Choosing The Best Dust Mask

For years, I’ve searched and searched for a better combination of dust masks and safety glasses. As avid woodworkers, we don’t want to go without either of them—right? Dust is our enemy. Our lungs and eyes are indispensable. This post will give you some pointers and recommendations for choosing the best dust mask—and without spending a lot of money.
Fortunately, there are many ways to minimize or almost eliminate the ill-effects of dust in your workshop. Dust collectors are a big help, and one day, I’ll write an article about them, but I want to talk about the first line of defense—the dust mask.

I’ve done a little research and experimenting in this area, and thought I would briefly spotlight a few products and share a tip or two.

Pictured above is a standard dust mask that I purchased from Home Depot. It’s light, inexpensive, simple to put on, but it does fog up my safety glasses. However, I recently learned about one tip to get around the fogging problem. Someone suggested I use some tape to seal the gap between the top of the dust mask and my skin. So, I purchased some Nexcare tape, normally used for bandaging. You can see the tape in the picture above. The Nexcare tape works well, but a little bit of a hassle to apply. And once I sealed that top section, I found it more difficult to breath through the mask.

The next product I tried was a Dust Bee Gone mask (pictured below). I purchased it from Woodcraft. This dust mask is simple, lightweight, and easy to breath through. It is washable and should last for a long time. But there were a couple of drawbacks for me. First, it cost $41, and second, it still fogged up my glasses.

choosing the best dust mask

I also purchased a household multi-purpose respirator (the 6000 Series) from Home Depot (see picture below). It’s made by 3M and costs about $30. This mask seals nicely around my mouth and nose, so I didn’t have problems with fogging. However, I did’t like the bulkiness and weight. Still, it’s a good mask.

choosing the best dusk mask

The last mask is the one I regularly use and recommend. It’s a 3M 8511 dust mask (see picture below). I like it’s lightness, and it has a vent toward the bottom that helps direct moisture away from your safety glasses. After adjusting the metal tab around the nose area, I didn’t experience any fogging with this mask. I purchased this mask from Home Depo, for about $5.

choosing the best dust mask

Some final thoughts:

Always pick the appropriate mask for the work you will be doing. The masks in this post are all designed for woodworking. You will also notice in all the pictures that I used standard, inexpensive safety glasses. The type of work you perform may also dictate the most appropriate type of glasses to use. I definitely recommend safety glasses with side shields and the standard ANSI ratings. There may be more expensive glasses on the market that seal around your eyes better, and thus eliminate the fogging issue.

How about you? Do you have other recommendations on dust masks and safety glasses?

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9 comments on “Choosing The Best Dust Mask

  1. Cindy Navarro

    A very good respirator with a good rating is an Elipse. It has replaceable filters, doesn’t fog up my glasses and has adjustable elastic on both the top and the bottom

    1. Scott Johnson

      Thanks for the tip about Elipse. I will look into that. Is it a comfortable fit for you?

  2. Daniel Feeser

    For many people the masks you show are adequate to prevent sensitivity reactions such as raw throat, coughing, and wheesing. For others like me they are they are woefully inadequate. I find I need a powered air purifying respirator to prevent reactions to walnut and other dark woods. I use a 3M helmet with face shield and HEPA filters on my system and this along with a high volume vacuum system allow me to sand walnut on my lathe without problems.

    Also note that the masks you picture are not intended for people with beards, mustaches, goatees,etc

    1. Scott Johnson

      Thanks for the feedback, Daniel. I realize the masks I mention here may not be the best for everyone. Perhaps i should have retitled this post: “Choosing the Best Dust Mask for You.” Do you think you have an above average sensitivity or not? I will agree about Walnut. It messes with me also. It seems to produce some very fine, irritating dust. I hear a lot of complaints about Cocobolo, but it doesn’t seem to bother me as much as walnut. You bring up a good point about beards and mustaches. Thanks for the tip on the 3M Helmet.

  3. John Skarja

    This article is of very little value. The author’s prime criteria seems to be whether or not his glasses fog. The author says “I’ve done a little research and experimenting…….” Research in what?

    The filtering capability of the various examples doesn’t seem to matter here. There is no explanation, nor even a mention of the difference between the N95 rating on the 3M 8511 and the N100 or P100 on the 3M 6000 series.

    When choosing a dust mask, the most important criteria to look at is the filtering capability of the mask.

    “Choosing the Best Dust Mask” certainly does not describe the content of this article.

    1. Scott Johnson

      John … Thanks for the feedback. Perhaps I should have given more weight to the filtering capability. I’ll admit the research I’m referring to here was based more on trying on (experiential) various dust masks for comfort and fit. Yes, the fogging issue was a big deal to me. I believe you need to be comfortable when taking on any woodworking project. Some of these masks also tended to irritate my skin or fit too tight. Would you agree or not agree that the masks I mention are at least adequate for most people? I realize that people have different sensitivity levels to wood dust or some may have longer exposure levels and might need something different. Feel free to elaborate on what you think are better or the best protection. I created this website for everyone’s input and so everyone can contribute more wisdom and knowledge. Thanks!

  4. Robin Henry

    Here in Australia, I use my Dust Bee Gone mask for turning pens and all small work. However, I do at times get frustrated with it as it does tend to fog up glasses.
    For all other lathe work, I use my Triton full face powered respirator. Unfortunately, these masks are no longer manufactured.

    1. Scott Johnson

      Thanks for the comment Robin!

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