How to Clean Your Respirator Mask




I do a lot of grinding of metal and wood in my work, and after a few days, my respirator gets pretty dusty and dirty. You should be changing cartridges regularly, but I like to clean out the entire respirator every couple weeks too.

It's pretty simple as long as you remember what parts come off and where they go back on, and only takes maybe 15 minutes. I have a 3m half-face respirator, so it might be a slightly different process for different brands/models.

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Step 1: What You Need....

You can get all the supplies at any drug store:

- 70% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol

- A couple cotton pads (cotton balls might leave too much lint)

- A couple Q-Tips

- A Clean Jar Lid

.... and a well lit space to work. I laid out some paper so I didn't get rubbing alcohol on my coffee table.

Step 2: Taking Apart the Respirator

1 - Take off the cartridges. They usually twist to unlock for removal.

2 - Remove the strap. You have to tug pretty hard on the straps near the mouth piece, being careful not to break the straps.

3 - On the outside of the mask, remove the red "gasket" where the cartridges came off, and take out the blue rubber part covering the mouth piece.

4 - From the inside, remove the two yellow rubber flaps (they are attached at a center hole).

Step 3: Clean All Parts With Alcohol

5 - Pour some of the rubbing alcohol into the clean jar lid - this way you won't contaminate the whole bottle of alcohol.

6 - Use the cotton pads and Q-Tips to wipe down the inside and outside of the rubber mask, all the gaskets and rubber parts you took off, and the plastic mouthpiece that attaches the straps to the mask. (This part of my mask was particularly dusty and dirty.)

7 - When everything has been cleaned off, put everything back together in the reverse order that it was taken apart.

TIPS: Always use the right cartridge for the job (particulate vs. organic vapor vs. chemical), change your cartridges regularly, and store your respirator in a clean ziplock bag when not in use!



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    13 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Firecaptain is right about a warm cleaning solution followed by bleach, but the documentation from 3m says to avoid cleaners with oils and lanolin (most dishwashing soap contains those to be easier on hands). Also the new respirator cleaning wipes from 3m are alchool free. Personally i just clean in a few baths of 30ml bleach per 7.5L of water and rub with a soft towel instead of a brush (2 baths usually go trough most stuff) then you rinse with water a few times . The bleach must not contain surfactants or peroxides or whatever they add those days in the washing machine kind.


    Being a safety professional, this is probably the WORST way to clean a respirator. The rubbing alcohol will soon make the rubber/silicone parts very stiff and brittle.

    The best way to clean them is to remove the filters, wash the entire respirator including straps in a mild solution of dish soap and water (use a soft brush if needed), rinse in clean water, dip in a 10ppm solution of bleach & water (one 'glug' of bleach in 5 gal. clean water), again rinse in clean water and hang in a clean place to dry. After it is dry, install NEW cartridges and store in a clean location or in a zip lock bag. The soap & water cleans it and the bleach disinfects it. Be safe out there.

    3 replies

    Reply 4 years ago

    Firecaptin your method is pretty much the exact way we cleaned our mask years ago in the military


    Yep one needs to keep them clean, I used the method that Firecaptain29 mentoned, then again I was cleaning SCBA masks, and with a name like Firecaptain I assume he is a Fire Captain :)

    We had a guy that got a CPAP shortly after being hired. After a while he started getting sick, and thought it was mold in the workplace. So he got a respirator instead of the disposable N100 masks that work provided him.

    My guess is that he was not cleaning his CPAP or Respirator and wound up self infecting with mold.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Nice I need to get one of these I'm starting to work with more harful fumes.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Firecaptain29 is correnct, I wear a respirator 50+ hours a week for work and we clean them every 4 days when we change out filters. Mine has lasted me almost a year and has no signs of wear or damage. However, the respriator refresher wipes that are sold be industrial suppliers are 70% alcohol and help keep bacteria, fungus, etc. at bay when used daily.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    These things will last a long time if maintained properly. Thanks for sharing this!