8 Best Dust Masks For Protection From Pollution, Dust And Allergens

Protect yourself from dust, pollution, and allergens with the right mask

Dust masks are the most widely used form of personal protective equipment to protect the respiratory system from inhaling dust particles, pollution, allergens and other particulates people may come across in their daily lives. Factors that define why you would need a dust mask should be considered, to see first which might be the right one to suit your environment, or to see if you should instead be using a respirator or full-face gas mask. In comparison to gas masks and respirators, dust masks are a favorable option because of their affordability, and easy supply, as most households tend to have dust masks for when working with particulates.

Unlike gas masks or respirators, normal household dust masks work by slowing down air flow so that smaller particles are trapped in the fibers of the filter. This means slower breathing is most effective, and filtering efficiency decreases with faster breathing. However, in this list, we have also included a newer innovation of dust masks that are able to effectively filter while you are conducting physical activities such as running, cycling and other actions that generate high breathing which helps for high pollution in city environments.

Two most important things to know about dust masks

Filter percentage – When dust masks state that they have a rating N95, N99, and N100, it means that they are able to filter 95%, 99%, or 100% of particles of at least 0.3 microns in diameter. For projects such as sawing, gardening, or simple housework that requires a dust mask, this might not be so important, but when you are living in a high-pollution city, or you are working with dangerous chemicals, you might want to consider an N100 filter.

Size of particles – One of the other important things to know when you are considering a dust mask is the size of the particle you are intending on being exposed to. Of course, you can’t measure these, but knowing whether or not they are filtered by a dust mask will determine whether you need a dust mask, respirator, or a gas mask. The following is a list of 17 particulates people might be using respiratory protection for, to give an idea as to the sizing of various particles from different industries.

How do dust masks ‘capture’ particles?

Most particulate filters are constructed with a non-woven fibrous filter to capture particles that flow through the filter as air is inhaled by the wearer. The filter’s fibers form a crisscross pattern which in turn creates a web of layers. The spaces between the air allow the wearer to breathe. The tighter the layers are the harder the breathing. When a particle travels in the air and is inhaled into the mask, it is trapped on one of the web’s fibers. This ‘trapping’ is caused by a number of systems that masks use to essentially catch and keep the particle as it flows into the mask and lands on one of the many protective fibers.

Some of the masks in this list also use an ‘activated carbon’ filter which increases the process as the carbon is porous, and using a process called adsorption effectively ‘traps’ particles in the carbon.

In considering this, if a mask is used in situations where there has been contact made with hazardous particles, such as viruses, chemical, and toxic substances, due to the nature of the mask’s ability to ‘capture’ the particles, only disposable masks should be used and disposed of safely to ensure there is no cross-contamination.

So now that we know why we might use a dust mask, what for, and how it works, let’s take a look at the best dust masks available that you should consider using.

8 Best Dust Masks For Your Safety

IMAGENAMEOUR RANKTYPEOUR REVIEW
Unigear Activated Carbon Dust MaskActivated Carbon Dust Mask
Basecamp Fitness Dust Mask Activated Carbon Dust Mask
Topnisus Anti Pollution Dust MaskCarbon-based N99 filtration
AMSTON N99 Dust MasksN99 NIOSH Approved
3M Particulate 9210NIOSH N95 Approved
SAS Safety 2985 Non-Toxic Dust Mask Non-Toxic Dust Mask
3M 8661PC1-A Home Dust MaskNon-Toxic Dust Mask
3M N95 MaskNIOSH N95 Approved

1. Unigear Activated Carbon Dust Mask

Unigear activated carbon mask

Unigear’s dust mask is designed as an activity-based comfortable mask that keeps out 98% of dust, chemicals, particulates, gas, pollen, smoke and fumes. These are highly popular in smoggy cities as they offer great anti-dust and anti-car exhaust protection while doing activities that may increase your breathing capacity, such as running or cycling.

The make of the mask is primarily elastic, so as to make sure it can be a one-size fits all. It comes with a fixed aluminum sheet on the bridge of the nose which can be made to fit the bridge of the nose to ensure a comfortable and firm fit. There are a variety of uses for this type of mask, from mowing the lawn, to running in extremely cold climates (if you have sensitivities to the cold when exercising). I personally used this mask when driving around on a motorbike in busy Southeast Asian cities such as Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, where thick traffic smog, dust, and exhaust can leave you with a dry cough by the end of the day.

