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It’ll depend on your face shape, so if you have an opportunity to try them on, that’s the best bet. Your jaw shape, cheekbones and the bridge of your nose will determine what’s more comfortable. I personally  find the fit point that gets overlooked in the moment but is critical, is how it rides on the back of your neck. so make sure the straps have the weight distributed as evenly as possible. I prefer the head strap that distributes the weight over the entire crown of your head instead of the one with just the single elastic. 

I got mine from Princess Auto, but that store isn’t everywhere. They’re more likely to have a few different brands to chose from. You want to go to an auto body supply place for a respirator, and you want N100 particle filters, not the vapour ones. (N95 isn’t fine enough). 

No matter what model you get, you will need to get used to a different rate of air flow. Do take breaks while you’re getting used to it.

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N100 or P100, labeled in purple. A mask will not fit as well as a respirator. Different brands and different models of respirators all fit differently, so if possible it's good to try one one before buying. Most people will find medium size to fit well. Personally, I have found 3M brand respirators to be the most comfortable, with softer plastic than others. Also look at the cost of replacement filter cartridges, as they can vary in price by quite a lot.

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On 6/17/2021 at 12:27 PM, Ina Mininsohn said:

Please recommend mask/filter that protects from clay dust, and not too uncomfortable to wear for  three hours

Most N 95 and above rated masks rely on a good fit and being able to put the mask on with minimal leakage. Here is an article that may help https://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2020/03/16/n95-preparedness/

even respirators require some reasonable practice to make sure they are fit well when you put them on, for them to be as effective as their rating. ……….. Lots of you tube instruction videos out there.

Edited by Bill Kielb
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This is the respirator that I bought, based on recommendations given on this forum a few years back. I’m very happy with it. It’s very light and the part that touches your face is soft and flexible. After it warms up with your body heat it will conform to the shape of your face and make a nice seal. I’m Asian so my face has an unusual shape, but this mask still fits me well. 


After a year of wearing cloth face masks for the pandemic, I find that wearing this respirator is actually more comfortable than some cloth masks. The straps do not bother my head (some cloth masks really hurt my ears), and it has an exhalation valve so it does not get steamy on the inside.

My main complaint when wearing this respirator is that is blocks my vision below my nose. I need to be careful not to compensate by bending my neck too much, or else I’ll get a sore neck. 

Every once in a while, I twist off the filters, and rinse the mask thoroughly with water and let it air dry. That and replacing the filters as needed, are the only maintenance. 

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At the pottery shop, where I work, we get "mask tested" once a year.  A private company conducts the tests. About 8 people work with glaze materials so 8 people got tested. (I coordinated the event.) The mask test involves the tester putting a hood over the test subject and spraying a smelly substance under the hood.  We look to the left, we look to the right.  We look up, we look down. We bend forward, we lean back, All the while the tester is asking, "Can you smell that?" and then works with each test subject to make sure their mask fits tightly. They check our blood pressure and they note the brand of mask we are wearing.

We wear the 3M brand Half Face Respirator. They fit well and can be worn several hours each day. We use the N95 paper filter inserts.  

The manufacturer recommends changing filters after 40 hours of use.  A P95 filter can be used but its intended for "oil based" material and needs to be replaced more frequently. 

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Yeah, that smoke test is not a fun way to find mask gaps!

Also, store your mask in a Ziplock bag or other sealed thing if you’re keeping it in your (possibly dusty) studio. It defeats the purpose if you put it on dirty.

2 hours ago, GEP said:

some cloth masks really hurt my ears

This is probably coming a bit late, but I replaced all my mask elastics with cut up pantyhose. MUCH softer. 

Edited to add: also probably the only good use for pantyhose.


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