The best P2 & P3 smoke and dust masks in Australia
This Summer, air pollution in Sydney has become 12 times worse than what’s considered hazardous so it’s time to mask up.
This Summer’s tragic string of bushfires has cast Australia’s east coast in a thick, smokey haze. Sydney’s air quality can spell bad news for anyone with severe respiratory issues even on the best of days but this Summer, the AQI (air quality index) of Sydney has taken a nosedive. NSW Health has warned that Sydney is experiencing “some of the worst quality we’ve seen” and urged Australians to “take this seriously”.
Chemists are selling out of everyday surgical masks, and Google search volume for “P2 masks” is the highest it’s been since 2009’s swine flu epidemic.
Something is usually better than nothing but not every face mask will protect you from inhaling smoke, and according to health experts, the paper-thin surgical masks sold at most chemists are practically useless. Then there’s the fit. Even the best dust masks won’t protect you very well if they aren’t fitted properly. People with beards? Forget about it.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like things are going to clear up much until Summer is over so it might be time to invest in a dust mask (and an air purifier). Just make sure you pick the right type with our guide to the best P2 and P3 dust masks available in Australia.
P2 and P3 dust mask buying guide
- Check that it’s P2 or P3-rated
- Check it can be tightened and moulded around the bridge of your nose
- Avoid cheap surgical masks
- Don’t reuse disposable masks past what is recommended on the package
Best reusable P2 mask online
AxPower Dust Mask
- Price: $24.49
- Filters: Charcoal
- Rating: P2
- Adjustable: Yes, with nylon strip and flexible nose clip
When it comes to what’s available online, you’ll find a thousand and one P2 masks that do the same thing. The highest-rated and most popular P2 mask currently available on Amazon Australia is the AxPower Dust Mask.
AxPower seems to be a bit of enigmatic manufacturer and it’s only online presence is via e-commerce and online shopping platforms with no customer support (or instructions packaged) to be found.
Still, loads of Amazon users seem to be chuffed with their purchase. The only complaints we’ve read so far are from people with noggins too large for the AxPower mask. So if you’ve got a massive brain and can’t ever seem to find a hat that fits, you might want to look elsewhere.
Otherwise, it’s a decent P2 mask that comes with four replacement carbon filters. Refills will cost you less than $10 for 4, which isn’t as pricey as other well-known brands.
Still, reusing carbon filters is more eco-friendly than binning disposable masks (which are sometimes your only option at some local retailers). Give it a red hot go.
Best reusable P2 mask from Bunnings
Protector Respirator Kit
- Price: $44.49
- Filter: A-Aus gas and particle filters
- Class: P2
- Adjustable: Yes (elastic straps)
If you’re looking for something local, Bunnings’ popular Protector brand stocks its own reusable P2 mask. There’s only one issue: it definitely has an… industrial look. If you don’t have an issue with looking like a garden-variety Batman thug, the Protector will give you solid P2 support without breaking the bank. Replacement filters also chalk up to $7.95 each (you’ll need 2 for every cycle). $15.90 every cycle is a little expensive but there are two replacement filters included with the base kit; which will give you two days of easy breathing.
Remember, the dust mask isn’t going to be an everyday thing (hopefully) so it’s not like you will be shelling out for new filters every other day. After all, the aesthetic of this beast isn’t something you will want to rock on the regular. Only on Friday nights at the Hellfire Club.
Most fashionable P2 mask
Springseaon PM2.5 Dust Masks
- Price: $14.99
- Filter: Replaceable activated carbon filters
- Class: P2
- Adjustable: Yes (elastic string)
Bunnings is great when it comes to nabbing a reliable product locally but fashion isn’t part of the hardware store’s vocabulary. If you’re looking for something a little friendlier, face mask manufacturer Springseaon is selling affordable, patterned P2 masks on Amazon in 36 different styles. On first glance, these valve-less cotton dust masks look disposable but they actually come with 4 replaceable PM2.5 carbon filters. Replacement filters will only set you back $13.99 for a pack of four.
The major downside to opting for these trendy apocalypse accessories is that they aren’t quite as form-fitting as the recommendations above. They have two adjustable straps that loop around your ears but there’s no adjustable nose strip.
Unlike AxPower, Springseaon does have a public-facing website and customer support channel.
