Although it is a personal decision, we strongly recommend wearing a respirator for any welding, grinding or cutting processes. It has been proven that the fumes from these activities can cause long term immune system problems.
We aren’t scientists, but we have come to realize that welders really benefit from wearing respirators on the job. They allow you to perform your daily operations without compromising your respiratory health.
Today, lots of manufacturers have designed respirators that fit under welding hoods. These allow you to stay protected during your work day. Although they can be a little tough to get used to, you’ll be glad to have the safety features that these masks offer.
This guide will cover the top rated respirators that welders and fabricators use on a daily basis. They are professionally designed and have been tested extensively.
Whether you just weld on occasion, or you weld everyday for a living – a respirator should always have a place in your toolbox.
Heavier duty processes such as flux core MIG, stick welding etc. produce more smoke and fumes than other lighter duty processes. This is where respirators come in really handy. They filter the fumes and allow you to weld without worrying about your lungs.
When welding on galvanized steel, respirators are definitely a must have item. Fumes from galvanized steel can cause welders to get zinc poisoning aka “metal fume fever”.
This condition can be deadly, especially if the welding was done in an enclosed area. Even though it isn’t ideal, welding on galvanized steel is sometimes necessary for some jobs. Keeping yourself protected is a huge priority.
Below you’ll find our favorite respirators that welders are using today. With replaceable filter options, these respirators can last for years and are quite durable.
How Do These Respirators Work?
Respirators work by using filters that are extremely effective. With the P100 filters today, 99.97% of harmful particulates are avoided. These P100 filters come in many shapes and sizes, but they all do the same thing – keeping your lungs and body safe.
The respirator can last for a long time, but the filters must be replaced when they wear out. Depending on how often you’re working, you may need new filters once a month or once every few months. For full time welders, these intervals are much shorter considering all of the daily fumes.
The quick change systems on the respirators below allow you to replace filters while you’re on the job. When the respirator becomes harder to breathe through, it is probably an indicator that the filters are old.
P100 filters have been engineered to work in dozens of industries. They will protect you from welding fumes, vapors, dust, aerosols – you name it.
3M 6300 Reusable Respirator
This is one of the best respirator styles we have found. Its replaceable filters allow you to switch them out when they wear out. The actual respirator can last for years if it is properly handled and maintained. Having a safe storage space for your respirator will lower the chances that it will get damaged or abused.
This model from 3M can be disassembled and cleaned to make sure it is in top notch working condition.
The bayonet connection system allows you to use all 3M bayonet filters. These filters remove almost 100% of all particulates and air contaminants. This makes the product suitable for all welding applications as well as most construction projects. These filters simply “screw onto” your respirator with threads. This makes removal quite easy.
The straps are extremely adjustable and can be fit to any head size. No matter what shape your head is, this respirator is designed to be comfortable for long days on the job. Having a mask that doesn’t fit well is a surefire way to get annoyed on the job, 3M has tried to avoid this with all of their respirator technology by ensuring a good fit.
It is also slim enough to fit under most welding hoods. Bulkier respirators do not allow this, but 3M has kept welders in mind to ensure a comfortable under-the-hood fit.
GVS Elipse Respirator
This is a slimmed down version of traditional respirators that allows the user to work with less bulk. Without the bayonet filters that are common, GVS has cut the respirator size nearly in half.
The low profile filters are great for welders since they fit under hoods so easily. They also allow for a larger range of vision since they are very slim.
The low breathing resistance on this respirator makes welders much less likely to get fatigued while out on the job. The pleated HEPA filters allow this easy breathing, which makes them great for hotter days when fatigue is much more likely.
The thermoplastic construction removes the need for latex and silicone. This makes allergic reactions less likely and allows the mask to provide more comfort for the user.
It is available in a small/medium size and a medium/large size. Depending on the shape of your face and head, this gives you two sizing options for maximum comfort.
This mask is NIOSH approved and will filter any particulates that pose a danger to your health. Masks with these ratings help the consumer feel more confident in their decision. If they aren’t top notch particle eliminators, they will not be able to achieve this rating.
7 in 1 Reusable Respirator
This is a great off brand option for folks who are not looking to spend top dollar. It offers a very comfortable fit and has a similar style to the 3M respirator models.
Although this model does have high grade silicone construction, it is quite comfortable on the face and can fit many facial styles and head shapes. However, if you are allergic to silicone, it is best to avoid this mask and opt for a model like the GVS – which does not use silicone.
Thermo plastics are one of the best alternatives if silicone irritates your skin.
One cool feature of this respirator is the exhalation valve cap. As you exhale, it pushes the air and moisture downward which will reduce fogging of safety glasses. Since welders are usually wearing eye protection, this is a good feature that eliminates the annoyance of fog.