Important Features and Specifications of the Unigear Mask

  • Uses a unique design for soft dust mask ventilation to enhance airflow and decrease humidity around the mouth
  • Uses an activated carbon filter to stop 98% of dust, chemicals, particulates, gases, pollen, smoke and fumes from entering the airways
  • A Comfortable sport-backed design makes it able to be used easily and comfortably while running, riding and cycling
  • Designed to fit almost all sizes with an adjustable strap and adjustable aluminum frame across the nose bridge
  • The durable design allows the mask to dry quickly and stops the mask from smelling after exercise use.

 

2. Basecamp Fitness Dust Mask

Basecamp fitness mask

Basecamp’s fitness dust mask is a neoprene activated carbon dust mask capable of filtering out 95 per cent of exhaust, pollen, chemicals, fumes and other irritable dusts. Much like Unigear’s dust mask above, Basecamp’s mask is made to ensure that no matter what physical activity you are undertaking, there is no impediment to breathing, so if you are in a high-pollution city, this mask can serve as an ideal activewear mask for walkers, runners or cyclists.

In order to create a firm seal with this mask, it has been designed with an aluminum nose clip which will form to the nose bridge. This mask is also designed well because it uses both a loop system which sits comfortably behind the ears to keep it firmly in place, but also has velcro strapping behind the head, so there is no need to consistently readjust the mask or have it slip.

This mask gets a lot of various uses, however, it has been widely used in areas that suffer from severe fires as people either escape, or work to ensure their home and yard is safe from paths of the fire.

 

3. Topnisus Anti Pollution Dust Mask

Topnisus mask

The Topnisus mask is also made of neoprene and filters with a carbon-based 99% particulate filter. It offers an ideal form of protection against city pollution, smog, dust, pollen allergies as well as being designed for use during physically demanding activities such as cycling, running, hiking, skiing and other outdoor activities.

 

4. Amston N99 Dust Masks

N99 Mask

Amston’s NIOSH-certified N99 dust masks are widely used around the world as a common household and workplace dust mask. They cover the respiratory system during a wide variety of projects including carpentry, cleaning and sweeping, landscaping (mowing, bagging, blowing), chainsawing, grinding and many others. The N99 rating of this mask means that it covers at least 99% of all particulates, but does not cover against oil particulates (lubricants, cutting fluids, glycerine, etc).

Because this filter is a NIOSH-certified respirator it should be worn so that it creates a tight but comfortable seal on your face, if this is done, it should not limit your normal breathing, so that you are able to remain protected by the filter while still breathing normally. Remember, however, that this filter works best with slow breathing, so if you are breathing quickly, the filter would be less effective.

These dust masks are comfortable to wear for long periods, however, should be taken off for a few minutes every hour or so, just for comfort reasons and to make sure that there is no build-up of sweat. When using the Amston masks, I noticed that I was able to wear them for hours on end without having fog travel up into my safety glasses.


 

 

5. 3M Particulate N95 Dust Mask 9210

3m filter mask

3M is one of the leading manufacturers of personal protective equipment and their dust masks are one of their highest sellers. This specific dust mask N95 particulate filter is a disposable mask that is easy to store and provides great protection against dry, liquid & non-oil based aerosols as well as blocks particles from grinding, sanding, sweeping and filters out flour, pollen, metal and wood dust.

This mask comes with a top metal strip which you use to bend over your nose ensuring that the mask can conform to any nose bridge sizes. The middle part of the mask is layered so that it stays away from the mount, ensuring that when you breathe, you have space between the mask and your mouth.


 

6. SAS Safety Non-Toxic Nuisance Dust Mask

non-toxic dust mask

SAS Safety’s dust mask is designed to keep out airborne dust, pollen, and particulates, otherwise known as nuisance dusts. It does not, however, protect against dust from sanding or from fumes. It comes with an adjustable nose piece which shapes easily to face and a single strap elastic headband to ensure that a firm fit remains on the face.

In environments where there is a lot of dust, it would be more advisable to use a NIOSH approved N99 dust mask as these will not provide the same level of protection.


