A respiratory mask is one of the most useful protective equipment out there and is mainly used for protection against airborne particles, biological aerosols, viruses, and bacteria. Respiratory masks are widely used across different professions and industries because of how important and practical they are. Respiratory masks are most commonly used by healthcare and pharmaceutical personnel and in professions associated with law enforcement, oil and gas industries, manufacturing and production of chemicals, metal, food, beverages, construction, mining, fertilizers, textile, etc.
Given how respiratory masks have a wide variety of uses, across different industries, it would certainly be a good idea to know about the best respirators in 2022, in order for you to be able to make an informed decision whenever you need a respiratory mask. Be it any airborne hazard, the best respiratory masks will make sure that you’re safe and protected.
Since respiratory masks are designed to cater to a large variety of needs, there are a lot of variations in terms of the type of respiratory masks, efficacy, filtration, certification, cartridges, etc. When you’re looking for a respiratory mask, you need to make sure that you’re going for the right one. The respiratory masks that are right for you are supposed to cater to your needs in the most efficient and effective manner.
While most people would find it difficult to navigate through the different variations and options that are available, we have compiled a comprehensive guide that will make the entire process easier for you. This guide will help you purchase the best respirator in 2021, making sure that all of your needs and requirements are met.
What is the difference between surgical masks and respiratory masks?
A lot of people get confused about how a respiratory mask is different from a surgical mask and they tend to ignore the stark differences between the two. Failure to distinguish the functionality and use of a respiratory mask from a surgical mask would make it impossible for you to choose the right equipment according to the situation.
To begin with, the core purposes of a respiratory mask and a surgical mark are different. While respiratory masks are supposed to provide protection against airborne particles, biological aerosols, viruses, and bacteria, surgical masks are supposed to protect you from splashes, spit, and droplets.
While surgical masks are not designed to effectively catch small particles, respiratory mask filters can effectively filter out small particles. The ability of a respiratory mask filter to collect small particles can be determined by the rating that a certain filter has. The rating of a filter corresponds to the percentage of aerosol that a filter is capable of catching and this concept is further explained in the section below.
Surgical masks are not designed to fit tightly onto the face of the wearer. On the other hand, respiratory masks are designed to seal tightly onto the face, leaving no room for excessive air particles.
What do respiratory masks ratings mean?
Since a respiratory mask is an important piece of protective equipment, it is usually certified and evaluated by a designated body in the health division and it is the same body that gives ratings to respiratory masks. While the ratings might seem like meaningless numbers to anyone that does not understand how it works, ratings are actually quite important and you must understand what they indicate.
The first part of a respiratory mask's rating is a single letter. These masks are categorized under three different letters. Here is what each of the letters means:
P: A ‘P’ at the beginning of the rating indicates that the mask is oil-proof/oil resistant.
R: An ‘R’ at the beginning of the rating indicates that the mask is partially oil resistant
N: An ‘N’ at the beginning of the rating indicates that the mask is not resistant to oil.
The second part of a respiratory mask's rating is a double-digit number, which indicates how effective a respiratory mask is. The double-digit number is the effectiveness of a mask, for example, a ‘99’ rating means that the mask is capable of filtering at least 99% of the particles.
What are the types of respiratory masks?
Since respiratory masks serve a variety of purposes, it is important to understand which type of respiratory mask is suitable for the situation at hand. Here are the most commonly utilized types of respiratory masks:
N-series, P-series, and R-series aren’t mechanical or electrical, neither do these contain carbon-based cartridges. These masks are most commonly categorized as particulate filters and not as gas respiratory masks.
Half-face respiratory masks
Half-face respiratory masks are designed to provide a relatively higher level of protection. These masks come with two filter cartridges that are supposed to provide fresh breathable air to the wearer.
Full-face respiratory masks
As suggested by the name itself, full-face respiratory masks are supposed to provide protection to the entire face, which is particularly important when you have to work in an environment where you will be exposed to hazardous materials.
Electrical full-face masks, also known as supplied-air masks are used while operating in dangerous environments, as these are capable of supplying breathable air to the wearer.
Mechanical full-face masks are used in relatively less dangerous environments as these are capable of ensuring that there’s enough oxygen by clearing out the CO2.
Vapor or Gas masks could be in the form of a half-face or a full-face mask, with an attached cartridge. There are four categories of cartridges, coded in colors, and each of them is responsible for filtering out a certain kind of hazard (vapors/gases).
Things to look out for while buying a respiratory masks:
When you’re looking for a suitable respirator mask, here are the things that you should be looking out for:
The first and foremost thing that you should be sure about is the type of respiratory mask that you need, according to the situation. This guide has extensively covered the types of respiratory masks above, which will help you develop a thorough understanding, enabling you to be able to choose the right equipment for the right situation.
The fitting of a mask is quite important because it determines the amount of protection that it will be able to provide. Ideally, respiratory masks (except for the N/P/R-series) should fit properly onto your face, leaving no room for contaminated and hazardous materials to penetrate through.
