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Filters and Cartridges

We carry filters and cartridges from top brands like 3M, Allegro, Moldex and more that protect against a range of hazardous particles and matter including dust, vapors, gases, and mold. While these respirator cartridges and filters are made to the highest standards and meet all the applicable OSHA standards, each of them has a specific application and a range of protection. For example, the 3M 6001 Organic Vapor Cartridge is NIOSH-approved for a wide variety of organic vapors. Check out the full line of reliable 3M respirator products that we offer.

NIOSH Items: We only sell brand new respirators, filters, and dust masks from US-based manufacturers. Since it can be difficult to determine if a respirator or mask has been used or even just tried on, for the protection of our customers, we do not accept NIOSH returns.

What is the difference in respirator filters?

All true respirator masks are designed to protect your face from airborne particles and liquids. Respirators come in disposable half-face styles (with and without valves) and reusable styles, and the filters and respirators themselves are rated by NIOSH based on the types of protection they provide and optimal operating conditions. 

Respirator filters will have ratings that consist of a letter followed by two or three numbers. The number (which can be 95, 99, or 100) represents the percentage of airborne particles—most of which you can’t see with the naked eye—that the mask is able to remove from contaminated air (although 100-rated masks will filter at least 99.7 percent of particles). N filters are not oil resistant, but they will protect against dust, mists, and fumes that don’t have oil aerosols. R filters are oil resistant for occasional oil exposure but will lose effectiveness over time and need to be replaced after 8 hours. P filters are oil-proofed, explicitly providing protection against oil-based (like lubricants, cutting fluids, glycerin, pesticides, and solvents) as well as non-oil-based particles, mold, and asbestos. Understanding respirator filter ratings will help you to select the appropriate PPE for your job.

Respirator cartridges are a somewhat different form of protection. Where filters provide protection from many dusts, fibers, fumes, or mists, cartridges protect against different gases and vapors. If your job site contains a combination of these hazards, a combination filter and cartridge are necessary.

What is a respirator filter made of?

Most respirator masks are made of polypropylene, which is a synthetic plastic that also gets used in clothing like rain jackets and yoga pants. Thousands of thin strands of fibers are melted together into a layer of web-like filter particles to trap microbes and particulates. The fiber is given an electrostatic charge as well for even more efficiency in capturing smaller microbes and particles. This material is lightweight, efficient, and can stand up to warm or hot water without leaching plastics (although they shouldn’t be exposed to extreme heat, including for decontamination purposes).

Respirator cartridges, though, are filled with activated carbon or oxidized charcoal. This is typically made from coal or renewable carbon-based resources that are heated into a material that can absorb organic odors. The toxins or odors that pass through the cartridge become bonded to or caught in the holes in the carbon and won’t move into the mask and therefore your mouth, nose, throat, or lungs.

How often should you change respirator filters?

If your respirator filter becomes difficult to breathe through, it’s time to replace it. It’s a good idea to establish a changing schedule based on OSHA’s standards or common change calculators or schedules. Cartridges are exhausted when you start to smell or taste the vapors, solvents for instance. Also, leave a contaminated area immediately if you smell or taste chemicals or experience irritation from them. Replace the cartridges and perform a seal check before returning to work—it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you’re using a filter and cartridge and notice a difference in performance, replace both components rather than just one.

As for your reusable respirator itself, look over it before each use to make sure it’s still in good condition. This means looking over the facepiece, plastic parts, and exhalation valve. The respirator and its parts should not be cracked, torn, dirty, distorted, or inelastic. A proper seal is the only way that your respirator can properly protect you, and if your mask isn’t able to do that essential job it needs to be replaced. 

Luckily, PK Safety offers a one-stop online shop for your respirator filter and cartridge needs. We carry trusted brands like 3M, which adds convenience to outfitting your worksite because of how interchangeable the parts are. Many of their filters and cartridges can fit into more than one 3M respirator model, which provides greater flexibility and convenience in a pinch. For instance, 3M filters and cartridges fit the 3M 6000 respirator and the 3M 7500 Respirator, both full face and half face respirator styles. Our filters and cartridges are also reasonably priced, making it easy to make sure that you’re stocked up on everything you need to breathe easier.

For more information on individual respirators, cartridges, filters, and other respirator accessories, follow the links to read the individual pages. For more specific worksite safety or equipment questions, contact one of PK Safety’s safety experts online or by phone.