Respirators are designed to protect you against fumes and dust that you could breathe in when doing DIY projects. But do you need one for refinishing and painting furniture? Yes, in many cases, it’s a good idea. This article will explain why they’re so important and give you some of my recommendations for the best respirators for refinishing and painting furniture.
What is a Respirator Mask?
A respirator mask is a face covering that filters out small particles and stops you from breathing them in. They are different from a simple face mask because they use advanced filters to trap smaller particles and give you much better protection. There are several different types of respirators to choose from.
Many have replaceable filters, so you can swap them out when they reach the end of their useful lifespan and no longer effectively trap contaminants. Some respirators also use replaceable cartridges instead of filters. These are called Elastomeric respirators and they come in different shapes and sizes. Half-face respirators protect you from breathing in contaminants but you can also get a full-face respirator that protects your eyes too.
There are also disposable respirators that are thrown away altogether once the filters are worn out. You can get face masks with more advanced filters in them, but these are less effective than a proper respirator.
How Important are Respirators When Refinishing Furniture?
Respirators are very important when refinishing furniture because there are a lot of harmful things you can breathe in at every stage of the process. When you are sanding wooden furniture, the tiny dust particles can damage your lungs. You also have fumes from varnish and paint, especially when using oil-based products with lots of strong solvents. Without the right protection, you can do a lot of damage to your health.
What Do Respirators Protect You From?
Respirators protect you from a variety of potentially harmful substances. They can filter out harmful fumes from paint, stain, varnishes, cleaners, paint strippers, etc. Respirators also block out larger particles like dust from sanding wood or grinding metal. You should also wear a respirator if you are coming into contact with smoke or mold particles too.
However, it’s vital that you know the different types of filter and what they protect you from. Some will not filter out gasses and vapors, for example, so you won’t have protection from fumes. I will discuss the different types of filters and how to find the right ones in more detail later.
5 Best Respirators for Refinishing Furniture
1. 3M Half Facepiece Reusable Respirator 6200
3M is one of the top respirator brands. They’re known for their excellent quality reusable respirators that are comfortable and offer great protection. This Half Facepiece Reusable Respirator 6200 is a great example. It is compatible with all types of 3M filter cartridges, so you can adjust it for any job, which is ideal for furniture refinishing.
The mask itself is very lightweight and the adjustable straps make it easy to get a good fit. Not only does this make it more comfortable, but it also eliminates any small gaps around the edges, so you get full protection.
This is an excellent respirator, especially considering the price, and it’s ideal for any home DIY projects, including refinishing furniture. While it may not last if used for industrial purposes, it’s more than durable enough for home use. It doesn’t come with filters but you can use the chart on the product page to help you choose the right ones for the job.
2. Parcil Safety PT-60 Half Face Organic Vapor & Particulate Respirator
This Parcil Safety PT-60 Half Face Organic Vapor and Particulate Respirator is designed with welding in mind, but it’s equally as good for refinishing furniture. The combination filter protects against vapors and large particles from sanding and the filters are very quick and easy to swap out. The adjustable head harness makes it simple to get a good fit and it’s nice and comfortable. The great thing about this respirator is that it has a brilliant voice amplification diaphragm as well, so you don’t need to shout to be heard while you’re wearing it. As it’s designed for use with welding masks, you can easily fit a pair of safety glasses with it.
This respirator is great value because it comes complete with two filters, so you don’t need to buy them separately.
3. 3M Rugged Comfort Quick Latch Half Facepiece Reusable Respirator 6503QL
This 3M Rugged Comfort Quick Latch Respirator is excellent if you don’t particularly like wearing a respirator and you find them uncomfortable. It has a great latch so you can easily take it on and off. The Cool Flow breathing valve prevents the strained breathing that you get with some other respirators, making it more comfortable to wear for long periods. The simple connector is compatible with all 3M filters, and they’re easy to change when needed.
Considering the quality and comfort of the mask, and the level of filtration you get, this respirator is great value. It’s also one of the best to use in conjunction with safety goggles because the air flow is directed downwards when you breathe out, so the goggles don’t fog up.