Respiratory masks, filters, and cartridges are only good for a certain period of time. While purchasing a respiratory mask, you need to make sure that it is not expired. Expired masks must not be used at any cost, as they are not suitable for use in any form.
When dealing with sensitive products, especially those associated with pharmaceuticals and healthcare, one must be very vigilant about the certifications and approvals that a certain product has. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is an example of an institute that provides reliable certifications and it would be a good idea to purchase respiratory masks that have been approved and certified by NIOSH or any other relevant body.
The half-mask by the GVS store is one of the top 5 respiratory masks that you can go for. It comes in two sizes: S/M and M/L, allowing you to choose the one that fits perfectly. The design of the mask and its extremely light weight of 130g also contribute to the comfort that it offers.
The filters that this mask comes with are low-profile, which means that the mask would not obstruct your field of vision, making it a very practical product. Moreover, it is also approved by NIOSH, making it a reliable choice. Other features include a soft thermo-plastic elastomer, adjustable headband, and low breathing resistance.
Light-weight and low-profile filter for maximum comfort
Low breathing resistance due to HEPA filters.
Does not provide protection against mold, paints/solvents, acid gases, organic vapors, and pesticides.
The half facepiece by the renowned brand ‘3M’, is one of the best options available to you. To begin with, it is designed to be soft, lightweight, easily adjustable, and comfortable for the wearer. This product is also quite durable, as well as reusable, as it can be disassembled and cleaned for reuse.
The mask by 3M can help reduce exposure significantly through approved cartridges and filters and can be used for chemical handling, industrial maintenance, sanding, welding, painting, construction, chiseling, etc. It is also approved by NIOSH, leaving no room for doubts as far as its authenticity is concerned.
Reusable, also comes with a reclosable storage bag.
Has a very wide variety of applications
High compatibility with other PPE.
Filters are not included and will have to be purchased separately.
This 3M half facepiece should definitely be considered whenever you’re looking to purchase a respiratory mask. This product is designed to be convenient and comfortable. It comes with a quick latch design that makes it easy to put on and take off. The adjustable harness for the head makes sure that it is comfortable and that it stays in place for as long as needed. It is also equipped with a cool flow valve, making it easy for you to exhale.
Other features of this particular product include low profile filters for enhanced field of view, compatibility with face-shields, silicon faceseal for maximum resilience, and bayonet compatibility.
Quick latch design, making it easy to put it on and take it off..
Low profile design for better field of view
Cool flow valve makes exhalation easier and reduces fogging.
Filters are not included and will have to be purchased separately.
The full-face organic vapor respirator by the Parcil Distribution Store is a highly-equipped and rugged product that comes with everything that you will possibly need. To begin with, it is a proper heavy-duty filtration mask with dual activated charcoal filters and an impact resistant lens that covers the entire face.
Given the specifications of this product, it has an endless list of applications including welding, painting, masonry, chiseling, chemical clean-up, furnace operations, mold removal, etc. This product also features air circulation technology to prevent the build-up of excessive moisture, making it cool, comfortable, and resistant to fogging. Moreover, there’s a built-in diaphragm for voice amplification, which would enable you to communicate clearly while wearing it.
Heavy-duty filtration and protection.
Endless list of applications across multiple industries.
Amplification diaphragm for convenient communication.
The respiratory masks from the RANKSING store are certainly among the top options that are available out there. The half-cover design of this product makes it easy and convenient to wear, even for longer periods of time, without obstructing your field of view. It is also compatible with sanding and welding shields, which makes this product highly practical.
This respiratory mask is equipped with a high-quality dual filtration system which is easy to clean and durable. It is also designed to reduce respiratory resistance, which will help you breath more comfortably. This product also comes with NIOSH certified filter cartridge, as well as filter cotton, which makes it a very reliable product.
Wide range of applications across different professions and industries.
NIOSH certified filter cotton and cartridge.
Comes with 2 cotton filters, 2 filter covers,and 2 filter cartridges.
Not suitable for heavy-duty usage.
Q: Can respiratory masks be Reused?
A: While some respiratory masks are disposable, others are designed to last longer. The best way to go about this is to carefully go through the instructions provided by the manufacturer and check if you can reuse your respiratory masks or not.
Q: Which is the Best Material for a Respiratory Mask?
A: Respiratory masks can be made of a variety of materials, including wool felt and polypropylene, depending upon the type. In essence, there is no best material and any material that does the job well and is comfortable, is the most suitable one for you.
Q: Can Respiratory masks be shared by multiple people?
A: Ideally, respiratory masks should not be shared amongst multiple people. In a situation where sharing a respiratory mask is inevitable, it should be thoroughly cleaned, disinfected, and refitted before another person can use it.
The Woodsmith Review Team’s product reviews and in-depth guides are here to help you choose the best tools and gear to build great-looking projects confidently. The content is created by The Woodsmith Review Team. Woodsmith’s editorial staff is not involved. Woodsmith is reader-supported: When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.