The 10 Best Respirators

Updated June 14, 2017 by Jeff Newburgh

10 Best Respirators
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 36 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. If you work with paint, resins, fiberglass or hazardous chemicals, or a lot of dust tends to accumulate at your construction site, one of these handy respirators will be an essential tool for keeping your lungs safe while your field of view is unobstructed. Many of our options are designed with anti-fog lenses and replaceable filters, and are comfortable enough for all-day use. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best respirator on Amazon.

10. Moldex 2700 N95

The Moldex 2700 N95 comes as a set of 10, each one with an innovative strap and buckle design that allows it to either fit securely on your face or hang down around your neck when it's not in active use. Its sleek and solid black color won't show dirt over time.
  • resist collapsing in heat
  • thin design helps to keep users cool
  • the nasal holes are rather small
Brand Moldex
Model MX-2700
Weight 11.2 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

9. Breath Buddy BBPBP001

Obtain reliable protection with the affordable and lightweight Breath Buddy BBPBP001. Capable of blocking out organic vapors, fumes, and pollen, this reusable solution comes complete with everything you need to ensure your safety, including a pair of high-quality goggles.
  • filters last up to 40 hours
  • lightweight design
  • the straps are a bit flimsy
Brand Minor Miracle Home Solu
Model BBPBP001
Weight 15.5 ounces
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

8. Miller LPR-100

The Miller LPR-100 provides up to 99.97% filtration effectiveness against hazardous dust and other airborne particles, making it a great choice for use at standard construction sites. Its low-profile design allows it to pair easily with a welding helmet.
  • pleated filters are easy to change
  • wraparound spark guard
  • does not block odors
Brand Miller Electric
Model ML00895
Weight 8.8 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

7. Stanley RST-64027

The Stanley RST-64027 has been crafted with a mixture of latex-free, non-allergenic elastomer and silicone to ensure a snug, comfortable fit in any working situation. Its sealing flange is contoured to prevent the occurrence of uncomfortable pressure points on your face.
  • built-in exhalation valve
  • very affordable price
  • the cartridges are pretty heavy
Brand Stanley
Model RST-64027
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

6. Safety Works 817663

With its patented soft and flexible face piece and tight air seal, you'll feel confident that the Safety Works 817663 is doing its job to protect you from harm, even when exposed to dangerous materials like toxic dust, lead and asbestos.
  • unobtrusive low-profile cartridges
  • resealable packaging for storage
  • not as durable as its competition
Brand Safety Works
Model 817663
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

5. 3M 7162

Engineered as a reusable respirator with changeable filters and cartridges, the 3M 7162 is a great option for professional painters, exterminators, firefighters, and other industrial workers who are forced to spend extended time around potentially harmful chemicals.
  • head straps are easy to adjust
  • additional face piece is included
  • it's on the bulky side
Brand 3M
Model 7162
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

4. Honeywell North 068-54001

Prepare yourself for any on-the-job eventuality by wearing the Honeywell North 068-54001. Its chin cup makes it easy to properly position the entire face piece with minimal effort, while the oral/nasal cup works to minimize the re-breathing of stale exhaled air.
  • meets impact resistance standards
  • 3 peel-away windows
  • 6 wipes and storage bag are included
Brand Honeywell
Model 1233V29EA
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

3. SAS Safety Opti-Fit

The SAS Safety Opti-Fit features a secure, 5-point head strap and a nose cup designed to prevent excess fogging of its scratch-resistant lens. An organic vapor cartridge and particulate filter are also included for safety in industrial environments.
  • converts to supplied-air respirator
  • 3-year limited warranty
  • large viewing area
Brand SAS Safety
Model 7650-61
Weight 2.4 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

2. 3M Ultimate FX FF-401

Engineered with both comfort and practicality in mind, the 3M Ultimate FX FF-401 is equipped with a patented Cool Flow valve for promoting easy breathing, while simultaneously working to prevent the internal buildup of hot and humid air when working outdoors.
  • passive speaking diaphragm
  • head cradle reduces pressure points
  • available in small medium and large
Brand 3M
Model FF-401
Weight 1.8 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

1. Allegro 9901

The Allegro 9901 is a continuous flow supplied-air solution made from sturdy silicone rubber and designed to provide superior durability in extreme hot and cold conditions. Its replaceable, high-impact polycarbonate lens offers a wide and distortion-free viewing area.
  • 5-point harness
  • fog- and scratch-resistant coating
  • easily fits under most hard hats
Brand Allegro Industries
Model 9901
Weight 2.4 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

The Air We Breathe

Regardless of whether you're a fireman, construction worker, or medical professional, chances are you're constantly being exposed to airborne contaminants like dust, debris, harmful gases, and even viruses. These types of situations provide the perfect opportunity to use one or various types of respirators in order to keep yourself healthy and safe from harm.

While all respirators are characterized by having some type of face piece designed to create a seal between fresh and contaminated air, they fall into one of two major categories, air-purifying and air-supplied varieties.

