of the buckles with the straps. That’s as easy as it can get.
This one easily passes the face fit test. Both positive and negative face fit test.
Yeah, it’s good, I’ll give it that. But is it perfect? No.
You should never ever take it anywhere near an environ that exceeds 10 x Occupational Exposure Limit.
And you can’t (I mean shouldn’t if you want to live) be taking it anywhere there’s less than 19.5% Oxygen.
5. Miller Electric ML00895 Half Mask Respirator, M/L, Single Filter
Features and Benefits
Miller Electric designed this filter by keeping in mind the requisitions of a welder. And so, they designed it to fit perfectly under the welding helmets. You can even wear your prescription or protective glasses along with this mask.
This respirator fits on to the face just by the two straps, simple and easy. Unlike the head harness used up until this point. They are good too but they are a hassle.
As for the gasket, it’s made out of thermoplastic elastomer. Which makes it more comfortable and less sweaty.
The exhaust valve is a one-way valve and in being so it reduces the breathing resistance beyond expectation. And two cartridges work as the filter and the inlet valve.
As for the donning, the straps are elastic and it can be adjusted by means of the buckles too.
The ML00895 is designed to keep a very minimal amount of air within it. This creates an extra comfort by removing the irritation of the humidity and trap warm air within the respirator.
Even though this mask is specialized to be used by the welder for welding using a welding machine, it can’t fit under all of the welding helmets out there.
6. SAS Safety 7650-61 Opti-Fit Full-face APR Respirator
Swag and Safety all the way.
Features and Benefits
Just a look at this tells how good it is. All of your faces will be covered by this, And the outer edge is sealed with soft, comfortable and reliable silicone. But the primary requirement, durability. The silicone is durable too.
The headgear or head harness whatever that you want to call it looks to be on a whole new level due to the five-point adjustment. And it’s adjustable at all of these five points.
SAS Safety thought this through pretty well before they manufactured it. Why am I saying this? It’s because I am amazed by the fact that they put in a nose piece just to prevent fogging. That’s a big advantage.
There’s one exhaust valve that works efficiently to let the air pass and also lets the sound out too. Sound gets a bit distorted, to be honest, but still works nicely.
Then there’s the two-outlet valve or the cartridges. The cartridges are pretty easy to set since they are like a screw on and off. You can even change the filter of the cartridges easily.
The lens for the facepiece is made out of polycarbonate, which is more or less scratch proof.
A respirator of this caliber is definitely NIOSH approved.
It’s a hassle to put your head in this thing because of the five-point headgear.
Moreover, you can’t be wearing your glasses if you have prescribed glass. That’s a big big issue.
7. 3M Full Facepiece Reusable Respirator
Full Face and Full Protection
Features and Benefits
Both gaskets, the one for the facepiece and the other for the nose piece is made out of silicone. Being made out of silicone, the gasket seals on to your face perfectly and softly.
Your field of view isn’t narrowed down at the least. The extra wide and large lens provides unparallel and undiminished peripheral vision.
Inlet valve is engineered to be a bit different from the rest of the valves on the rest of the respirators out there. The valves are what they are calling cool flow valve. It lets in cool and less humid air for comfy breathability.
But another special feature about this is the different sizes that 3M is offering. The respirator is manufactured for three different sizes i.e. small, medium and large. All of them is of the same size, give or take.
Speaking of the comfort that you’ll feel while wearing it, it’s extremely lightweight. And another thing is that the center valve exhales the exhaled air and it’s directed downwards to reduce the chances of fogging.
The headgear has a four-point adjustment which is more than sufficient to get a custom adjustment.
Some folks are having issues with the durability of the straps. Just after a couple of months, they’re noticing stress cracks on it.
Some are even unlucky to have theirs torn just after a couple of times of use.
How to Recognize Best Respirators
In this portion of the article, I’ll be giving you a buying guide for respirators. I’ll enlighten you about the tricks and things that you’ll need to know to land yourself the best respirator.
Half Face Vs Full Face Respirators
I just talked about this. But I mentioned it here again because it is the fundamental decision that you’ll be needing to make to have the most efficient.
The gasket is the rubbery portion of the respirator that enables it to seal on to your face. The gasket has to be soft and less adhesive to sweat and moisture.
For all this reason the most efficient and popular material is silicone but other heavily used and popular ones are thermoplastic elastomer and rubber.