If you’re looking for something stylish that doesn’t forego the valve, ECO-GEAR is also selling patterned and colourful PM2.5 masks on Amazon Australia too.
Best Heavy Duty P3 Mask
Trend Air Stealth Mask
- Price: $59.95
- Filter: Twin HEPAC filters
- Class: P3
- Adjustable: Yes (overhead elastic straps)
Even though NSW Health experts have reassured Australians that P2 masks will get the trick done, folks who are particularly at risk might want to consider something more protective. P3 masks are commonly used by workers who handle hazardous powders and chemicals. In short, they offer more protection and are often recommended when the risk or hazard hasn’t been officially assessed.
However, P3 masks aren’t as readily available as P2 masks. You can pick up a heavy-duty kit from Australian manufacturer 3M but you will pay through the nose. Respirator brand Trend sells its Air Stealth P3 mask via Amazon Australia. It’s a little easier on the eyes and will only set you back $59.95. It protects from aerosol mist and other industrial fumes down to 0.3 microns with 99.9% efficiency so it’s kind of like strapping an air purifier to your face.
The Trend Air Stealth mask sports some pretty serious elastic straps and is sold in a couple of different sizes so it could be your best bet if you have trouble finding a good fit.
The only major issue with the Trend Air Stealth is that the company doesn’t make it easy to track down replacement filters.
Best Disposable P2 Mask
Protector Multimate Carbon Disposable Respirator
- Price: $8.95 for 2 pack
- Filter: Disposable P2 Carbon filters
- Class: P3
- Adjustable: No (over-ear elastic string)
If you need something cheap and you need it now, you could opt for a disposable P2 mask.
We don’t recommend disposable because, besides the waste, people often use disposable masks past their use-by date.
Not only does this make them less effective but the fungal spores that can develop in the filter and valve can spell even further trouble for anyone living with a respiratory illness.
Still, if you need a quick and easy solution, the Protector Disposable P2 Mask is a trusted favourite. It’s also available at Bunnings so you can grab a sausage sanga while you prep for the end of the world.
What are P1, P2 and P3 respirator masks?
These ratings are what manufacturers use to classify the level of protection a dust mask offers. In terms of protection, it’s kind of self-explanatory: P1 offers the least amount of protection and P3 offers the most.
P1 masks are mostly used for low-level dust and work environments where there’s a lot of drilling, sanding and cutting done. P1 can also protect aerosols and come recommended if you plan on tagging the side of a train. These are the most common dust masks found in pharmacies and supermarkets and do not offer enough protection to shield out bushfire smoke.
P2 masks are a little more serious. These respiratory masks will shield you from moderate dust levels and offer up to 12x the protection offered by a P1 mask. P2 masks have been recommended by health officials as the bare minimum protection required when going up against bushfire smoke. That doesn’t mean they’re the best at the job though.
P3 face masks offer the most protection out of the 3 and are used in areas with a high concentration of dust or smoke particles. They are often used by people who handle hazardous powders (such as pharmaceuticals) and scenarios where the risk hasn’t been properly assessed (e.g. a reported gas leak or smoke from an unknown origin).
Most important: Find the right fit
Regardless of how efficient your dust mask is at filtering out smoke, it won’t mean jack if it doesn’t fit your face properly. In hazardous work settings, P2 and P3 masks are professionally fitted to the worker’s face to ensure there isn’t any air leakage. So when you’re shopping for a dust mask, and when you receive it, make sure it can be tightened and the nose strip can be moulded to the bridge of your schnozz.
Smoke particles are so fine that any air leakage can render them useless.
Just remember fellow kids: if it don’t fit, it ain’t lit.
Does Woolworths have dust masks?
Technically, yes. But they aren’t going to protect you from smoke inhalation. Woolworths’ Jack Hammer Dust Masks are built to minimise paint fumes and sawdust inhalation but they won’t shield you from PM2.5 particles such as smoke.
Does Coles sell dust masks?
Not that we can see online but that doesn’t mean your local Coles doesn’t stock them. Even if they do, it’s probably the same story as Woolies and won’t offer you the protection you need. Alternatively, you can try the Coles-owned Officeworks. Officeworks sells a decent range of quality P2-grade dust masks.