What we consider as dust masks and respirators are all respirators, technically speaking. Wait, didn’t go crazy, hear me out.
What we define to be dust masks are the cheapo, strap on, disposable small masks. These are only as to be used while you are dusting, sanding or grinding.
Whereas those that we believe to be respirators are a bit high on the price, has this humongous look and has this cartridge like missiles on a fighter jet.
But that’s all in the looks. Let’s dig deeper and see what’s actually the difference between them and what’s the big deal with respirators.
Dust Mask or Disposable Particulate Respirator
These are only good enough to prevent those airborne particles which are fabricated in environments where there’s grinding, sweeping, gardening, dusting or sanding is under process.
If I talk about the physical aspect of the dust mask then there’s nothing much to it. The filters attached to one or two straps which hold the mask to your face. And there may or may not be a metallic nose-piece for the mask to take the shape of your nose and prevent the air gap.
To be more concise, definite and reliable I’ll have to say dust masks are the respirators belonging to the N-Series of respirators.
If I explain what the N-Series can do and how efficient they are, I’ll have spoken about the so-called dust mask. Since these are in fact what you call or believe to be dust masks.
The N-Series respirators or dust masks are capable of filtering only NON-oil based particulates. Thus, they can only filter solids and liquid particulates that don’t have any oil in them.
Then the N-Series is further subdivided into 3 different categories depending on what percentage of the filtered air is in fact actually filtered. Hence, comes the N95, N99, and the N100.
You guessed it right, the suffixes are in fact the efficiencies i.e. what percentage of the filtered air’s been filtered. But 100%??!! For real??!!!! No, 100 doesn’t mean 100% here, it indicates 99.7 percent efficiency.
Among all of these the N95 is the hottest stuff on the market. They’re bought like crazy, especially because of the price. N95 is the cheapest dust mask or respirators on the market.
What You Call “Respirators”
These are not expensive they’re just a bit pricier than the dust mask. These do indeed give a professional vibe due to the fancy look. But nothing here is for the looks, everything’s serving a necessary and irreplaceable purpose.
Let’s get on with what each part has to do.
The cartridges that I called missiles earlier on the article is in fact the paramount of all the facets. It does the job of filtering and acting as the inlet valve.
Then there’s the head harness and the lower straps, these hold the mask tight and close to the face. It basically does the job of sealing and diminishing the odds of having any gaping holes.
Then there’s the gasket. This rubbery part of the respirator is what remains in contact with your face and prevents gaping holes. If it’s damages by any means then you’ll have to dispose of the whole respirator.
Lastly, the exhaust valve, this part of the filter is what let’s out the air you breathed out so that the temp and the humidity is under check.
Respirators of the R-Series and the P-Series are what we actually believe to be respirators.
Bow, lets talk about what they can do.
Respirators are indeed way better than the dust masks. These can keep you safe in environs with carcinogenic and toxic dusts. And they are efficient enough to save you from bacteria and viruses and even particles that might have asbestos or are radioactive.
The R -Series and the P-Series are both capable of filtering oil based particles unlike the N-Series. But the difference among them is that the R-Series has a very short shelf and service life. And that’s about 8 hours. The P-Series has a limited service life too but it’s more than just 8 hours.
Apparently, the cartridges that I’ve talked about that gets attached to these are only good against gas and vapors. So, if you need to protect yourself from dust you’ll need a particulate filter too to protect yourself. In such cases, you’ll need a combination cartridge which can hold both the filter and cartridge simultaneously.
When to Choose Which?
Respirator can do the job of dust masks too, but it’s a bit overkill for situations where you won’t be needing one.
Environs for a Dust Mask
So, if you only need to protect your respiratory system from a non-oil based particle, you can just get a dust mask. These are comfortable, lightweight and is obviously the more economical and logical choice for such environs. Besides the dust mask can also protect you from animal dust, mists, pollens and obviously nuisance dust.
Environs for a Respirator
If there’s a slightest chance that there’s bacteria, virus, carcinogens, asbestos or even oil-based particulates then you’ll have no choice but to buy and use a respirator.
I talked about the physical aspect of it already so um not going over it again.
But these with the right cartridges and filter are bound to protect you from almost any sort contaminants. Just be sure to have shaved your beard.
Respirators can protect you under conditions of assigned protection factor of 10-50.
There’s this huge commotion on the internet about which one to use when. So, in order to put a conclusive, logical and acceptable end to this never-ending debate I’ve put forth a series of logics information.
So, at the end of the day, all boils down to the point, if your environ has only non-oil based particulates. If so, then your good to use the dust mask other wise you’ll have to go for the respirator.