Confusing: Paint Mask Should Not Be Used With Paint?

Reader Mike is confused by this 3M Latex Paint and Odor Respirator with Valve. The front of the package lists “disposable aerosol spray paint cans” as something the mask “helps provide relief” from. However, the instructions seem to say that you shouldn’t use it with paint spray. What should he do?

I was at my local hardware store to pick up some disposable, quick-use masks for spraying some nitrocellulose lacquer. I go to the right aisle and pick out a decently priced pair of 3M Latex Paint and Odor Respirator with Valve masks.

After going down the list of things this mask protected the user from, I quickly found “disposable aerosol spray paint cans” on the list and was satisfied. I bought the item and was about to use it, but had an inclination to read the instructions before going out to spray.

I read through the instructions and I was cautioned NOT to use this mask with “paint spray.”

Should I use the masks or not?

Well, kudos on reading the instructions! The instructions are written in a confusing way, but we understand them to mean that you shouldn’t use it with paint spray, “when particulate concentrations exceed 10 times the PEL/OEL, specific OSHA standards, or applicable government regulations, whichever is lower.” If you’re not sure that the substance you’re spaying qualifies, you should check with an expert.

Do we have any experts in the comments?


Edit Your Comment

  1. Skiffer says:

    I would assume that “Paint spray” on the back means high-powered paint sprayers – and that disposable spray cans would be operating under a lower pressure that should be fine (i.e., less airborne dispersal)…

    Of course, I’m not taking any blame for anything…

  2. The semi-colon seems to make those two separate statements, IMO.

  3. Vulcaex says:

    For paint you should use a respirator mask with an organic vapor cartridge. These can usually be found at hardware stores for about $20-$30.

    The mask the OP describes are really only designed for nuisance dust. They will protect against the paint spray droplets but not the solvent vapor.

  4. Maybe paint spray means a spray booth?

  5. SkokieGuy says:

    Perhaps might be a better place for your research than consumerist?

    The rating on the front of the package refers to a regulatory standard for what are appropriate uses for the maks.

    Or did you think of calling the toll-free number right on the package?

  6. opsomath says:

    Most likely a heavy-duty air-compressor powered spray gun, rather than a can.

  7. CarlR says:

    The key phrase here on the front is “helps provide relief from NON HARMFUL dusts, mists, and annoying odors”. In other words, only use this for stuff that you wouldn’t mind breathing in without a mask.

    If you are using stuff that can kill, you need a more expensive mask.

  8. stupidjerk says:

    Paint spray is not spray paint in a can.

    These masks are fine for use with spray paint in a can, so long as you use in a well ventilated area, which should always be done anyway.

    If he’s still nervous, see the advice of Vulcaex above

  9. satoru says:

    At least according to OSHA, paint spray more refers to how it would be used in an industrial situation. Similar to say a paint booth used by an auto body shop. In these situations the paint is a finer spray, but also contains other aerosols and particulate that can be harmful.

    For things like spray cans and even pressure paint sprayers, they don’t add any chemicals and the particulate isn’t small enough.

  10. CharlieInSeattle says:

    Nitrocellulose lacquer is not latex paint. When it’s talking about the can paints it talking about the latex touch up cans. This isn’t the right mask to use for lacquer. Unless you like getting high off the fumes.

  11. @heavylee-again: I think your’s is the right one. Paint Spraying in abooth requires fresh air, and some people assume that the mask provide air, when they just filter it.

  12. savvy999 says:

    Mike should huff paint in a paper bag, like everyone else.

    Seriously though, I think he would be OK if he was using this to spray outside or in a well-ventilated area. This ‘filter’ is not good enough for heavy concentrations, like in a spray booth.

  13. Eigtball says:

    @Skiffer: Exactly what I thought.

  14. B1663R says:

    Paint Spray (for industrial applications) contains high volumes of xylene (same stuff in magic markers) and a full face with organic and particulate filter will work.

    a particulate respirator (disposable paper kind N95 rated) will not protect from this.

    for typical, run of the mill spray paint in a can you need to paint outside or in a well ventilated area (fans and open windows)as the airborne contaminates will make you a little light-headed.

    if you must paint in an enclosed area with spray paint, you need either a SCBA or supplied air respirator. spraypaint contains a crapload of chemicals they use as a dispersion agent and as a drying agent. (propane, butane, xylene, blah, blah, blah)

    the safest way to do it is out side in a dust free area.

  15. Mom2Talavera says:

    @CarlR: Yup! “helps”

    goes along with all those key phrases


    “may aid in the prevention of..”

    or “virtually” ect ect

  16. Scoobatz says:

    Please don’t tell me that people really need respirators to apply latex paint.

  17. Capsic says:

    Not to sound rude, but if we are reading the instructions soooo carefully, and we don’t understand them, there is a 1-800 number to call (on the instructions) for clarification.

  18. kthxbai says:

    I guess spray paint and paint spray are two different things…?

  19. sean77 says:

    Can we not read anymore?

    Do not use for paint spray… when particulate concentrations exceed 10 times the PEL/OEL, specific OSHA standards, or applicable goverment regulations, whichever is lower

  20. rmosler says:

    There is a big difference between preventing paint from getting into you lungs (as this mask does) and preventing organic vapors from propellants in spray paints. You should always use ventilation and if not, utilize a respirator that handles organic vapors like a PAPR with appropriate canisters.

  21. blurdo says:


    No. This mask is completely inappropriate for nitrocellulose lacquer. You can wear it and it will keep dust out, but for protection against the organic vapors in nitrocellulose lacquer, it is completely useless. You would do as well to wear a handkerchief over your face.

    The package is confusing, but it has to be written that way to be within the regulations. I work with this all the time and you practically need a Masters in this subject to figure out exactly which mask you need.

    This mask will provide relief for the uses it lists, but only for paint and odor (hence the name.) If you want protection from organic vapor fumes (and I can assure you that you do), you need to get a more appropriate respirator.

  22. 00exmachina says:

    The previous guy got it in one.

    Paint spray, which it is ok’d for is putting paint into a spraying machine that uses compressed air to spray the paint.

    Cans of spray paint need something more beefy to be able to handle the propellants used.

    You best bet would probably be to return it if it isn’t opened and see if you can get a disposable respirator.

  23. RChris173 says:

    Call the 800 number for 3M.

  24. trygstad says:

    Having implemented OSHA programs from the ground up for 2 Navy aviation squadrons, I can tell you that if a mask is not fit-tested, it is not actually a “respirator”. Disposible masks by definition cannot be fit tested, and consequently are really truly suitable–at least under the rules–as anything other than dust masks. Respirators used to block the breathing of fumes from volitile solvents must actually seal to the face and block the intake of any unfiltered air, which paper/fabric masks cannot do.