Respirator & Dust Mask Types & Classifications

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is essential safety gear in a wide variety of industries, facilities, and daily environments. Knowing the right type of mask for various applications and to best comply with industrial and regulatory standards is essential.

The right tools can protect you against environmental contaminants, especially in medical applications, and can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Find what you need on this list of masks.

Basic List of Different Types of Masks

Respirator and Dust Mask Types & Classifications

Single Strap Masks

These disposable masks are considered comfort masks and do not function as respirators. While they are not approved by NIOSH, they do provide a basic barrier.

Approved Filtering Dust Marks

These NIOSH-approved masks are clearly identified with the approval markings workers need to know which applications they’re rated for. They are disposable and can block some particles, mists, and fumes.

Half-Face Masks

These masks are rated for more comprehensive protection. They have respirator cartridge filtering systems that can better block acid, chemicals, and gas fumes than masks without cartridges. While the masks are disposable, some of the cartridges and components can be reused with the proper maintenance.

Full-Face Masks

Full-face masks also require maintenance, but they offer a high degree of protection. They block the wearer’s entire face from acids, chemicals, and fumes from hazardous gases. 

Powered Air Purifying Systems

These systems work with hoods and helmets that protect the wearer’s face and completely control air access. The purifying system blows air into the mask for the wearer to breathe and has protected openings to maintain pressure.

Self-Contained Supplied Air

To offer an even higher degree of protection, self-contained supplied air mask systems have air tanks that provide the entirety of the wearer’s air. These are used in environments where the air is insufficient or insufficiently safe.

Each of these masks offers a different degree of protection for use in different industrial and medical environments.

Respirator Types

Respirators and ventilators are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they are intended for different applications. Respirators provide protection to wearers by partially or completely filtering the air in the environment. Ventilators, on the other hand, provide breathing assistance. Specialized masks often include respirators that are classified based on the degree and type of protection that they offer. 

The following masks offer a high degree of protection from airborne contaminants, including germs and viruses:


N95 respirator masks are an excellent choice for use in environments that put people at risk of becoming exposed to COVID-19. These masks block 95% of contaminants, but they do not resist oil.

Surgical N95

Surgical N95 masks are NIOSH-approved respirators. They can be used as surgical masks, and that application has been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


N99 masks offer an even greater degree of protection by filtering out 99% of contaminants. However, these masks are also not resistant to oil.


These masks offer protection from nearly 100% of contaminants, or 99.97%.


These masks offer some degree of resistance to oil and filter out 95% of contaminants. 


P-series masks are able to resist oil and oil damage to a strong degree. P95 masks, in particular, filter out 95% of contaminants.


These masks offer stronger protection by filtering out 99% of contaminants.


Just like N100 masks, these masks offer protection by filtering out 99.7% of contaminants, or nearly 100%, while still being able to resist oil. 

Personal Protective Equipment From Big Sky Engineering

At Big Sky Engineering, we’re supporting the COVID relief effort by providing machinery and manufacturing assistance to mask-making companies and others in the medical field.

Our company specializes in comprehensive automation processes and high-quality production systems to create specialized goods. Contact us today to learn more about our production and automation capabilities or to see how our responsive project management services can quickly get you the supplies you need.