4. 3M Reusable Respirator Half Face Piece 7502
This 3M Reusable Respirator Half Face Piece 7502 respirator has the same silicone face seal and easy breathing valve that you find on the Comfort Quick Latch model, but it’s a softer, more pliable material. The soft silicone mask makes it ideal for wearing for long periods, so it’s good for sanding, cleaning, and finishing furniture. It’s also particularly good for people that wear glasses. A lot of respirators with harder face pieces will push the glasses into your face, making it very uncomfortable to wear. But the soft material on this one prevents that problem, so you can wear your glasses and see what you’re doing while also protecting your lungs.
Although this mask is a bit more expensive than other 3M respirators, but if you have trouble with comfort (or wear glasses) and you will be wearing it for a long time, it’s worth the money.
5. Parcil Safety PD-100 Full Face Organic Vapor & Particulate Respirator
Wearing a half face respirator with safety goggles can be uncomfortable and a bit awkward. Some respirators are better than others, but if you want eye protection, you should consider a full face respirator like this Parcil Safety PD-100 model. This is a heavy-duty industrial respirator, so it can easily protect you from fumes and sanding debris when refinishing furniture. The eye protection is great when using a paint sprayer too because it can get messy.
It is compatible with PA 1 bayonet style filter cartridges and you get some included in the box too. The mask also has a great air circulation feature that stops it from fogging up, even when wearing it for extended periods.
If you’re looking for something that will give you full face protection and good filtration, this mask is ideal. However, compared with some of the high end 3M masks, it’s going to be slightly less comfortable for long periods.
What Type of Filter Cartridges Should You Be Using for Furniture Refinishing?
Choosing the right type of filter cartridge is crucial because you need to ensure you are protected from the right types of contaminants. There are three main types available; particulate filters, gas and vapor filters, and combination filters.
Particulate filters protect against particles. This includes dust from sanding, smoke, mold, bacteria, and aerosols. Gas and vapor cartridges only protect against gasses and vapors, as you’d expect. There are different types of gas and vapor cartridges for certain substances. Finally, you have combination filters that protect against particles and gasses and vapors.
When refinishing furniture, you should use a combination filter or a gas and vapor filter because you have vapors from the paint and varnish, as well as large particles from sanding. Using a particulate filter on its own will only protect against dust but not the fumes from paint or varnish.
Respirator Filters to Use for Furniture Painting and Refinishing:
Each respirator is compatible with specific filters. Before starting a new project, always double check the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure that you are getting the right filter, or you will not be properly protected. These are some of the best options to use for painting projects:
3M P100 Respirator Cartridge/Filter 60923
The 3M P100 Respirator Cartridge/Filter 60923 is a cartridge filter that uses glass fiber paper to trap a range of gasses and vapors. It is compatible with most 3M reusable respirators and is recommended for use when painting. It protects you from contaminants including, chlorine, hydrogen chloride, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and hydrogen fluoride. When it is fitted to a half face piece, it will protect you against gasses and vapors up to ten times the Permissible Exposure Limit. This is more than enough to keep you safe when using solvent-based paints or finishes on your furniture. The P100 particulate filter will trap any particles of 0.3 microns or smaller. For reference, one micron is one thousandth of a millimeter, so the filter will easily catch any fumes and dust from refinishing furniture.
3M P100 Respirator Cartridge/Filter 60921
The 3M P100 Respirator Cartridge/Filter 60921 also uses a glass fiber paper filter to trap small particles, gasses and vapors. It can be used with most half face and full face 3M masks and is also suitable for painting. This filter is only designed to protect against organic vapors and not acid gas, like the 60923 model. However, that should not be an issue when using most standard paints. If you are unsure whether this filter will protect you properly, check the guidelines on the paint to see what the potential dangers are.
3M Respirator Cartridge 6003
The 3M Respirator Cartridge 6003 is a basic cartridge that protects against a variety of gasses and vapors. They fit 3M respirators from the 6000 and 7000 series, with a bayonet fitting. Other 3M respirators or other brands may not be compatible. This cartridge is recommended for painting applications and filters out pollutants like formaldehyde, ammonia, methylamine, and acid gasses.