The headband on this mask offers superb adjustability which rivals the 3M headbands. It can be easily adjusted to smaller or bigger heads.
For folks who need a reliable, less expensive respirator – this model is worth checking out.
This mask is built with more heavy duty valves than traditional masks. You can be sure that all particulates will be filtered out whether you’re welding, grinding or even painting. These masks cater to welders, but can be used for basically any situation that involves harmful air quality.
This model is on the higher end of the price spectrum, but it offers more durability than a traditional mask.
The neck and head straps are very well built. They ensure a snug fit while remaining comfortable on the job site. The head piece keeps the mask firmly in place even when you are moving around a lot throughout the day. Thicker straps like this are more resistant to abrasion and heavy use.
The sound diaphragm on this respirator allows you to speak easily and be heard while you’re working. Other respirators tend to muffle sounds more, which can make communication with coworkers more tricky. It is important to have constant job site communication to remain safe and on task.
With this model, you can rest assured that your words will come through.
The high quality silicone molding ensures an air tight fit for any face style. If you have an aversion to silicone however, this mask is probably not the best choice.
Although this mask is heavy duty, we found that it will still fit under most welding hoods. While there are some hoods that are a tighter fit, this mask should fit comfortably under most hood models that are on the market.
This model is a bit heavier than the others, so it is not the best choice if you’re looking for a lightweight respirator. It weighs about 1 pound.
Keep in mind that the replacement filters for this model are pricier than other brands. It is something to be aware of if you plan on using this mask. Filters can add up over the course of a year, so be mindful of the replacement prices.
For welders that want a heavy duty, super safe respirator – The PT-60 is definitely worth checking out.
3M Rugged Comfort Respirator
Another top pick from 3M – The rugged comfort has price and ease of use as a top priority.
This respirator has a quick latch design that allows you to unlatch with one hand. When moving in and out of hazardous areas, this allows you to remove the respirator and reattach it with ease.
Similar to the 3M 6300, this model is also compatible with bayonet filters from 3M. These filters have set the industry standard for particle protection and ease of use.
The “cool flow” valve allows the user to exhale more easily. This reduces heat buildup and is easier when working in high heat situations. The cool flow technology is a huge plus for this mask.
Similar to the 7-in-1 model shown above, this 3M mask also directs air and moisture downward to reduce fogging and moisture problems. If you wear safety glasses (which you should!) then this feature is a no brainer must have.
The head cradle on this mask has a 3 notch adjustability feature. Depending on the size of your head, this mask will have you covered. Since head sizes vary so much, these adjustability features are necessary if the mask is to be available to a wide audience.
The low profile of this model allows it to be used with hoods and face shields, and it doesn’t compromise your field of vision.
For a name brand pick, this mask is cost conscious and appeals to the average working welder.
Miller LPR-100 Respirator
Although Miller Electric is known for high end welding products and machines, they decided to dip into the mask market. Miller has a very loyal following and has the support of thousands of welders.
As with most Miller products, this mask doesn’t come cheap. It is on the higher end of price points similar to the PT-60.
The design resembles the GVS Elipse in a lot of ways. The slim design is about as small as a respirator can get while still remaining effective. For welders that want the slimmest respirator possible, the Miller and GVS models are the ticket.
The P100 filters protect users from 99.97% of welding fumes. When you consider not wearing a respirator versus wearing one of these, the results are obvious. Simply wearing one of these respirators will do wonders for your future health.
The problem is that full time welders work a lot! Wearing one of these masks all day can get annoying, but the safety features are enormous.
The straps on this Miller fit nicely with any head style, and their wider construction is more comfortable as opposed to thinner bands which can irritate the skin.
For welders that want to support welding companies, this LPR-100 from Miller is a great pick.
Welders are known for not taking the best care of their health. They’d rather throw some dirt on a cut then put a bandage over it. However, seeing older welders with COPD and serious health problems has caused younger welders to start thinking more.
If retired welders are on oxygen and not doing very well, younger welders can take this and learn from it. If you reach retirement age and are in poor health, then all your hard years of work were not really worth it.
Young welders coming up are wearing respirators more often. We are now aware of the importance of safety and long term health effects if you’re careless.
Welding is dangerous, and so are the fumes that are involved. If you want to make a career out of it, then investing in PPE is a great choice.
Respirators are definitely an “optional” piece of personal protective equipment. Most bosses aren’t going to tell their welders to wear them. It is a personal choice that welders must face.
Some welders will only wear them when there are lots of fumes around. Heavier processes like stick welding produce more smoke than say, TIG welding.
If you can find a respirator that is comfortable, try to stick with it. There is no need to be inhaling these fumes on a regular basis. Your lungs will thank you down the road.
Featured image credit : Mike Wirth, US