Mask Hygiene

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Established Member
2 Jan 2023
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I have a 3M mask that I have used on and off for a couple of years and being tight I never changed the filters, can this make you ill?

I have now purchased new filters and gave the mask a really good clean as on 2 occasions over the last few weeks I felt terrible the next day after wearing the mask.

Just wondering how people store their masks and how often they give them a good clean out?

Every time , just before you put it away ( it'll last much longer in it's box , or any box, out of the light and air ) rub it lightly all over the "rubbery" bits ( inside and out ) with vaseline,( unscrew the filters first ) especially around the seal onto your face part.To stop bacterial build up you can also give it a light rub all over ( inside and out ) with what evr the names of the antibacterial wipes are in the UK or with a wipe that has had a quick squirt of the stuff that they sell for wiping down kitchen or bathroom surfaces.Here that would be Sanytol. Don't use TCP , it can attack the silicone rubber. And please remember use the right filter for each job, dust filters wont save your lungs from any solvents or paint chemicals when spraying.
Not changing the filters can indeed make you very ill, the y wont tell you when they are no longer effectiv ( unless by now they have ones that change colour when they are no longer working ) you'll know when the solvent type ones are no good because you'll be very ill and maybe enough to need "blues and twos" do I know this.Spraying massive amounts of two part industrial high gloss varnishes on decors that I used to do for fairground attractions and custom painting boats , aircraft, and big trucks, cars and motorcycles. Part of our previous business before moving up to this part of France from the south coast.Cyanoacrylate poisoning feels similar to the bends, your lungs can't get the oxygen because your bloods cells cant hold onto enough of it, you can die in your sleep.I was lucky , twice.SWMBO woke up next to me in the night , heard me breathing weirdly and phoned the emergency services. They put me on oxygen.

I now keep a smallish O2 tank and medical oxgen mask rig in the house, don't need it, but getting a good oxygen supply fast can save lives in many circumstances or help one to avoid long term effects from many things.Gave a bit of a secure feeling during covid too , which we all 3 ( son included ) caught eventually in 2022 anyway despite 4 shots of cominarty each. Bound to happen eventually due to SWMBO's work even despite mask and visors and full PPE etc. She brought it home , and within 15 days we all had it, me worse than either of them, left me with assorted long covid symptoms, and made me cough so much that I'm currently suffering from two slipped discs in lower back.
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I just clean it thoroughly every few months, sometimes leave it as long as 6 months, I've found it's much worse in summer-time when it is hot and humid it needs cleaning more regularly. I do wonder if you may have an allergy to silicone or something? also what kind of jobs are you doing? sometimes it might require specialist filters just for that one job, for example fuming wood with ammonia you need a special filter for that.
If those are activated carbon filters for organic solvents they have a life of anywhere from 8 hours to 40 hours maximum. At the end of the session remove the cartridges and put them in a sealed container or Ziplock as they continue to absorb when sitting in the open, reducing the cartridge life. If you are only using the mask for dust you can save money by getting the dust adapters that replace the cartridge to hold the prefilters. Lower profile, lighter in weight and easier to breath through.

To clean I remove the cartridges and disassemble the mask including the little rubber valves and wash it in dish soap. Rinse, dry and reassemble. Put it away in a container to keep it clean until next time. If the rubber valves get damaged throw them out and get replacements. Change out the pre-filters often or when they get loaded up.

Don't be cheap with mask hygiene or the parts and filters. Better to clean the mask and replace the filters too often than not enough. Your lungs are worth more aren't they? I don't understand why people get cheap with the mask hygiene and don't clean them but would never dream of doing the same with their socks and underwear. If you do I pity the people around you.

Some one showed a mask that had been left without dissasembly and cleaning on here ages ago. There was mold growth behind the cartridges near the diaphragms. Not good, I used to wide mine out with antibac wipes.
Hmm, this has been on my mind for a while, think I need to up my game in this area! Thanks for the nudge, I'll not be sharing how long it has been since I changed filters or cleaned mine, uurgh.
To clean I remove the cartridges and disassemble the mask including the little rubber valves and wash it in dish soap. Rinse, dry and reassemble. Put it away in a container to keep it clean until next time. If the rubber valves get damaged throw them out and get replacements. Change out the pre-filters often or when they get loaded up.
This is my method too.
Ready made wipes are fine, as is a good spray with homemade rubbing alcohol (70% isopropyl alcohol, 30% water) and wipe out, but disassemble and hot soapy water does the best job.'ll know when the solvent type ones are no good because you'll be very ill and maybe enough to need "blues and twos"...
I once made a quick dash through a spray area and got sidetracked into a conversation. Ended up spending far too long there without a mask.
I went blind for about 3 hours. Scary as hell. Don't risk it !
Agreed, but I was using mine every day for 8 hours or more, already it was costing me a fortune in cartridges to filter 2 part industrial paint ( I had reps who would deliver most of what I used from 3 metre by 2 metre Alu sheets to paint to tools and fixings, including a lady Hilti rep, snap on reps etc ) I'd have had to have multiple masks too to allow for the drying time. I used to go through 30 litres of industrial diluant per week just in the cleaning grade.

