If you’re anything like me – you aren’t a big fan of wearing a dust mask.
I’m a sweater, so wearing a mask always makes me sweat even worse by trapping in all my hot air and it just makes me super uncomfortable.
So you may be wondering, do I even need a dust mask when woodworking?
The answer is most likely “yes.”
Even if you have a shop vac hooked up to your band saw and do other dust-minimizing activities, you’ll still generate some amount of dust – and woodworking dust tends to be very fine/small. You don’t want that stuff getting into your lungs.
This is our guide to the best dust mask for woodworking, with the goal of making sure you understand the pros and cons of any mask you choose.
Table of contents
WHY DO I NEED A MASK?
The National Health Admin recommends that the average amount of fine dust in wood shop air be no more than 1mg/cubic meter over a 10-hour shop session. That really is a very small amount of dust, so with the use of all the different tools like routers, band saws, and sanding – dust is unavoidable.
If you do woodworking often, or plan to, you really shouldn’t overlook the importance of having a dust mask that is comfortable and gets the job done.
DISPOSABLE WOODWORKING DUST MASKS
Disposable dust masks are obviously the cheapest option. The downside is that they aren’t the most comfortable and they are typically one size fits all style – so the fit is often less than perfect.
You end up trying to form the mask around your nose tightly enough, so you want to make sure to get a quality disposable mask so you can achieve a better fit and stay protected. This is especially true when you are having a marathon woodworking session that lasts all day. You don’t want to keep going through masks because you saved a few bucks by buying the cheapest one…
The best disposable mask for woodworking is the N95 Dust Particle Mask by 3M.
The N95 Meets or exceeds the NIOSH N95 standard recommendation by both the CDC and WHO for health care workers treating airborne diseases.
This kind of mumbo jumbo is important because not all masks have filtration required for fine particle dust. If you don’t go with this particular model, you do want to make sure that you have a multi-layer mask designed to keep out fine dust particles.
WHY WE LIKE IT:
- Comfy Straps – This makes for a much more secure fit than a single strap design. This fits snugly for a disposable mask.
- High Quality Materials – It feels better than most disposables and really does what it is supposed to – keep dust out.
REUSABLE DUST MASKS FOR WOODWORKING
If you want to take a step up, then you should strongly consider a reusable mask.
In fact, you might invest a little more upfront, but eventually being able to wash and reuse your dust mask will pay for itself.
The best reusable dust mask for the money is the “Comfy Mask.”
You can tell from the photo above, that it has a jersey-like material which is so much more comfortable during a full day of work that a disposable mask. It actually seems to breathe a little, so you won’t be as hot as you would be behind a disposable mask.
WHY WE LIKE IT:
- Breathable material – Compared to disposables, you’ll feel cooler and like you can breathe better inside the mask.
- Comfortable to wear – No nose pinching metal piece, this just fits over your face with a flexible material
- Use it 100 times – It’s rated for being washed and reused 100 times – so in the end you save money over disposable masks
Because it’s reusable, you actually won’t feel bad about using it for working in the yard and doing other projects besides woodworking.
THE CADILLAC OF DUST MASKS
If you want to take it up another level, then a power air respirator is the way to go.
Is it worth it?
I suppose it’s up to you.
But in this conversation, it really is the Cadillac of “dust masks,” which means you’ll pay a Cadillac price.
A power respirator has a constant air flow, so you stay cool. It is also a bit overkill perhaps – since you could use it to treat asbestos or lead situations.
In our case we’re only concerned with fine particle wood dust.
If you do want to go the power respirator route, you won’t do better than the 3M Powerflow Air Purifier.
WHY WE LIKE IT:
- Air Flow – The constant air flow feels amazing and keeps you supremely cool when working long hours
- Fog Free – This thing does a great job of keeping fog off the glass, mainly because of the air flow. Visibility is superb.
- Multi-purpose – This mask is good enough to protect you in almost any situation – not just woodworking dust.
If you are pretty serious woodworker, this may be worth the investment – but it’s hard to pass up the fact that you can but hundreds of disposable masks for what you’d pay for a high tech contraption like this…
Hopefully this was helpful in making your decision.