Respirators are handy tools that are used every day to protect people’s health. Some models are used for home painting or remodeling projects, models that are meant to protect firefighters from the smoke from wildfires, and some models protect EMTs, nurses, and doctors fighting infectious diseases such as SARS and COVID-19.

When used properly, these tools are very effective at the jobs they’re designed to do, and that’s why we wanted to review some of the best models available. With that goal in mind, we did review some of the best respirators—the results of which can be found below. We hope that our selection serves all of our readers well, no matter what they need it for.

Quick Summary of the Best Respirators

Editor’s Choice: 3M Paint Project Respirator

Providing at least 95% filter efficiency against solid and liquid aerosols, this product is ready for just about any job. It’s government approved by the NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health, as an N95 class respirator. This makes it suitable for a variety of jobs and applications.

This is the mask that is the go-to choice for professionals who have to deal with organic vapors and mists. That means it’s suitable for spray painting, spraying pesticides, staining hardwood floors, and a variety of other applications.

Another thing that makes this product one that many consumers are going to want to check out is that it’s made by 3M–the world’s leader for making quality work and occupational masks. And this mask is one of the best respirators that they make. It features a swept-back cartridge design that helps to improve visibility, so the wearer can work in them efficiently. Another thing to like about this product is that it forms a perfect seal around the wearer’s nose and mouth. That prevents bad stuff from getting in.

It’s also worth mentioning that this product is also very comfortable to wear, even for large periods. Although some people have complained that they needed to buy a size up for this mask, we didn’t find that to be the case, but it is worth noting that some wearers may need to do that.

We’d also like to add that because this product has an improved design, it’s 35% easier to breathe in than previous respirator models made by this company. Speaking of the filters, the consumer has to be careful when replacing them. If they insert them wrong and with too much force, they could potentially damage the respirator. All things considered, we feel that this is a quality product that many consumers are going to appreciate using.

What we liked about it
  • This product has a 95% filter efficiency.
  • This product is easy to wear for long periods.

Also Recommended: NASUM M101 Reusable Half-Face Cover

Anyone looking for a general-purpose respirator is probably going to want to take a closer look at this model. It’s designed to be a reusable respirator that can be used for a wide variety of jobs around the home. This includes woodworking, demolition works, home renovations, painting, and other such projects. It’s also a model that can be used to protect the wearer’s lungs in several different factories including cement factories, power plants, stone processing plants, and metal smelting plants.

This product is made from a high-quality silicone material that fits the wearer’s face well and has a soft texture that makes it comfortable for the most part, although we do have to say that it isn’t comfortable enough that a person would want to wear it more than 8-hours per day. This product does have a strap belt that’s suitable to fit most wearer’s heads, and the respirator is also very light. And because it’s made using anti-fogging technology, this respirator won’t fog up the wearer’s glasses or face shield while the wearer is using it at work.

Another thing worth mentioning is that this product comes with everything a person needs to use it. It comes with the half-face cover, 2 plastic covers, 2 filter boxes, and 4 cotton filters. Unless the filters become damaged or completely saturated during use, then most users can expect each filter to last approximately 8-hours. Thanks to its special flow-valve, heat and moisture are dissipated, and this helps to prevent user fatigue while they’re using this product.

Having taken into consideration its size, construction, and features, we have to say that we’re pleased to recommend this product to anyone looking for a quality respirator. It’s well made, handles well, and is very easy to use. Its filters are also easily obtainable and can be swapped out easily as needed.

What we liked about it
  • This is a high-quality respirator.
  • It has a reusable design.
  • It comes with everything needed to use it.

Also Consider: Honeywell North 5400 Series Full-Facepiece Respirator

Even though this product is one of the more expensive respirators we’ve reviewed, it’s also one of the most versatile ones available. The 5400 series respirator is a versatile product that is capable of being equipped with a wide variety of different filters, and cartridges depending on the work environment that it’s being used in. That makes it a good solution for not only subcontractors but also for home DIY enthusiasts who may need to protect themselves from a variety of different conditions.

This product also features a 200-degree wide field-of-view that helps the consumer see more of their work while they’re wearing it. This respirator also features threaded connectors that help to prevent accidental disconnection while they’re working. And because it features a head strap with four-point upper and lower attachments, it stays in place and gives the wearer a snug enough fit to seal out a variety of different contaminants. This snug fit doesn’t make it uncomfortable to wear, however, and it can still be worn for long periods by most people without much difficulty.

