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Ohio State University Extension


Properly Cleaning and Storing Respirators for Trainers and Supervisors

Tailgate Safety Training for Landscaping and Horticultural Services
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Agricultural Safety and Health Program

Objective: Clean and store respirators according to the presented guidelines.

Trainer’s Note

Respirators remain effective and unsoiled if they are properly cleaned and stored. For this module:

  • Present the information below on common mistakes with respirators.
  • Stress correct procedures for cleaning and storing.
  • Demonstrate proper cleaning and storage procedures.
  • Have workers practice cleaning and storing procedures while you supervise.
  • Review the important points.
  • Have workers take the True/False quiz to check their learning.


Here are some common mistakes with respirators.

  • On a hot and humid day, a worker haphazardly removes a respirator. The respirator is hung on a nail next to a pesticide container.
  • A worker tosses a respirator on the dashboard of the truck. The truck is parked in a very sunny spot.
  • A respirator is in an enclosed cab. The cartridge is inside the sleeve of a plastic glove. The respirator has been there for two months.

Why are those mistakes? How can they be corrected?

Dust, sunlight, heat, extreme cold, excessive moisture, and damaging chemicals can affect respirators. They must be cleaned properly after each use. They must be stored in a clean dry place. They must be stored away from personal clothing and pesticide-contaminated areas. Disposable respirators, or dust filter masks, must be discarded after one use. Cartridges must be discarded when they show signs of being used up.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to maintain a written Respiratory Protection Program for cleaning, storing, and maintaining respirators. Workers can consult OSHA’s Respiratory E-Tool for details on procedures and requirements.

A dual cartridge respirator uses an absorbent material plus dust filters to purify the air. A single cartridge respirator with full face shield also covers eyes, nose, and mouth. A disposable dust mask traps particles out of the air.

Cleaning Cartridge Respirators

  • Respirators should be cleaned after each use except disposable respirators or dust filter masks.
  • Discard disposable respirators or dust filter masks after one use.
  • Non-alcohol wipe pads can be used during intermittent use.
  • Disassemble the respirator, following the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Inspect the parts. Replace damaged or worn parts.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning.
  • Wash reusable face pieces. They should be cleaned with a mild disinfecting soap. They should be rinsed and air dried before storing.
  • Do not use strong cleaning agents and solvents. They can damage rubber or plastic respirator parts.
  • Clean the inhalation and exhalation valves in a mild soap solution. Don’t damage the valves during cleaning.
  • Air-dry the parts that have been cleaned. They must be completely dry before they can be reassembled.
  • After reassembling, check seals and gaskets for tightness and leaks.
  • Wash hands before and after cleaning.

Cartridges and Filters

  • Cartridges and filters cannot be cleaned.
  • Dispose of cartridges and filters when they are used up:
    • when you can smell or taste contaminants
    • when your eyes, nose, or throat become irritated
    • when they show any signs of damage

Storing Respirators

  • Before you store respirators, clean them and let them dry. Store them as soon as they are dry so they don’t collect dust.
  • Store clean, dry respirators in nonporous, sturdy, airtight containers, like a zip-sealed plastic bag.
  • Store cleaned respirators separate from cartridges.
  • Store respirators in a cool, dry cabinet specifically designated for storage.
  • When stored, position the respirator so that it keeps its natural shape.
  • Exhalation valves and face pieces should lie in a normal position to prevent the plastic or rubber from being deformed.
  • Store respirators to protect them from dust, sunlight, extreme heat or cold, excessive moisture, and damaging chemicals.

Review These Important Points

  • Clean respirators after each use.
  • Cartridges and filters should be disposed of after they are used up and cannot be cleaned.
  • After cleaning, store respirators in a cool, dry place.

About These Modules
The author team for the training modules in the landscape and horticultural tailgate training series includes Dee Jepsen, Program Director, Agricultural Safety and Health, Ohio State University Extension; Michael Wonacott, Research Specialist, Vocational Education; Peter Ling, Greenhouse Specialist; and Thomas Bean, Agricultural Safety Specialist. Modules were developed with funding from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, Grant Number 46E3-HT09.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the U.S. Department of Labor.

Answer Key

1. F

2. F

3. T

4. T

5. F


Quiz: Properly Cleaning and Storing Respirators



True or False?

1. Respirators do not have to be cleaned.     T     F

2. Store respirators in the cab of a tractor.     T     F

3, Sealing a respirator in an airtight plastic bag prevents it from collecting dirt and dust.     T     F

4. Cartridges that have been used up make respirators ineffective.     T     F

5. The respirator can be cleaned in one piece.     T     F

Originally posted Jun 7, 2018.