I had to import water based paints and all water based stuff for vehicle and machinery painting from the USA at the time, none was available in France til about 2005. Then I found a company in Marseille who would make paint for me , and another at Valence.
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On the surface it sounds like you would have been better off with an air supplied respirator. I suspect you were running around your shop rather than being in one spot while spraying making the dragging of an air hose impractical.

Couldn't get one in France for love nor money Pete.I knew that 3M for example made them, but 3M France point blank denied that they did.3M other countries insisted that I go through 3M France.Same was the case with other suppliers .Safety stuff in France was waay behind.French artisans in general are not in the slightest bit safety conscious, there is only one french guy I would consider working with, he like me has degree level science ( he botany, me organic chemistry and some fine art ones ) the number of french carpenters and cabinet makers minus fingers is horrific.Dust masks, spray masks etc exist, hardly any of them wear them, even when they are teaching apprentices and being filmed for TV. Hard hats are ( in the minds of most workers, and their bosses "optional", they have them but don't wear them ) until an accident happens .Likewise gloves, and harnesses when working on a roof, scaffold safety bars idem. I saw again yesterday the typical guy ( on a road repair gang ) using a petrol driven big disc slab cutter, vast clouds of dust, hell of a noise, no mask, no gloves, no ear defenders, no safety gear at all, nor any of his workmates.He was cutting a slab right next to his foot, towards him, between his legs.They had however put a road sign up ( warning they were there ) on the road itself, forcing all vehicles to drive on the wrong side on a blind bend, where the oncoming vehicles , including buses are coming of a roundabout with you in their lane going the wrong way.

Actually, I just remembered, one of my art ones isn't a "fine art" one .Medical and scientific illustration ( well obsolete in the days of software programs , there were not many prospects when I did it way back in the 70s ) "restoration" and life drawing / painting sculpture are in the others. Not that degrees are any guide at all to talent , or safety proceedures.just that the friend who has the botany one ( and who ran several of the Biggest French national parks before he retired at least doesn't have his eyes glaze over when I talk about the damage that dust and chemicals can do )..Even some of the french expert picture restorers are on TV touching centuries old pictures on their surfaces without wearing gloves, yet the prehistoric caves are forbidden to the public ( due to problems with the humidity and acids in breath etc , and so they should be ) but ministers are regularly allowed in and filmed running their ungloved fingers, and breathing directly over cave drawings that are 40K years old.. They know better, but either they can't be donkeyed, or it doesn't apply to them, or "it is just this once won't hurt", "no risk".Same attitude to their own safety or the safety of others, which is why on the road, the french drive down the middle, astride the lines and then if they see something coming the other way, they try and get back on their own side, frequently they don't make it, "head ons" are really really common here.Discovered last weekend that our local gendarmes ( police ) cannot "back up" of them drove down our 6 meter wide lane ( it has only one exit , the way they came in ) and to get back to the main road took them 25 minutes , with much shouting and gesturing and nearly hitting my car and my wood store trying to reverse past them.Private road, so being hit by a police car would have been an insurance nightmare even if they had owned up to it being their fault if they'd damaged anything. me and the neighbours just watched, successfully not laughing til they had eventually gone.
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Yep. :..Oh and at risk of being accused of being sexist,( I'm not, but I appreciate what I have ) France has beautiful women, including uppermost SWMBO,a mix of Vietnamese, Polynesian, Breton, 1m57 and 43kg with long long dark hair is a very nice base :) Sunny disposition too, :)
and she doesn't query my tool purchases, as she says "you have your tools and art and sculpture stuff and computers, I have my clothes, shoes and flowers and my garden and our books and CDs".:)
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Thank you everyone for the stories, help and advice ;)

Over the past few weeks I have used the mask for boarding out a loft and some small woodworking tasks but in the past I have sprayed water based fence paint due to having the vapour filters(y)
I use a CPAP Machine every night and clean it everyday using Milton tablets, the things that are used to steralize baby bottles and stuff like that. Every morning I use a washing up bowl and just submerge the face mask, air pipe and water tank for 15 min's and dry them off with a towel and they are sterile. I do the same with my 3M dust mask, after I've used it I bring it to the house, steralize it and put it in an airtight sandwich - kitchen container that I use to keep it in. It's easy and cheap, especially if you get the Tesco own brand at 0.03p each compared to Milton at 12.9p each!