How to Clean and Maintain Your Respirator

Here’s how to best care for your full and half face respirators: 

1. Inspect your Respirator Regularly

There’s no point in cleaning your respirator if it’s cracked or otherwise defective. Take the time to inspect your respirator before each use to make sure it’s in good operating condition.

Carefully look over the facepiece for cracks, tears or dirt and pay special attention to the face seal. Check out inhalation and exhalation valves, straps, gaskets and seals for any signs of wear, tear or damage.

Finally, inspect any lenses of your respirator for anything that could impair your vision or performance. If there are any sign of defect or damage, it will need to be replaced.

2. Cleaning Your Respirator

OSHA has some pretty strict requirements for the proper cleaning of respirators. They should. Often times, your respirator is the only thing between you and dangerous dusts, gases, vapors or fumes.

Unfortunately, it’s far too easy to overlook respirator safety when the hazards may be invisible to the naked eye. The truth is, if you don’t take care of your respirators, they can’t take care of you.

That’s why many safety and production managers find it’s helpful to place signage throughout their facility as reminders to clean, maintain and store respirators the right way.

Just remember to ALWAYS check manufacturer instructions for inspecting, cleaning and maintaining your respirators. 

Follow These Steps:

  1. Remove filters, cartridges or canisters. Disassemble diaphragms, valve assemblies, hoses or other components.
  2. Wash components in warm water, using a mild detergent or cleaner recommended by the manufacturer. A stiff bristled (non-wire) brush can be used.
  3. Rinse components in clean, warm running water.
  4. If cleaner doesn’t have a disinfecting agent, you may then immerse respirator components in OSHA approved solutions. Do NOT use solvents or alcohol wipes.
  5. Thoroughly rinse components again in clean, warm running water.
  6. Hand dry components with clean, lint-free cloth or allow to air dry.
  7. Reassemble facepiece, replacing filters, cartridges and canisters.
  8. Test respirator for proper function.

3. Maintaining Your Respirator

Don’t go tossing your respirator in a tool box, locker or in the cab of your truck. There’s rules about that and for good reason.

Storing your respirator properly after each use is an important step in maintaining your gear. Make sure to store your respirator in a cool, dry place because exposure to sunlight, heat, cold, smoke or chemicals can damage your respirator and render it useless. Using a storage bag can offer additional protection.

Also, remove that cartridge from your respirator and store in a zipper locked plastic bag to avoid contamination.

Cartridges and filter cannot be cleaned. Depending on their condition, they can be reused or disposed of completely. Have a change out schedule handy so you know when each cartridge should be replaced.

It’s important to note the contaminants you’re working with as well as the frequency, concentration and length of use, and any other factors like temperature and humidity of your work area. Document these changeouts so there’s no doubt in your mind when it’s time for a new filter.

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