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How to Select a Respirator

Selecting the Best Respirator for the Job

Selecting the proper respirator can be difficult. Use the guide below to help answer important questions you may have when deciding which respirator will provide the proper protection for the job. If you are still unsure about what type of respirator you will need, contact our Technical Product Support Team at 1-800-874-4755 to help answer further questions. 

Once your respirator questions have been answered, view GEMPLER'S collection of respirators and accessories.

Half-mask Respirator

1. Are you using pesticides?
2. Does the substance irritate your skin or eyes?
3. Is the hazard Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH), or is there a lack of oxygen?
4. Are you working with working with dusts, mists or fumes?
5. Are you working with gases or vapors?
6. What are pre-filters and when should you use them?

1. Are you using pesticides?
If no, (you are using another type of chemical), call your local safety supplier for a suggestion on the type of respirator you should be using.

If yes, look on the pesticide warning label to see what respiratory protection is required. OLDER LABELS will list a MSHA/NIOSH TC# (Ex: TC-23C), which refers to the respirator's approval number. NEW LABELS will list a respirator with a NIOSH TC approval # and describe the new NIOSH-approved respirator. For example, it may say: "NIOSH-approved respirator (Ex: TC-23C) with a pre-filter approved for pesticides; or a NIOSH-approved respirator with an organic vapor (OV) cartridge with any N, R, P, HE filter."

A sample label is provided below:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Some materials that are chemical-resistant to this product are barrier laminate or viton. For more information, follow instructions in Supplement Three of PR Notice 93-7. If you want more options, follow the instructions for category H on an EPA chemical resistance category selections chart.

Loaders, applicators and all other handlers must wear:

    • Coveralls over long-sleeved shirt and long pants

    • Chemical-resistant gloves

    • Chemical-resistant footwear plus socks

    • A NIOSH-approved dust mist filtering respirator with MSHA/NIOSH approval number prefix TC-21C or a NIOSH-approved respirator with any N, R P, or HE filter

Follow manufacturer's instructions for cleaning/maintaining PPE. If no such instructions for washables exist, use detergent and hot water. Keep and wash PPE separately from other laundry.

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2. Does the substance irritate your skin or eyes?
If yes, you may choose to wear a full-face respirator and the appropriate cartridge/filters.

If no, you can use a half-mask respirator and the appropriate cartridge/filters.

Shop full-face and half-mask respirators.

3. Is the hazard Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH), or is there a lack of oxygen?
In IDLH atmospheres the concentrations are high enough or the substance is dangerous enough that exposure could kill you.

If yes, you should avoid entering the area whenever possible. If you must enter, you will need a respirator that supplies breathable air, which consists of a portable tank of air; or a supplied air system (with an emergency escape bottle), which supplies air via a pump or an air compressor. (You should also monitor the air to determine the level of contaminants present.)

4. Are you working with working with dusts, mists or fumes?
If yes, you will need a particulate respirator, filter or pre-filter. Particulate respirators, filters and pre-filters trap solid and liquid particles such as dusts, mists and fumes. They can be found in the form of a disposable respirator, or in the form of a "pre-filter", which can be used in conjunction with a chemical cartridge. The filters should be changed according to the manufacturer's instructions or when you experience excessive breathing resistance.

To choose the appropriate particulate respirator, you will need to review the following 4 questions.
  1. Which respirator do I choose if I'm working around dusts, mists, fumes or agricultural molds?
    You can wear an N95 N95 in almost any dust situation. Exceptions: If working with a highly toxic dust or metal that requires a HEPA (high efficiency) mask, you should wear an N100 N100 or a P100 P100. Examples are mold, asbestos, lead and cadmium. OSHA also has certain substances that it has always required a HEPA mask for, such as asbestos and lead.
    NOTE: The numbers refer to the efficiency of the filter. The 95% filters are used for most applications and the nearly 100% efficient P100 filters are used in place of the old HEPA filters for the more toxic particulate situations.

  2. Are you spraying a pesticide or chemical?
    If yes, you will need to choose a pre-filter.

  3. Is the pesticide or chemical oil-based?
    If no, you can use a non-oil pre-filter, such as N95.

    If yes, you must use an "Oil Proof or Oil Resistant" pre-filter, such as a P100. The R , P and HE filters can be used for aerosolized oil-based chemicals and pesticides. R means "Resistant to Oil" and P stands for "Oil Proof." The R filters last up to eight hours when used with oil; the P filters may last longer - follow the manufacturer's recommendations. N filters are "Not Resistant" to oil. If your chemical or pesticide does not contain oil, you may use an N, R, P or HE filter.

    NOTE: If you are unsure which particulate filter to choose, the P100 offers the highest level of protection against both oils and non-oils.

    N =

    Not to be used with oil.

    R =

    R means "resistant to oils." Can be used for eight hours with chemicals and pesticides that contain oil.

    P =

    P means "oil proof." Can be used with oil and non-oil hazards; may be able to use longer than eight hours.

    HE =

    High Efficiency, the filter used on a PAPR (Can be used with oils.) Check with manufacturer's instructions for time restrictions; or change when you notice a decrease in airflow.

  4. Which particulate filter do I use if I am using a Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR), such as Kasco?
    You will use an HE, or high efficiency filter. The PAPRs use a HEPA filter for particulates, while the half-mask and full-face respirators use the N, R, P filters - i.e.. N95, P100.


5. Are you working with gases or vapors?
If yes, you will need a cartridge-style respirator and chemical cartridges. Chemical cartridges are filled with specially treated activated carbon which will adsorb certain gases and/or vapors. You should change the cartridges when you taste or smell a substance, or your eyes, throat or respiratory system become irritated. It's best to schedule a cartridge "change-out" before you notice that you are being exposed to the contaminant.

Chemical Cartridge Color Coding
All manufacturers use the same color coding for gas/vapor protection




Acid Gas


Organic Vapors


Ammonia Gas


Acid Gas & Organic Vapor


Mulit-gas (protects against numerous gases and vapors)


Particulate Filter Cartridge (HEPA) (Also called P100)

(A HEPA is a particulate filter; all others are used for gases and/or vapors.)

6. What are pre-filters and when should you use them?
Pre-filters are used with cartridges. While the cartridges adsorb the gas or vapor, the pre-filters trap the dust and mist particulates. Pre-filters work well for activities like pesticide and paint spraying because they trap the liquid particles.

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