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February 2020

Extending the life of your masks

So, now you have your favorite mask. Or, not. But keeping whichever mask you choose clean, well, that's the topic of today's post.

This is this inside filter of my RZ mask. It is an activate charcoal filter and it is, well, past it's best days. 


Hair has worked it's way through the filter to my face. Time to replace it!! I also wash the outer covering separately from anything else in a fresh ultrasonic machine with laundry soap and air dry after rinsing.  


When I take off whichever mask I am wearing I use a small force dryer to clean off any loose hairs, then put it directly into a plastic bag to keep dog hair off. I do not lay it down anywhere because of hair. I can often use the construction masks for 3 or 4 days by doing this and the respirator type up to a week.  

You can also use a rubbermaid type container. 

Follow the manufacturer's instructions for storage and disposal. Airflow can be limited due to incorrect or prolonged use of a "dirty" mask. 

Breathe healthy masks are cute, fabric masks with multilayered protection.  They are nice little masks, but they offer up a host of other problems. First of all, hair sticks to the cotton fabric. Once washed, the fabric can "fuzz" and trap more hair. They MUST be washed by hand, alone, or in an ultrasonic machine. If you toss them in the laundry with towels, this happens:



The photo of the inside of the mask is from one only ever hand washed.  It's still going strong! The other one, well, not so much. My bather was not paying attention.  

If you  have replacement filters for your masks, change them no less than one time per week or more often if you see hair or dirt building up inside. 

A dirty mask is almost no better than nothing at all. 


I am unsure on the use of bandanas or face sheild, tubular bandanas.  They will prevent some hair from being inhaled and they are protective of dust, but I am unable to find any evidence that they are beneficial. 

If you choose to use these, choose slick fabrics,  not fleece, and store sealed,  washing regularly,  by themselves.  

Protect your body before you wish you had!

Masks, which one's right for you?

I am sitting in a hospital bed, awaiting a brochoscopy with biopsy to confirm a diagnosis of sarcoidosis and rule out lymphoma.  It's been years of fighting for answers. The last weeks I have gotten some. Now, learn from my experience.  

Since I was diagnosed with Interstitial lung disease, believed to be related to sarcoidosis, I have been adamant about wearing a mask. I should have been wearing one all the time, but like most of us, I wasn't.  I started wearing them while drying dogs several years ago, but there is hair, dander, flea product residue and just dirt in general in all areas of the grooming shops. 



This is the shelf at my local Lowe's store yesterday. Lots of empty spaces. Lots of questions. Which mask is best for our situation? It's kind of like a crap shoot. You make a decision and buy one. Hope it fits. Hope you can breathe and glasses fogging will be minimal. 

You hope. You are protected. 

That day as I stood looking for masks was a unique day because the worldwide shortage of surgical masks had extended to construction masks and dust masks. Coronavirus fears had wrecked havoc on the availability of the protective masks everywhere. Online, I could not even get replacement filters for my RZ mask and all Vogmasks were unavailable everywhere I looked.

So, I bought a supply of different types and brought them to work to figure out what worked, what didn't and what to look for. A kind of science experiment I guess. 

What to look for in filtration ratings: Niosh or N 95 or higher (ratings are on the boxes and sometimes the masks) is reccomended by experts to filter minute particles like fiberglass and dust. The hair slivers we produce are like fiberglass. Ever watched a dog shake with sunlight showing you every little sliver flying? Those are part of what we need protection from.  So, find a mask rated for 95 filtration. 

Then, fit. It HAS TO FIT, but it has to be comfortable.  I have not found the perfect mask. Probably not going to.  But I have found that if it fits well it is more likely to be worn. 

The photos below show what to look for. Sealed around the face. Fit near glasses. Sealed under the chin. If the mask doesn't seal, it's not worth wearing.  


This mask is a size too big, but I wear the right size filters inside.  I will be getting a medium when I can. They are currently unavailable.  


This one fits better. It is the 95 filtration mask from Home Depot. It fits better than the RZ. It fits under my glasses, seals under my chin. The double straps are not super comfortable but are not horrible.  It has a foam strip at the nose for added fog protection.  

Keep in mind. Ear loops and head loops affect comfort! Vogmask and RZ masks have wide, padded bands. Much more comfortable. 


The ones above are 3m brand,  N95 and I got them in Lowes. On me, they fit well. They breathe well, like the ones from Home Depot. They fit differently. There is no foam on the nose area.  If you are smaller or have less hair, these might be the better of the two, but they are close.



This is my favorite even if it's overkill. It is rated 100. Sealed with neoprene.  It has adjustable double straps which I found were the most comfortable.  Virtually no fogging of my glasses. It looks funny. It feels funny. But it enables me to be able to not worry about chemical exposure. I use it on dirty dogs or suspect a flea collar. 


Regular 4 ply non woven dust masks work. But not enough to fully protect when drying dogs or when working on dirty dogs, IN MY OPINION.  My pulmonologist agrees. He said if you are finish clipping or using a vac system they are ok. He suggested more protection is needed for us. Also, he said to start now, even if it has been 50 years since you started grooming to prevent further damage. 

If your respiratory systems are working properly, you will filter out hair in the upper airways. Hair, mucus, cilia...they all act as filtration to keep larger particles out of the lungs and deeper airways. But our systems can only do so much and the  chemical overload we face daily with the topical flea products (and who knows what else) we come into contact with can be too much for us to handle.

I dipped dogs in pesticides that are now banned. I blew off those dogs, no masks, goggles,  gloves. I have groomed 10 dogs a day, 5 days a week OR MORE for 25 years. I wish I knew then what I know now.

Next up, storage and cleaning masks. 

Protect your lungs, skin, eyes. You only get one body. Mine is trying to quit. But...

I am too mean to die and too stupid to quit!