P-A-1 Dual Filter Set
This P-A-1 Dual Filter Set – Combination Organic Vapor and Particulate Filter protects against organic vapors and almost all non-oil based particulates. It will trap any particles 0.3 microns or larger. These are compatible with Parcil respirators, specifically the PD-100 and T-60 respirators. These filters use activated carbon rather than the glass fiber paper that the 3M filters use, but they are equally effective. They give you more than enough protection when painting or staining furniture.
All of the filters and cartridges described above will keep you safe when refinishing furniture. However, you should always check the recommendations on the products you are using because they will have guidelines about what fumes will be given off and what protection you need.
What Filters to Avoid?
Always avoid particulate filters when refinishing furniture. I actually made this mistake when I started, in one of my videos I am spraying lacquer and I had people commenting that I had the wrong respirator on. This led to me doing some proper research so I could throw this article together.
Although particulate filters are great for filtering out large dust particles, they will not trap the fumes that come off paint and varnish, so you still do a lot of damage to your lungs.
You should also be aware of any cheap filters and brands that you have not heard of before. Filters are quite complex and they need to be well-made to give you adequate protection, so don’t cut corners. Whenever you buy a respirator, you will get detailed information about which filters to use. Always stick to the recommended ones so you can be sure that the quality is good and they fit properly.
How Long Do Respirator Filter Cartridges Last?
Different filter cartridges have different shelf lives, but they are all around 6 months. Once the filter has been opened, even if it has never been used, you should change it after 6 months. This is because it absorbs contaminants from the surrounding air and after 6 months, the filter is no longer effective. That said, the filter cartridge may need to be replaced sooner than 6 months if you are using it regularly.
There are several ways to know when your respirator filter cartridges need to be changed. Firstly, check the expiry date and never exceed it. Secondly, pay attention to what you can smell when you are using it. If you can still smell strong fumes from paint or varnish, the filter isn’t effectively trapping all of the vapors and it needs to be changed. If in doubt, it’s best to be overly cautious and put a new filter in.
Respirators for Furniture Flipping FAQs
Should You Wear a Respirator When Using Paint Stripper?
Yes, absolutely. Paint strippers tend to contain a lot of nasty substances like methanol, toluene, and acetone. These all evaporate very quickly, so paint stripper gives off a lot of strong fumes. If you breathe them in, you will experience headaches, dizziness, and drowsiness in the short term and respiratory damage in the long term. So, always use a respirator.
Should You Wear a Respirator When Brushing or Rolling Water-Based Paint?
Usually, the guidelines on a paint tin will tell you to ensure good ventilation so you don’t breathe in fumes, but they don’t necessarily tell you to use a respirator. However, there is no clear definition of what good ventilation is. There is always the possibility of strong chemicals in paints, especially oil-based products, so if you are concerned, it’s a good idea to wear a respirator to be on the safe side. However, you should always use a respirator when spraying water-based paints.
Should You Wear a Respirator When Sanding Furniture?
Yes. When you sand down furniture, you release lots of dust into the air and if you breathe it in and get it trapped in your lungs, you can do a lot of damage. You can also get it in your eyes too, so wear a respirator and some safety goggles, or use a full face piece respirator. A dust mask will block a lot of the dust, so this is the bare minimum. However, a respirator gives you superior protection and you will need it when painting anyway, so it’s worth investing in.
Should You Wear a Respirator When Using a Paint Sprayer?
Yes, even if the product doesn’t specifically recommend it, you should use a respirator when spraying. Paint sprayers work by forcing the paint out of the nozzle at high speeds and vaporizing it into a fine mist. In that state, you can easily breathe it in and fill your lungs with paint, causing some serious health problems. So, always use a respirator no matter what kind of paint you are spraying.
Should You Wear a Respirator When Applying Wood Filler?
Yes, it’s a good idea. Many wood fillers are toxic and contain lots of strong solvents. If you are working with a small amount and you are outdoors, you may be ok without a respirator. But when working indoors or using a large amount of filler, you should consider using a respirator to protect yourself.
A lot of people don’t think they need a respirator when refinishing furniture, but it’s a good idea to use one. Many of the products you use will give off a lot of fumes and a respirator stops you from breathing it all in. You should definitely use one if you are spraying paint because, once it has been vaporized, the paint can easily fill your lungs. A good respirator is not that expensive and it will make most DIY jobs safer and easier, so it’s a worthwhile investment.