I'm looking for a simple safety solution for multiple small projects that keep coming up. But it's not clear what safety mask and filters to buy.

For example, I read an article that states that I need an N95 mask for drilling thru brick:

Safety first! Equip yourself with goggles, hearing protection, leather gloves, and an N95 respirator. Brick and mortar dust contains crystalline silica, which will be airborne when you start to drill into brick. Inhaling just a small amount is enough to create a health hazard.

I also plan to do some very basic removal of black mold. (Not on walls, I noticed some small amounts in the grout of my bathroom.)

Again, I'd need a mask, I hear. How do I know what filters and mask to buy?

I'm thinking of getting a 3M respirator and then buying these filters. How do I know if these are the correct filters for the type of work I'm doing?

  • 3
    Have you ever seen the osha cowboy? If you have not been fitted for a respirator now matter how much you spend a simple dust mask may be more effective. Have you had the black mold tested? There are hundreds of mold species and only a few are hazardous. Kill the mold with a 3% hydrogen peroxide and water solution and wipe up after.
    – Ed Beal
    Feb 7, 2020 at 16:23
  • 1
    health hazards, meh. Core a 4" hole through 4 wythes of brick with your head stuck in a ceiling w/o an actual respirator strapped to your face and you won't be able to breathe enough to get the job done. Might as well get one that has vapor cartridges; the pre-filters basically are N95s.
    – Mazura
    Feb 8, 2020 at 4:13

1 Answer 1


Respirators are more typically used for preventing inhalation of gaseous contaminants which aren't filtered by simple fabric masks. They force air through media which entrap those gases. While they will also catch particulates, they're usually overkill for situations with just that concern. In your case, both silica dust and mold spores are particulates, with no real gaseous hazards involved.

Masks are simple dust filters, and the N95 spec indicates the size of the particulate that will be protected against. Search 'N95 mask' and you'll see a plethora of inexpensive options to meet your needs. These offer the added benefit of not making you look like a CDC operative while doing simple home improvement work.

I'd look for one with dual straps (for better mask-to-face seal integrity), and the exhaust vents some offer prevent forceful exhalation from creating gaps at the face-to-mask seal by more effectively venting pressure.

  • It seems like the cost is the same to buy disposable vs the 3M powerful ones? I don't mind the powerful ones because I might also do work on my car, etc, with paints. It seems due to the corona scare, the quality 'disposable' ones are extremely costly and the higher end 3M half-masks are cheaper. Feb 7, 2020 at 16:59
  • That's your prerogative, of course. I'm not a fan of hardware strapped to my face. The masks weigh almost nothing.
    – isherwood
    Feb 7, 2020 at 17:28
  • For those curious, I got the smaller N95 dust face mask for the mold. Went to a local big brand hardware shop, they had quite a few. Happy with the purchase, it seemed to be fine for the small jobs at hand. Ensure you read directions to wear it properly. Feb 24, 2020 at 2:44

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