 

7. 3M Home Dust Mask

3M dust mask

These 3M dust masks are designed to be used in the home only, as they will offer relief from non-harmful household dust and reduce the inhalation of common household dust, dirt, pollen and grass clippings. They are more so suitable for people who are doing regular projects in and around the house, however, if you are working with paints or aerosols, or in high dust environments, it would be more beneficial to use a stronger dust mask.

Often these will be worn as a cheap, disposable alternative in circumstances where people might be sweeping out a dusty area, mowing the lawn, or doing in-home construction or demolitions and require a method of respiratory protection.


 

 

8. 3M N95 Mask

3M N95 dust mask

The 3M N95 mask is one of the most popular forms of respiratory protection across a number of industries of use. It is a highly comfortable, reliable, and an affordable particulate respirator that provides high protection to the wearer against non-oil based particles.

It is a disposable respirator making if affordable and more beneficial in environments where contamination may be an issue, forcing the discarding of more expensive breathing masks. The mask provides at least 95% filtration efficiency against most non-oil particles, which is why it is a dominant respirator in household projects and home-projects. It provides strong protection against circumstances where there may be a higher than normal amount of particles in the air (some hazardous) such as: grinding, sanding, sweeping, sawing, bagging, or other dusty operations.

While the N95 mask holds a firm place in construction, cleaning, and industrial-based work, it can also help reduce inhalation of certain airborne biological particles, such as: mold, Bacillus anthracis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. N95 respirators have been found to be significantly protective against bacterial and viral infections, which is why many medical professionals will wear a NIOSH-approved N95 respirator rather than a normal surgical mask.

Important Features and Specifications of the N95 mask

  • Removes 95% of particles from breathed in air that are at least 0.3 microns in diameter (see below for micron table)
  • Affordable and disposable, minimizing contamination
  • Uses cooling valve to release hot air from the N95 mask
  • Can come in a variety of styles specific to the environment, such as medical, painting, or strong dust masks
  • Lightweight design allows for more comfortable use and increases wear time
  • Able to filter pollution in city atmosphere at a high rate (Pollution particle size: 10 – less than 2.5 microns in diameter).


How To Choose The Best Dust Mask – Buyer’s Guide

What will you be using the dust mask for?

How a dust mask is used is completely up to the individual that wears it. You might be just doing work around the house such as mowing the lawn and have a sensitivity to grass, or sweeping out the garage and have a sensitivity to dust, or you might be driving through a city that has high pollution and thick traffic.

Think about how long you need your dust mask for. If you are wearing it only for specific activities, it might pay just to get disposable dust masks that filter out particulates and come in packs of five or ten. These are easy to come by and are very affordable. However, if you live in a pollutant city, or are near thick-exhaust traffic and find you need to be wearing a mask more frequently than not, you should consider getting a more permanent quality dust mask that is comfortable to wear for long periods, and can be worn during active periods such as exercising, running and cycling.

All of these are considerations to keep in mind. The purpose of your dust mask will identify how you should be looking for your mask and what type you should be getting.

What type of dust masks are there?

As we have shown with the results in our top seven list above. There are two types of dust masks, ones that you need to breathe at a normal pace through, and sport-designed masks that you can conduct exercise in and still be protected. Further, there are those dust masks that have activated carbon filters, and those that are merely dust filters.

My thoughts on the best dust mask

Choosing the best dust mask is a question we get faced with all of the time. The only suitable way to answer it is to say that the best dust mask is one that suits what you are after. For me, my preference was the Unigear or the Basecamp mask. While this is primarily for comfort and sport, I have found the most popular to be the N95 dust mask.

I live in quite a clean city and don’t have any allergies, but during the winter, I have a tendency to become affected during exercise when the cold air hits my lungs. To combat this I use the Basecamp model as it provides a relief of blocking the cold air going straight into my lungs, and giving it a chance to warm up before traveling in.

My second pick was the Unigear, as it was the mask I used when driving my bike in the high-pollution count cities in China and Vietnam when I spent some time there. As it is a densely packed, highly polluted city with consistent thick traffic, there was no option to drive without a mask, otherwise, I would have a sore throat by the end of the day. This mask saved me from that pollution and it was also comfortable enough to wear during daily life as I lived in the city.

What dust mask to buy

Let me know your thoughts on this topic!