I’m bewildered by the number of types of respirators at the home center. What type of respirator should I get for working with MDF, wood, treated lumber and finishing?
Chris Marshall: Any double-strap, NIOSH-approved dust respirator will protect your lungs from wood dust generated by sanding or sawing. But, steer clear of those cheap, single strap “comfort” or “nuisance” masks: they’re only intended for filtering out larger dust particles from sweeping or yard work. Finishing is a different can of worms altogether. Here, you’re dealing with airborne mists, gases and vapors. Those contaminants are much smaller than wood particles. Wear a canister respirator for spraying finishes or when you are using strong strippers and solvents. The canisters suitable for “multipurpose” use will give you the broadest range of protection — they contain both a pre-filter and charcoal. Read the labels on respirator packaging carefully. Manufacturers are very explicit about what each type of respirator is intended to do.