How To Store And Reuse Dust Masks

Mixing up grout and thinset require that mosaic artists wear dust masks on an occasional basis.

I wear an N95 particulate mask, which is the same one I wear for sawing wood with power tools and many other shop and studio tasks that involve non-oily dust. An N-95 captures 95% of the particles of a certain diameter. Controlling the amount of dust you create is also essential for minimizing exposure, but that would be true even if the masks were rated 100%. No mask can protect you once you take it off.

dust masks can be stored in plastic bags
An ordinary resealable plastic bag is excellent for storing dust masks.

If It’s Done, Can It

The vacuum-and-bag method below is how I store and reuse dust masks used occasionally for lighter duties.

Of course you might not want to try to do this with a mask you wore on a twelve-hour shift in hot sweaty weather or if the amount of dust you were in was so extreme it affected visibility.
The mask should be disposed if it is saturated with dust or body salts or if it is mechanically worn out (torn, worn thin, creased severely).

Vacuum And Store In A Plastic Bag

Vacuum your mask (without damaging it or feeding it to the pig) and store it in a plastic bag.

The Important Tip

The important tip is how to vacuum it without ruining it or sucking it up in the vacuum. Remember, the pig will snatch up and eat anything, especially if you taunt him with a snack right in front of his suck hole, and his innards were made for contaminating dust masks. Always make sure the elastic band of the mask is twisted around your wrist.

You can also destroy your mask in a less obvious way.

You could create invisible rips and pinhole tears in the mask if you let the vacuum hose get stuck on it. Letting the hose get stuck on the mask also increases the risk of it getting sucked up.

Use brush fitting not bare nozzle. This helps prevent the mask from sealing or sticking to the hose.

Vacuum The Outside First

You also don’t want to suck dirt into the cup of the mask or deeper into the fibers of the mask. Vacuum the outside of the mask first. Then vacuum inside.

Don’t Make A Dust Inhalation Device

A dirty mask is a dust inhalation device, even if all the dust is on the outside of the mask. The act of handing it and putting it on can be enough to clog your sinuses if the mask is dirty enough.

This includes dust from storage as much as it does from previous wearings.

Keep your mask in a plastic bag to prevent dust from settling on it. The plastic bag can be a reused bag (shopping, bread, ziplock).

Don’t Swap Germs Until The Studio Christmas Party

Label bags with a black permanent marker to avoid exchanging germs with coworkers. I’ve found that some people are blind to most forms of labels on personal safety equipment. Capitalized initials in block letters seem to be the most effective, but razor wire probably wouldn’t stop some people from wearing your stuff.





3 responses to “How To Store And Reuse Dust Masks”

  1. Sam Avatar

    I’m going to try this, because these masks are not cheap! I bought a 10-count box of them at the local paint store and, at first, was throwing them away after just one use. When I realized the error of my ways, I began using them until they were either noticeably filthy, or, the metal nose piece deformed to the point where I could no longer achieve a comfortable fit/tight seal. I see a potential problem, though, with storing a used mask in an airtight container—especially for an extended period of time. I don’t know about you but I am a ferocious sweater, and when I take my mask off it’s usually soaking wet. Yuck. (And it’s not just wet from sweat but also from the water vapor that is expelled with every exhale.) So the thought of putting MY mask in a plastic bag conjures up memories of childhood, when I’d go swimming and put my still-wet bathing suit and towel in a bag—and leave it there! Ah…the smell of mildew is coming back to me as I write this. 😀

    1. Joe Moorman Avatar
      Joe Moorman

      You point out something that is definitely important: Always allow a dust mask to dry out before bagging if it is wet from perspiration. Even though the mask is synthetic fibers, the trace amounts of dust and skin cells on it are all the carbon source that mildew needs to grow and ruin the mask. I always make sure that my back brace/lifting belt and knee pads are dry before storage for the same reason.

  2. Sam Avatar

    P.S. I’m going to try the vacuuming part, not the storing part, of your “How-to.” And only AFTER I let it dry out! ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.