Yes, people do actually clean their respirators. And it's a good idea for you to do it too. Not only can some bad microbial monsters take up residence in an unclean respirator, but clogged air intake and exhalation valves may cause your respirator to stop functioning as it should.
There are a range of respirators available, some full-face, some half-face, but they all share common characteristics. Remember, we're not talking about disposable respirators (aka dust masks) - those things get dirty, you just chuck 'em. No, we're talking here about reusable plastic or silicon respirators that have replaceable filters and cartridges.
(Some of you are now thinking: I wonder when I should change those cartridges. Click on the link to find out.)
Cleaning your respirator isn't complicated. After pulling off your filters or cartridges (a simple counter-clockwise quarter turn is usually all it takes) let your respirator soak in warm, soapy water for a short while. These units are made to be easily cleaned and most dirt and grime isn't able to maintain a firm hold. Even paint and varnish will eventually give up the fight with some soft scrubbing using a sponge or mildly abrasive scrubby.
Be careful not to push too hard on the valves as they are made of less durable material and can be damaged. Once your mask has been cleaned, let it air dry before putting the cartridges or filters back on. This will keep any water from being trapped and starting a little mold farm in your mask.
For everyday cleaning, I'd recommend the Allegro Respirator Cleaning Wipes. These handy-wipes come in individual pouches that can be kept in a tool box or locker. They are perfect for keeping your mask sanitized and fresh. Simply wipe down the inside of the mask with the towelette making sure to get the valves as well as possible. The active ingredient Benzalkonium Chloride acts as a disinfectant as well as a microbial corrosion inhibition. Nothing says clean like Benzalkonium Chloride! It's also mild enough that it won't damage even the most sensitive parts of your lung protection.
For a more heavy duty cleaning, or if you have multiple respirators to launder, you'll want to upgrade to the Allegro Respirator Cleaning Kit. This system comes with a large 17-quart, two-sided bucket, ninety 1/2 oz. packets of water-soluble cleaner, an air bulb for getting into the nooks and crannies, a brush for scrubbing off the big stuff, and 100 sterile storage bags and seals. This kit also meets OSHA recommendations for respirator cleaning, and who doesn't like to be compliant?
No matter what method of cleaning you use, the important factor is consistency. Have a schedule and stick to it. Regular wiping and periodic cleaning is recommended to keep your respirator in good condition. A properly serviced respirator, like all tools, is more dependable. If you have questions about any of these respirator cleaning products, please give us a call at 1-800-829-9580.
Thanks for reading. Stay clean (and classy).