The best P2 & P3 smoke and dust masks in Australia
Important COVID-19 update
10 July 2020: Victoria’s Chief Health Officer has recommended Victorians wear cloth masks in “situations where they are leaving their home and physical distancing is not possible – to help slow the spread of coronavirus in the community.” This guide is intended as a buying guide for P2/P3 dust masks and does not make any claims about coronavirus protection or prevention. Recommended cloth masks are typically sold in pharmacies, hardware stores and some supermarkets. Please refer to the Department of Health and Human Services for any guidance related to coronavirus.
NSW: NSW Health still recommends that “face masks are not recommended for the general public.” Cloth masks (not P2 masks) are only recommended for NSW residents who suspect they are infected and health care workers.
If you are symptomatic and suspect you might be infected with COVID-19, you are required to self-isolate in your own home. If you are living with other people or need to attend a medical appointment, a surgical mask is strongly recommended to minimise the risk of transmission.
Please refer to the NSW Health guide to Coronavirus (COVID-19) for any questions you might have regarding the virus.
Here’s everything you need to know about finding and fitting a certified P2 face mask in Australia.
Last Summer’s tragic string of bushfires 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 after the most recent bushfires, the AQI (air quality index) of Sydney took a nosedive. NSW Health warned that Sydney experienced “some of the worst [air] quality we’ve seen” and urged Australians to take the matter seriously.
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.
Just make sure you pick the right type with our guide to the best P2 and P3 dust masks available in Australia (and consider investing in a good air purifier).
P2 and P3 dust mask buying guide
- Look for “AS/NZS 1716:2012” – that means its compliant by Australian and New Zealand standards.
- 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 P2 mask online
Air + Smart Dust Mask
- Price: $33.45
- Rating: P2
- Adjustable: Yes, with adjustable elastic + nose clip
- AS/NZS Certified? Yes
When it comes to what’s available online, you’ll find a thousand and one P2 masks that do the same thing. The problem is: there are plenty of masks that claim to be P2-grade but aren’t actually certified by any local or international standards. Currently, Amazon Australia is serving a numberpromoted results that don’t fit these standards.
One Amazon option that’s both compliant and affordable is the Air+ Smart P2 Protection. This 10-pack of disposable P2 masks comes in under $40 and offers an optional “Active Ventilator” attachment, a battery-operated ventilation fan that keeps the mask dry.
Moisture provides the perfect breeeding ground for bacteria and mould. It’s the primary reason disposable masks are recommended for single-use. It’s a smart solution for disposeble masks but even with the fancy tech add-on, these masks are still recommended for single-use.
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)
- AS/NZS Certified? Yes
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.
Best Heavy Duty P3 Mask
Trend Air Stealth Mask
- Price: $59.95
- Filter: Twin HEPAC filters
- Class: P3
- Adjustable: Yes (overhead elastic straps)
- AS/NZS Certified? Yes
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)
- AS/NZS Certified? Yes
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).
When will I need a P2 or P3 dust mask?
As mentioned above, P2 and P3 face masks are most commonly used by people who work with potentially harmful powders, gases and chemicals; pharmacists, doctors, factory workers etc. However, P2 and P3 class masks are also issued to firefighters to protect from smoke from fires, domestic, electrical, bushfires or otherwise.
The thick smoke haze that’s lingered across NSW over the last few months has pushed a lot of everyday punters to consider purchasing a mask to protect themselves.
As for exactly when you will need it, well that’s up to the whims of the weather. We strongly recommend downloading a quality weather app in preparation and, if you can track one down, an indoor air-quality monitor or air purifier with an in-built air quality indicator.
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.