Negative Fit test
Fit checks are to be done to ensure a proper seal of the respirator. One of the two ways to do it is the negative fit test.
Let me tell you, how is it that you do the negative fit test.
First, you’ll have to wear the respirator properly by ensuring that you haven’t caused any gaping holes. Then block the cartridges by means squeezing the body of it with its covers. Now try to breathe in, if the respirator squeezes sown then there’s no gaping hole and your respirator has passed the fit test.
If you have to do this with a particulate filter then just press at the center of the filter and the rest of the process is the same.
Positive Fit test
Sometimes it gets difficult to do a positive fit test with some cartridges. So, you’ll need to know about the positive fit test.
Here’s how you do a positive fit. Just put your hand on the exhaust valve to block it. Then try to breath out. If you the air gets blocked then it has passed the fit test.
Either of the fit tests can’t be done without having the respirator first. So, the most popular source of being ensured about this is the reviews.
Straps on the head to mount the respirator aka the head harness or the headgear is one aspect or part of the respirator that you’ll need to look at before you buy.
Head harnesses should be adjustable to make the respirator fit on you like its custom made for you. Head harnesses are usually adjustable by mean of the multiple pushes on buttons like the baseball caps.
Lower Strap Mechanism
Lower straps important cause it’ll cause the respirator to seal on to your face properly. But the way the strap is locked is different for different models and manufacturers.
So, make sure that the locking mechanism is it a hook or a Velcro is good enough.
Straps are of paramount importance for respirators. If they bust then the respirator is gone for good.
Check to see if you can find anything about the straps on the specifications or the reviews about its durability.
If you’re getting a full-face respirator, then you gotta be sure that the eyepiece is good. The eyepiece has to be super transparent and obviously scratch proof.
To satisfy this demand and condition the popular material of choice is the polycarbonate.
Understanding Particulate Filters International Standard
In 1995 NIOSH started certifying and categorizing respirators into series of respirators. This is all done based on what these respirators can filter and how much they can filter.
NIOSH categorized respirators in three different series, the N-Series, the P-Series and finally the R-Series.
After starting the series of the respirator, the numerical suffix that it has denotes the efficiency i.e. percentage of how much it can filter.
Now, let’s talk about them.
Respirators belong to this series is completely incapable of filtering anything with oil content.
Then what is it that these can filter? These are good for protecting your respiratory system from non-oil-based particulates such as metal grinding, wood dust, pollens, and many other specks of dust.
N-Series could filter out anything but oil, then this category has to be able to do that too. And yes, it does.
But R-Series packs a humongous limitation and that’s it has a service life of only eight hours.
P-Series is the same as the R-Series but the thing about this is that it isn’t bound by any particular service life.
But you can only use it as long as you want when there are no oil-based particulates. Otherwise, you’ll have to abide by the service life given by the manufacturer.
When What Type of Respirator is Best
Respirators and general sense and from the designing aspect of the thing can and is divided into two pretty obvious categories. And they are the Half-Face Respirator and the Full-Face Respirator.
But when to use which? Let’s dig down in each of them and give you a proper understanding of what they can and can’t do. And you’ll understand which to use when.
Half Face Respirator
Half face respirator seals on to your face by means of a rubber or materials with elastic properties to seal on to the nasal region of your face. And all of this is to supply you with filtered air to breath in and to ensure that your respiratory system does not get in contact with contaminated air.
The biggest advantage of using this mask is that you won’t be feeling much of a weight and offer protection from quite a variety of contaminants.
But there’s some downside. These obviously can’t protect your eyes and has a significant chance of having gaping holes which let in contaminated air.
Moreover, these aren’t recommended to be used in the highly contaminated area and oxygen-deprived regions.
To quantify it all, this can and should be used only under an Assigned Protection Factor of 10
Full Face Respirators
Full face ones work on the same principles as of the half facepiece but it covers all of your face including the eyes, chin, and mouth.
The sole advantage of full-face respirators over that of the full-face respirator is that it ensures the protection of the face from splashed chemicals and other harmful mists and vapors.
This can be used under the assigned protection factor of 50.
How do Respirators Work?
Understanding how a respirator works is not a rocket science. You can easily understand how it works just by looking at it. But I’ll go through it just for the sake of the noobs and curious folks.
Seals to face
The gasket of the respirator being rubbery and being made out of silicone most of the time seals to your face pretty neatly. Thus, preventing the creation of any gaping holes unless you have any beard.
