Folks often ask us which respirator to use for spray painting and automotive body work. There are a some good options out there and the type of filter and respirator mask will depend largely on the type of work you do, and how often you are doing it.
For instance, if you are sanding Bondo, grinding or doing other body work that is likely to create particles in the air, a standard 3M 2097 filter will grab everything down to 3 microns (that’s 99.9% of all airborne contaminants) and keep it out of your lungs. The 2097 also has a thin layer of charcoal to absorb low-level odors.
You’ve got lots of different options as to what type of respirator you can attach those 3M filters to. There are inexpensive options such as the 3M 6000 Half Facepiece Respirator for under $11. Of course, if you are doing this type of work every day, especially the painting, you are going to need something more advanced.
The most basic set-up for (non-urethane) spray painting is going to be the 3M 6001 cartridge with the 5P71 pre-filters and 501 retainers. Assuming you have to keep the mask on for quite a while with some jobs, this is a great mask. Made of soft silicone, the 7500 series of mask is non-allergenic and super comfortable to wear for a long day in the shop.
Of course your lungs aren’t the only things that need protection. Protective eye-wear should always be worn, or a full-face mask such as the Moldex 9000 Full Face Respirator. The full-face respirators are great (and predictably more expensive) because they keep the paint and fumes away from your eyes and face. You’ll still need a cartridge for organic vapors and a p100 pre-filter to keep out the particulate matter.
There is an even better option with a positive pressure masks such as the 3M GVP-PSK Paint Spray System. These are highly mobile and push air up to the mask instead of the wearer having to pull the air through the respirator cartridges. It makes it easier to breathe, and there is no fear of having the fumes or particles sucked into the mask as you work. Like the 6001 Organic Vapors cartridges, this system will handle most solvent based paints, but it isn’t going to work with paints containing isocyanates.
Even the positive air pressure respirator (PAPR) systems are probably an advanced hobbyist solution because the filters are so expensive if you are using it every day. The guys who are painting for a living often use a supplied air system. Instead of filtering the ambient air, systems like the Allegro Full Face Mask Airline Respirator System pump air from a clean atmosphere through a hose to a full face mask. It’s a little more work moving the hose around, but less weight on your hips compared to the PAPR systems.
So there you have it, the long answer to the question of which respirator is best for automotive work and spray painting.
Thanks for reading.