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What's the difference?
How do they work?
When is it better to use a full facepiece respirator?
If you haven't guessed from the name, half-face respirators cover only the mouth and nose, while full-face respirators cover the entire face, including the eyes. Both types should have a range of filters, pre-filters and cartridges that are installed depending on the type of hazard you will be exposed to.
A full-face respirator provides a higher level of protection than a half-face respirator. It has better sealing characteristics because it seals the entire face, not just around the nose and mouth. Because it covers the eyes and face, it also protects against liquid splashes and irritating vapors.
Remember, choosing the right filter for the job and wearing the respirator correctly is just as important as getting the right respirator itself! Also, if you're working in a poorly ventilated or oxygen-deprived area, you'll need more than just a respirator - check out welding helmets with air-purifying respirators. Click here to find out why.
Full-face and half-face respirators work the same way when it comes to protecting your respiratory system. Both masks should cover your mouth and nose, while the full-face style may also cover your eyes. A built-in valve is used to enable you to exhale easily while keeping the bad stuff out as you inhale. To capture any particles, gases or vapors, pre-filters, filters and/or cartridges are attached to the outside of the mask.
When working with hazards that may irritate the eyes
When splash and spray protection and eye protection are required
When other protective equipment is not required to be worn at the same time - for example, face shields, earmuffs may get in the way
When dealing with fine particulate matter, such as dust or spray paint - a full Mask provides a better seal and protects the entire face
When prescribed glasses are not required, as the arms can interfere with the seal.
The best masks for emergencies are respirators because they prevent bad stuff from getting into your respiratory system. Bandanas, dust masks, and surgical masks are not respirators and are not something you should rely on in emergencies!
Respirators have a nice cost/weight/volume to benefit ratio, especially the smaller disposable ones, and should be in every emergency kit.
Yet many preppers either overlook them entirely, think N95 is the answer to everything, or buy a cheap gas Mask while believing they can bug out to Chernobyl.
There are common but serious misunderstandings about lingo, how they work, and what types of masks work well for emergencies (rather than masks meant for painting or sawing).
For example, the masks you see many people wear during daily life in Asia do almost nothing to protect you from external threats like disease — they are designed to protect other people from you.
When people refer to “gas masks”, those are respirators. So are the disposable N95/P100 ones that form a tight seal around your nose and mouth, or the half-face versions commonly used in industrial or construction settings.
During the 2017 wildfires that choked major California cities with smoke, local stores completely sold out as people rushed in to buy masks. So, you can’t depend on finding respirator masks.