To hold the seal there are multiple straps like the lower one and then there’s obviously the head straps i.e. the head harness.
Inlets Filtered Air
Air comes in through the one-way inlet valve by passing through the cartridges or filters whichever you’ve placed. This makes the air devoid of any contaminants.
The air that you’re breathing out is released through the exhaust valve. This keeps the humidity and temperature within the respirator under check.
Respirator Safety Tips
There are some rules and regulations for wearing a respirator. Not abiding by them will only cause harm by seizing any benefits of wearing the respirator. Most of the time some acts lead to gaping holes and beats the whole purpose of wearing a respirator.
Here I’ll talk about each of the factors or areas that are to be kept under consideration while you’re using respirators.
Choosing Correct Filter or Cartridges.
I’ve talked about filters and cartridges of already. I’ve even talked about the means to identify the purpose, extent of the capabilities and efficiency of a filter or cartridge.
All respirators can be used with a series of cartridges and filters. Moreover, a combination of filter and cartridges can be used too.
So, if you’ve gone through that section then you already know the answer to which one you should be having on your respirator.
But if you haven’t I urge you to read it.
Head Harness Adjustment
These set of straps that’s set on the top of the head aka head harness or headgear often can and is to be adjusted. Otherwise, the respirator will not be mounted on to your face properly. This’ll end up in creating gaping holes if you’re unlucky or just uncomfortable if you’re lucky.
So, how do you adjust it? Well, most of these have this push on buttons like the baseball cap. Open and button them the way that it’d fit ya.
Stay Within the Limits
Every respirator and cartridges have a limit to what they can and what they can’t. So, know the limits of the device and operated within those limits.
Check for Anomalies
There’s always a significant probability that the respirator itself is damaged somehow since it’s under constant rough use.
To be unharmed by any anomalies it’s required to inspect the respirator before you start to use it.
But what do you have to check? Take a good close look at the respirator from all angles if anything seems fractured or broken. Check individually the gasket, straps and obviously the facepiece.
And the most vulnerable part, the valves, check to see if there’s any crack on them.
You can’t be having any beards on your face at all. If you do then you’ll be compromising the seal by the gasket. And be breathing in those very contaminated air that you’re desperately trying to avoid.
Putting it on
Putting on a respirator is indeed not a rocket science but still, you’ll have to abide by certain precautions to stay out of harm’s reach.
So, let me go through the steps for donning this thing on.
Begin with the head harness, pull it up and set it up on your head.
Now, place the facepiece comfortably on your face in perfect position.
Lastly, attach the lower strap. Most of the time it’s a hook-on mechanism.
Do Fit Tests
There’s nothing more to talk about fit tests than what I’ve already said. You need to make sure that your respirator passes both the positive and negative fit tests.
I am saying it again, it’s to make sure there’s no gaping hole.
Noticing Improper Functioning
There’s a high chance that your respirator’s damage if you start to feel dizziness all of a sudden or have difficulty breathing.
Besides, there are a couple of other things that have to be kept under check. They are sudden taste or smell of contaminants, irritation or any other forms of difficulty.
You’ll often have to clean your respirators. This has to be done with warm water and neutral detergent. Make sure that you’re not using any hard brushes with may compromise soft components of the respirator.
Frequently Asked Question(FAQs) about Respirators
Q. Are respirator cartridges interchangeable?
Ans: It depends. If the respirators you’re talking about is of the same brand then they are interchangeable. But if they are from different brands they won’t be.
Q. Are ventilator and respirator the same thing?
Ans: Nope, they are two very different things. Respirator never participates in respiration it just purifies the air. Whereas ventilators participate in active respiration. Ventilators push in and push out breathable air for patients having difficulty with breathing.
Q. How long are respirator filters good for?
Ans: You can use respirator filters as long as you haven’t exceeded the manufacturer’s given service life. Or you’re not tasting any contaminants or feeling dizzy or irritability.
Q. Can respirators be worn with helmets?
Ans: Some can be. Like the Miller Electric ML00895 I’ve reviewed.
Buying anything is one big process. You never know which one to buy since you fall into a deep state of dilemma every time.
But all this can be solved if somebody tells you everything you need to know to identify the best respirator. Even after that choosing from an indefinite amount of choice is another tough feet.
And I’ve solved that part too, by bringing out the things that’ll make you want to buy it and those that won’t.