Picture of Improvised Gas Mask
Inspired by some plans from 1942, I made my own gas mask from a snorkel, a tin can, and some charcoal I made from coconut husks. It works great!. I varnished my boat and didn't get a headache!
I'm not wearing it now, I can smell the fumes from outside, and I AM getting a headache.

This gas mask is very similar to the successful British Small Box Respirator used in WW1. Inside the familiar cloth hood with goggles it had a nose clip, a mouthpiece and a hose to a can full of charcoal and soda lime. My canister only uses carbon as the absorbing agent since I'm not concerned about "acid gases". If you need to filter out military poisons or chemicals similar to them, add the soda lime and other ingredients.

There are many avid gasmask collectors and enthusiasts. Images and information about gas masks is very abundant online. The French collector's site has an amazing pictorial database covering gas mask evolution in all the worlds armies.

In 1942 Time Magazine published the following piece:
"Homemade Gas Masks
Monday, Sep. 07, 1942

An emergency gas mask that can be made at home was demonstrated in Manhattan last week by the American Women's Voluntary Services. The necessary materials can be found in almost any house: a bathing cap, a small tin can, the transparent cover from a powder-puff box, a bit of wire net (from fly swatters), two handkerchiefs, elastic ribbon, adhesive tape, and (from the drugstore) a few ounces of activated coconut charcoal and soda lime. The principle behind the homemade mask is simple; the assembly is more difficult. The rubber cap is fitted snugly over the face and two holes are cut in it; one for the powder-puff cover (to look through), one for the tin-can respirator. The ends of the can are removed, replaced with the wire net. Inside the can go the chemicals (two parts activated charcoal, one part soda lime) wrapped in the handkerchiefs. All openings in the cap are hermetically sealed with adhesive tape. An elastic-ribbon harness holds the mask on tight. An alternative model makes use of rubber baby pants (see cut) instead of the bathing cap.

When carefully made, this improvised gas mask is effective against all known war gases. But the A.W.V.S. and the War Department are leary of inexperienced workmanship. The least carelessness in fitting the parts of the gas mask together would permit gas to enter. The A.W.V.S. recommends that all such masks be made under its supervision.

An even simpler mask is advocated by Dr. Kearney Sauer of the Los Angeles Citizens' Defense Corps: two twelve-inch squares of bed sheeting with a quarter-inch layer of baking soda between, held in even distribution by crisscross stitching. Dampened and held firmly over the face, this napkin will give temporary protection against any gas, according to Dr. Sauer but not the Army.

The simplest device of all consists only of a beer can filled with absorbent material and a clothespin to clamp on the nose. It is approved by no one except its inventor, Chemist Vernon Bowers of Baltimore, Ohio.
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vladivastok11 months ago


those holes in the tin foil were due to a small trace of sodium hydroxide you can make stronger form of it by running the water thought it over andover again then you can make soap. :)
If I'm not mistaken, Soda Lime is sold quite cheaply for CO2 Scrubbers, commonly used for reef aquariums. So I'd suppose you could find a bag of soda lime at the pet store, in the fish section, next to where you bought your activated charcoal (made for charcoal filters).
Good Instructable by the way, very informative!
Well, where I think I'll buy my charcoal anyways, not too much in the mood for burning coconuts at the moment.
where do we buy soda lime?
Kapt.kool5 years ago
Would baking soda work in place of the soda lime. They are both alkaline and neutralize acids but im not sure of teh potency of the baking soda.
baking soda also expires after 3 months
___ Kapt.kool5 years ago
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Kinnishian ___3 years ago
Second. I once had some lye on my thigh and it dissolved slowly into the basic solution by absorbing skin water. It was very caustic. That is the end of story. But it would seriously hurt your lungs, you you'd want to at least put the charcoal between the lye and lungs [as another barrier]. Eitherway, I don't suggest it; it's hard to know if lye has the surface area necessary (my lye at least isn't *that* small of a powder).
XOIIO ___4 years ago
And do all these base belong to us?
ortenberg XOIIO3 years ago
___ XOIIO3 years ago
i meant more alkaline or more basic
Tim Temple2 years ago
"Every silver lining has a cloud," as they say. Breathing through your mouth means you are pulling mercury fumes from your metal fillings into your lungs! It's a cumulative neurotoxin.

