What Kind of Face Mask Should You Use for Spray Painting?

what kind of mask for spray painting

More than ever, with the constant increase in the hazardous chemicals in the environment, the importance of the respirator mask for workers cannot be overemphasized.

This is particularly true for painters exposed to the harmful substances in the paint fog.

Spray painting sounds to be easy and fun for most of the DIYers. But it actually carries a few dangers as well.

Especially when you are using lots of paints, thinners and other chemicals for spraying.

Investing in the right protective face mask becomes crucial in this case.

For starters and DIYers who want to paint their house themselves, using a protective face mask like N95 particulate filtering respirator can be a best option.

Approved by cdc.gov these are not expensive and comes in the form of disposable paper masks attached with two easy to fit straps.

The thing you need to remember is they are not effective in adsorbing all the toxic chemical vapors that are emitted while spray painting.

If you want to get the mask with better protection from dangerous paint fumes and vapors you should instead go for face masks with activated carbon.

These can be more expensive to buy, but are worth your money.

These types of full-face respirator masks are generally recommended for professional painters who need to deal with lots of chemicals and fumes daily.

Keeping this in mind, make sure to choose the device that is right for you!

What is Respirator Mask?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a respirator is a personal protective device worn on the face.

It covers at least the nose and mouth to reduce to the barest minimum the wearer’s risk of inhaling hazardous airborne particles, gases, or vapors.

Spray painting respirators are the personal protective devices made for painters.

Unlike the face mask, a respirator is a tight-fitting device that creates a seal between the face and the respirator.

The seal filters the air and ensures that minute particles, as found in the paint, varnishes, and solvents, do no gain easy entrance into the wearer.

In contrast, the face masks can only prevent large particles and secretions like spit and mucous, which the wearer can generate.  

respirator for painters

How Does It Work?

There are generally two ways that a respirator works.

First, the respirator seeks to remove the contaminants or toxic fumes from the air entering the wearer.

It is somewhat an air purifier that filters dust, solvents, and other dangerous features produced by the paint fog. In other words, it ensures the air to inhale by the wearer is unpolluted.

On the other hand, the respirator can supply air to the wearer from outside sources by using the hose. With that said, respirators are most effective when used with cartridge and filters.

Now, these two functions can only be attained when the respirator sits tight on the face of its wearer.

The right usage of a respirator is as important as choosing the right respirator for a painting job. It helps to deal with the hazard presented by painting jobs.

Therefore, it is important to have a hazard analysis of the work, environment, and tools to be used. With that, selection for a respirator can be made based on the hazards present.

Below I will discuss more about the benefits, types of respirators and factors you will need to look for in a quality spray paint respirator.

Why You Should Use a Mask When Painting?

Here’s the deal: Although most modern-day paints are today manufactured with an “Eco-friendly” tag, they still need you to use some sort of solvent chemicals or mineral oils for getting the right finish.

If not eco friendly, many paints may also contain a high level of toxic fumes, such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

Plus, the dangerous vapors emitted can compromise your health as it can directly penetrate through your lungs causing various respiratory troubles.

Using a face mask when painting home is therefore crucial to your safety and health – no matter what type of paint (oil-based enamel or water-based latex) you are using.

Considering the fact that you are using a sprayer for painting and oil-based paints, it becomes even more important to use a face mask or better an equipment which is called a respirator.

This is due to the fact that a paint sprayer works by converting a liquid paint into a fine mist or spray, by a process called atomization.

In the process the paint particles are atomized and sprayed out of the sprayer at a high speed.

Some of these atomized paint particles while escaping out remains suspended in the air for hours which can enter your lungs via air you breathe in.

As a result, you may experience a problem breathing, after completing your paint project at the end of the day.

When choosing a mask, remember that a cheap one may not offer much protection.

Although it’s a good alternative for smaller projects you should not get tempted to buy them if you have a larger on-going project to finish.

Types of Respirators for Spray Painting House

There are various types of respirator, suitable for both the painter and the conditions of the environment where it will be used.

Below are some of the most popular types of respirators commonly prescribed for a painting job.

1- Air-Purifying Respirator (APR)

It is a type of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that helps workers against contaminated atmosphere related to gases, aerosols, or vapors.

APR usually contains a face visor and two cartridges of breathable air.

This respirator does not supply oxygen, and cannot be used in an environment lacking in oxygen.

2- Full-Face Respirator/Half-Face Respirator

As the names imply, the full-face covers the whole face while the half-face covers only the mouth and the nose of its user.

Both types offer the same respiratory functions, but the full-face respirator offers more overall protection.

Its full-face protection features offer better sealing. It also protects against liquid splash and irritating vapors.

However, it is not the most common choice because it interferes with its user’s sight.

3- Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR)

It uses a battery-operated blower to force air through the respiratory filter or canister.

It is often chosen when a worker has facial hair or any other facial deformity, preventing such a person from using a mask-to-face seal.

It is generally considered beneficial to industry workers, painting, powder coating, Pharma manufacturing, and even hazmat.

4- Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)

Also called Compressed Air Breathing Apparatus (CABA) or just Breathing Apparatus (BA).

Firefighters commonly use it. This device is worn to provide breathable air in an Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) atmosphere.

It uses its own air tank to supply clean air, so there is no need to filter breathable air.

5- Supplied-Air Respirator (SAR)

SAR, also called airline respirator or an air-supplied respirator, is made up of a facepiece. The facepiece is then connected to an air supply hose.

A pressure system, usually a compressor, is used to deliver air through the hose to the SAR user.

The United States’ Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has limited the hose to 300 feet to address possible risks.

Merits of a Quality Spray Paint Respirator You Need to Look At

In using a suitable spray paint respirator, the five qualities listed below are very important.

1- NIOSH Approval:

NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) is a US-based R&D group that issues all recommendations for the use of respiratory masks and other products for the prevention of work-related injuries and sickness.

Getting a NIOSH and HEPA rating simply means that the filter has been verified for use in its specified condition.

You can save considerable amount of money by purchasing a mask that is not certified.

But I don’t recommend getting them and sacrificing your life, especially if you are dealing with something dangerous like lead paint removal.

2- Reusability:

The number of times it can be reused is largely dependent on how and how well it is decontaminated and stored.

For as long as it maintains a usable structure and topnotch functions, it can be reused.

3- Filters and Cartridges:

According to OSHA, filters need to be replaced when it becomes dirty or damaged.

A change is also advised if the user has difficulty breathing comfortably. Cartridges have indicators to notify users of the need to be changed.

4- Size and Fit:

If the respirator is correctly fitted to the painter’s face, they will be better protected from the hazard of their work.

Employers are advised to perform a fit test to determine the make, model, and size of respirator suitable for their employees and jobs.

5- Comfort:

Alongside all the other features listed above, its user’s comfort is important.

Comfort includes breathing, sight for a full-face respirator, and carrying air tank as in SCBA.


Each respirator comes with its own caution.

Hence, while considering the general qualities of respirators, going through the limitations and restrictions of individual use is important.

Some respirators may also require training before use. As regards storage and maintenance, training is really important.

This will help prevent an unused respirator from contamination and a used or contaminated one from spreading its contamination.

In addition to taking prescribed precautions, all contaminated respirators should be cleaned or disposed of properly.

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