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Maintenance-Free Respirators

Maintenance-free respirators are one of the most common types. You don't clean or maintain these respirators after use. You simply throw them away. They are worn to capture particles. But they also may guard against nuisance odors (smells that are unpleasant, but not dangerous).

Don't wear a maintenance-free dust mask to protect against gases and vapors. Also don't wear them for immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) settings. These include areas with oxygen deficiencies or highly concentrated hazards.

How maintenance-free respirators work

A maintenance-free respirator (also called a disposable respirator or a dust mask) is a simple filtering device. It fits over the nose and mouth. The mask then traps particles as you inhale. Some may have an exhalation valve to help ease breathing. These respirators are best for tasks that have a low to moderate hazard, such as:

  • Woodworking

  • Sanding

  • Insulating

  • Sweeping

  • Mixing

How to put them on

The steps below will help you put your respirator on the right way. To work, a respirator must fit snugly around the mouth and nose. These respirators require "fit testing" to ensure a proper fit before general use. Facial hair, dentures or other dental work, skin problems, and glasses can prevent proper fitting. Talk to your supervisor if you can't get a good fit.

Step 1

Place the mask over your mouth and nose. Position the lower strap first, then the upper strap.

Man putting upper strap of dust mask over his head.

Step 2

Gently press the nose seal so it molds to your face. Don't pinch it sharply.

Man pressing nose seal of dust mask onto his nose.

Step 3

Cup both hands over the mask and exhale. If no air leaks out, you have a tight seal.

Man testing seal of dust mask over nose and mouth.

When to replace them

Replace a maintenance-free respirator if its inside gets exposed to hazards. Also replace after 1 use or according to the guidelines of your employer or the manufacturer.

Online Medical Reviewer: Allen J Blaivas DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2021
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