But the most likely use for this is smoke from fires in a building or a forest. The next most likely is dust from various natural sources. It would also stop you from smoking a cigarette. Airborne allergens could be stopped, hopefully before they cause too much problem.

Keep swimming goggles attached to the breather -- whatever bothers one will bother the other. Keep them handy under your bed.
Is baking soda a possible mild-ish substitute for soda lime? It does, however, react with those acidic gases to form carbon dioxide. I wouldn't be so sure to use that stuff, though. Yeah, I think I'll stick to distilling carbonates out of our water and treating them w/ lye... Lol
ilpug2 years ago
Am I the only one who has cracked open a real respirator filter and inspected it?

Surprisingly, it is really similar to this. There is a layer of what looks like dense cotton or soft padding, then loose charcoal, that is more like flakes or Black Powder grains than an actual powder. Then another layer or two of that cottony stuff, and that is it. I am not sure about the actual chemical make up of the charcoal stuff, it might have additives.
Will this filter work against tear gas?
Maybe for a few seconds against inhalation, but since his eyes are exposed, no.
son of s8an3 years ago
Would this filter the fumes from spray paint?
Better than nothing. It would catch any aerosol drops for sure.
jlund3 years ago
this instrucable was helpfull to what i was looking for im making a rebreather like what navy seals use and i couldnt find any thing on making a carbon scrubber wich is what you made as a filter it will take carbon out of the air you are breathing in small amounts
laneman133 years ago
will coffee filters work instead of a paper towel
jlund laneman133 years ago
they will work way beter
could aquarium charcoal work as a good substitute for the filter
yes it is what is used by every one iv seen
Kuhne3 years ago
With a hose and can of that size, wouldn't it be extremely laborious to breathe?

Every breath you'd have to push all the air in that house right out, and breath it all back in again just to get to the clean air on the other end. Then there's the resistance due to the can to consider.

That's why most gas masks have the filters hanging in front of the face, to shorten the amount of hose needed.
it has an exhale valve. so the air goes out of that valve while fresh air comes in through the hose
-max-3 years ago
what do you mean by: "After some reading I decided
my wasteful way of making it pretty much guaranteed it would be 'activated' "?
Osmann5 years ago
This is just a toy this WONT help you in case of poisonous gasses or nuclear explosions!
Sure, it won't protect you from radiation, but it provides pretty good protection from many types of poisonous fumes. If I were to use this for welding or something, I might go ahead and plug up my nose somehow anyway just to make things a bit easier.
 a gas mask won't protect you from radiation anyway....
tkjtkj red-king3 years ago
On the contrary. Gas masks are also 'particulate filters' and one danger of radioactive fallout is when particles of alpha-particle emitters (eg, plutonium) are brought into the body. Alpha's are nearly harmless when outside the body .. their range is very short .. Touching a block of plutonium will not burn you. It'd probably warm your hand. That is not much of an issue, but when such particles are ingested/inhaled they become extremely dangerous, for *all* of the energy of the alpha particles is transferred to internal body parts, vastly increasing cancer rates.
Beta particles are the opposite: their range is great, though energy is small .. Inside the body, beta's do little damage, but outside the body, their great range can affect a person who is not close to the source.
Anything that reduces the inhalation of alpha-emitting dust can be very beneficial!
red-king tkjtkj3 years ago
ah. that's interesting. it would probably be good to know that in the event of nuclear fallout...
But it could prevent you from inhaling irradiated dust.
jdkchem vestie3 years ago
That would be incorrect. However the dust will "clog" up the carbon bed rather quickly and render the filter useless.
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 You don't need to be within the blast radius of the nuke to get the radiation. Air currents can carry the fallout and irradiated dust for miles.
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 Then what's your point?
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