Air-purifying respirators (APRs) force contaminated air (like smoke or fumes) through a filtering element, through which they are able to remove particles, toxic vapors, or gases, making them appropriate for use in environments with low levels of contamination. Their classifications include negative-pressure devices, that make use of mechanical filters, and positive-pressure units like powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs), which utilize both filters and a motor blower to provide fresh air to the user. Air-purifying units are further broken down into particle-filtering (PFRs) and vapor and gas filtering subcategories. Particle-filtering respirators are specifically-dedicated to removing dusts, mists, aerosols and fumes by creating a physical barrier to block the path of these substances, while vapor and gas filtering devices actually remove more dangerous gases and vapors from the air the user is breathing.

Interestingly enough, the design for the face pieces of air-purifying respirators can be disposable, quartered, half-sized, or they can cover the user's face entirely. Disposable respirators are the type you might use around the house when vacuuming dusty areas or doing a lot of cleaning that would require the use of aerosols to get rid of messes or freshen the air. Quarter-mask respirators are usually equipped with special cartridges or cloth filters and they fit over the space between the top of the nose and chin. Half-mask respirators fit from under the chin to just directly above the nose and are designed to protect users from more volatile chemicals like pesticides, acid gases, and ammonia. They will also leverage multiple cartridges dedicated to filtering out individual contaminants from the air. These cartridges are then disposed of once they've reached their limits. Like their half-mask counterparts, full-face respirators make use of chin-mounted canisters, each with specially-dedicated cartridges for filtering individual contaminants.

Supplied-air respirators are built for environments with low levels of oxygen and in circumstances where contaminants cannot be filtered out by their APR counterparts. They are best for use in enclosed areas with highly-contaminated air, such as hazardous waste sites, and are divided into both the Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) and the Air Line Respirator (ALR) categories. With an SCBA, a separate air tank is carried by the user, whereas the ALR has its air supply located a certain distance away and is carried to the user's face piece by an air hose.

May The Force Of Air Be With You

In most situations, a respirator is going to be used as a preventive or protective tool and not necessarily something you're going to wear for fun, considering its functionality. So, before you start running around and emulating Darth Vader, you need to know what you're doing and what type of respirator will work best for your situation to keep you safe.

First, one must determine the type of environment in which the device will be used. If you're planning to work in an industrial capacity around a lot of volatile chemicals or in enclosed places with low levels of oxygen, then a supplied-air respirator may be best.

Next, training is a big factor in the proper operation of the device, especially with one that requires the use of dedicated filters or cartridges to eliminate specific chemicals and gases. Learning how to properly install, use, and replace these components can mean the difference between life and death. That being said, chances are that if you work for an industrial supplier or a fire department, you've probably been exposed to at least some type of training for using a respirator properly.

Besides the filters, one must be aware of the specific maintenance and storage requirements for the device they choose. Many respirators require specific conditions for optimal storage, cleaning, and checks to ensure air supplies, straps, and components are up to code.

Finally, while this might be a no-brainer, ensuring the respirator fits properly and doesn't obstruct your view when wearing it will be an important consideration. If you were a firefighter, for example, a purified-air respirator would do you little good if you couldn't see where you were going when trying to extinguish flames or quickly rescue trapped bystanders from a burning building.

A Brief History Of Respirators

The concept of using respiratory equipment to protect one's self from the dangers of pollution and toxic gases was originally pioneered by Gaius Plinius Secundus (or Pliny the Elder) as early as the first century CE. Pliny recommended the use of animal bladder skins to protect Roman mine workers from inhaling lead oxide dust.

By the sixteenth century, Leonardo da Vinci suggested that a finely-woven cloth dipped in water could protect sailors from a toxic powder weapon he had created. Through the middle of the seventeenth century, most of the early designs for primitive respirators consisted of some type of rubber or rubberized fabric bag placed completely over the head and fastened around the throat with a viewing window, while also accompanied by a tank of compressed air under slight pressure.

The first patented United States air-purifying respirator was granted to Lewis P. Haslett in 1848 for his innovative Haslett Lung Protector device designed to remove dust from the surrounding air using one-way clapper valves and a moistened wool filter. Following Haslett's invention, additional innovations for air-purifying respirators continued to be developed. Such inventions included Scottish chemist John Stenhouse's previous studies around the use of activated charcoal for constructing one of the first practical respirators for firefighters in 1854, and Hutson Hurd's design for a cup-shaped mask in 1879, which became widespread within the industrial workforce where it continued to maintain its popularity through the 1970's.

Following World War One, the military took a large interest in the use of respirator technology to defend against chemical warfare, leading to the development of inexpensive filters made from resin-infused dust by the 1930's. Further filter developments led to their construction from fine glass fibers, which could eliminate more particulate matter without excess breathing resistance.

Although modern respirators are designed with more sophisticated materials than their pre-war counterparts, their fundamental operation remains the same with a forward-facing focus on maintaining both worker and civilian health in times when worldwide pollution levels are increasing.

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Last updated on June 14, 2017 by Jeff Newburgh

A dedicated writer and communications professional spending his days lost in the intricacies of both proposal and freelance writing. When not sharing the knowledge of both fully and self-insured medical benefits to employer groups of all industries within California, Jeff Newburgh can be found at home spending time with his family and 3 dogs, pondering the next chew toy to be thrown, while kicking back and relaxing with a nice glass of red wine.

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