Other features that can be found on this mask include a latex-free design that helps to prevent skin irritations, a durable polycarbonate lens that meets ANSI Z87 High Impact Standards for safety in the workplace, a nose cup that helps to prevent it from slipping down, and an ability to be used in conjunction with other products including welding adapters, air-purifying respirators, powered air-purifying respirators, and CF-SAR respirators. If the consumer can find the filters for this product, they should have no problems using it for a variety of jobs.

Keeping all of this in our thoughts as we do this review, we have no problems recommending this product. It does cost a little more than some other respirators but it does work well and is quite versatile.

What we liked about it
  • This product is comfortable to wear for long periods.
  • This product is suitable for a variety of purposes.
  • It provides a 200-degree range of vision.

A Respirator Buying Guide

We understand that not all of our readers no what respirators they may want or need, so we decided to not only review the best respirators but also write a guide on the subject. We wanted to write a guide that will help our readers find a mask based upon its features and what they need the respirator to protect them from. The following guide is hopefully the information that most of our readers are going to appreciate when they’re looking for a new respirator that fits their needs. 

Who Needs A Respirator?

Before we officially kick off the buying portion of this guide, we thought that it might be useful to list some of the jobs that may require a respirator. This piece of equipment is known as Personal Protective Equipment or PPE, and there’s a variety of jobs that require their workers to wear PPE. This includes firefighters, painters, contractors, some factory workers, and medical personnel. These masks are designed for anyone who wants to protect their health against vapors, chemicals, or other harmful materials that the wearer could breathe in. 

Choosing A Respirator

One of the first things that the consumer is going to do when considering a new respirator is whether they need a particulate or a vapor/gas respirator. Since these are two very different types of respirators, we thought that we’d go over a brief explanation of each type, so all of our readers will understand the difference between the two models. 

Particulate Respirators

Particulate respirators are designed to remove dust or fine mists from the surrounding air. These models are designed to be inexpensive, easy-to-wear, and to be lightweight. Generally speaking, these models do not protect the wearer against vapors or gases, although some of them are equipped with carbon filters to remove annoying odors from the air. Every particulate respirator is assigned a letter and a number that tells the user what they’re good for and how they filter out particulates. For example, an N95 respirator is not resistant to oil but removes at least 95% of particulates from the air. Let’s take a look at the common letters and numbers assigned to these respirators. 

Respirators Letters:

  • N: This respirator isn’t resistant to oils.
  • R: This respirator is somewhat resistant to most oils.
  • P: This respirator resists all oils.

Respirator Numbers:

  • 95: This product removes at least 95% of all target particles.
  • 99: This product removes at least 99% of all target particles.
  • 100: This product removes at least 99.97% of all target particles. 

Gas/Vapor Respirators

As their name implies, these respirators are designed to deal with gas and/or vapors that the wearer could inhale. These products use color-coded cartridges that tell the wearer what hazards they’re protecting them against. In order for these respirators to be effective, the wearer must match up the proper color-coded cartridge to the job they’re doing. Below are a sampling of some of the more common color codes used for respirator cartridges, so let’s take a quick look at them.

  • White Cartridges: These filter out acid gases.
  • Pink Cartridges: These filter out ammonia gas.
  • Black Cartridges: These filter out organic vapor.
  • Yellow Cartridges: These filter out organic vapor/acid gases.

Additional Features To Think About

The above features are the basics that the consumer is going to think about when purchasing a new respirator. Most people who are unfamiliar with these products are amazed just how simple buying a respirator can be. As long as they match the particulate respirator with the right number and letter, or match the vapor respirator with the proper cartridge color, then the wearer will have the protection they need. Having said that, however, there are a few final things that we’d like to discuss that the consumer also needs to consider before they finalize their respirator purchase. Let’s take a quick look at them. 

Other Features To Consider:

  • Certification by the National Institute For Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH)
  • The respirator has to be the right size to be used effectively
  • Some models are for occupational use and others are not
  • Vented models make breathing easier and help to prevent fogging

Using A Respirator Correctly

Once the consumer decides on the type of respirator they need, they then have to use that properly to get the best results from it. Below are some tips that will help our readers use their respirators effectively and safely.

  • Facial hair and piercings that obstruct the mask’s ability to properly seal must be removed.
  • Filters have to be changed regularly and according to the product’s directions.
  • Respirators rated for home use must not be used for occupational use.