Home Improvement Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for contractors and serious DIYers. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I finished putting up tiles for a backsplash last night and am getting ready to grout tonight. I looked at the package and saw Contains known or probable carcinogens. Yikes!

What kind of mask should I pick up on my way home? A simple dust mask, or a more elaborate respirator?

share|improve this question
Me thinks you'd have to do more than a single grout job to see any ill effects, but then again I'm no cancer expert. Avoid huffing the dry mix, and you should be fine. – Tester101 Aug 28 '13 at 16:29

Usually that warning applies only in California—most states are not at risk. :-)

The carcinogen involved is cement dust, specifically its components of tri- and dicalcium silicate, alumina, tricalcium aluminate, and iron oxide. The hazard extends to skin, eyes, mouth, and respiration.

enter image description here To be completely protected, a moon suit (made of Tyvek in the photo) is in line with the most pessimistic expectations. However, the practical alternative (and recommended by CDC and OSHA) is any quarter-mask respirator with an N-95, R, or P filter to arrest fine particles, along with gloves, and enclosed eye protection—and avoiding unnecessary cement contact.

Many workers are skeptical of the carcinogenic property of cement dust: it is common to see experienced workers taking only minor precautions. Usually wearing only a mask while handling the powder. Once it is moistened and and dust is no longer a factor, most don't do anything special. But it is a strong caustic alkalai, so do take care not to get it inside or on you for an extended time. enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

share|improve this answer

It depends how sensitive you are to things. I can see wearing a respirator while mixing the grout because there could be potentially a lot of dust coming up. But putting it on is akin to painting. There are some fumes but this isn't harsh stuff.

Honestly I mix most of my smaller grout jobs in big plastic Hawaiian punch jugs cut 3/4 and I mix in the grout slowly into 2-3 inches of water and keep stirring slowly. I don't even bust out the electrical paddle until most or all of my grout is in the jug and there is hardly a mess or dust.

I don't wear anything but my advice would to wear whatever you would if you were painting (with rollers). Same toxicity levels.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.