Getting Ready For The Fall: The Best Masks For Chimney Sweep Respiratory Protection

Shanna Cooper
Wed Sep 28, 2022
1 Comment

Its that time of year again.

The seasons are changing, temperatures are cooling and those beloved fireplaces will become a well utilized feature as a centerpiece for gatherings and warmth. But before you light that match and set the first set of logs alight or dive into the busiest time of year for your chimney business, its important to not only understand the importance of the cleaning a chimney and why but also how to do safely.

Why is this so important for homeowners? 

When a chimney is used, soot and creosote are collected as the outcome of wood burn off. Both are known topical and inhalation hazards.

Soot is known as a carcinogen and can increase your cancer risk, compromise your immune system or trigger other health sensitivities. 

Creosote can be quite harmful with only a brief encounter; resulting in rashes/skin irritation, chemical burns of the eyes, mental confusion, kidney/liver problems, unconsciousness or even death. When it is built up to a large degree within a chimney, a homeowner will be inadvertently exposed to it whenever another fire is lit. If the creosote build up is large enough, the possibility of a chimney fire is very real due to its highly flammable nature. 

A build up of both of these substances will cause a chimney to be clogged, inhibiting proper ventilation and increasing the accumulation of carbon monoxide within your home. 

Not things you want to be encountering when enjoying your fireplace.

The National Fire Protection Association of America advises that all chimneys be inspected and cleaned annually before the fall/winter season to avoid buildup of these hazardous substances.

Are you in search of a reliable expert chimney sweep? 

Contact NSCG for recommendations.

Why is this so important for chimney sweeps?

 The main objective of a chimney sweep is to remove soot from a system to prevent dangerous levels of build up. In order to accomplish this, chimney sweeps are frequently exposed to airborne soot, creosote, and ash as a result from wood, oil, and/or gas combustion. There are also instances where a chimney sweep may come into contact with animal droppings, asbestos, fumes/vapors from paints, solvents and water repellents and numerous other hazards. All of these encounters without proper protection are linked to late onset cancer and respiratory illness.

Knowing the hazards of both soot and creosote alone are imperative in order to be a successful chimney sweep/expert. While a chimney sweep may be well versed in the technique of cleaning a chimney properly, none of that will matter if they are not protecting themselves from the substances that they are trying to remove from the chimney. 

There is an age old saying by Ernie Hostedler that the dust you can see can hurt you, but the dust you cant see can kill you and it couldn’t be more true.

Respiratory hazards and late onset of respiratory related cancers are the number one dangers for chimney sweeps as soot and smoke inhalation can cause respiratory distress, illness, infection, and death. Physical contact with these substances will also trigger a plethora of skin or eye infections. 

With this knowledge, a chimney sweep will want to protect themselves from all hazardous airborne contaminants. It is important at all chimney sweeps and chimney companies take the time to understand what respirator is best for their specific application. 

There are several levels of classification for masks:






Protects from non-toxic dust and/or water-bases aerosols.

Protects from slightly toxic or irritating solid aerosols and/or liquids.

Protects from solid aerosols and/or liquids listed as toxic.

Examples of Application

Handling of stone, rubble, cellulose, concrete drilling.

Sanding of soft wood, composite materials, rust, putty, plaster, plastics/cutting, milling, grinding, metal drilling.

Sanding of hard wood (beech, oak), treatment of wood using copper, chrome or arsenic based products, impact stripping of paint, sanding of cement.


Flour, calcium carbonate (chalk), graphite, cotton, dust concrete.

Untreated softwood, grinding, cutting, welding, milling, coal glass fiber, mineral fiber, powered pesticide, grain dust.

Asbestos (without handling it), powered pesticide, biological, pharmaceutical, powder, treated wood, hard wood (exotic), chromium, lime, lead.

% Min of Filtration




Total Inward Leakage




Nominal Protection Factor

4.5 x TLV

12.5 x TLV

50 x TLV

Assigned Protection Value

4 x TLV

10 x TLV

20 x TLV.


Due to the variety of different particulate, chemical and vapor encounters that a chimney sweep might come into contact with; we do advise that a chimney sweep choose a respirator that falls within the FFP3 classic action at minimum.

Many chimney sweeps will carry a few different types of masks when working to ensure comprehensive protection for anything that they encounter.

The most common 3 are the following:

  1. An FFP3 half mask respirator
  2. N95 or higher disposable masks
  3. A PAPR (powered air respirator) 

In our opinion, a disposable mask is good to have as a back up and only as a back up. While an FPP3 half mask respirator is a good starting point due to its lower cost nature and comfortability, the absolutely best choice a chimney sweep can make is a PAPR due to its full face visor (for face and eye protection) and P3 filter protection from high dust environments, chemicals and other dangerous substances. They are also suitable for use with beards and glasses, making them an excellent choice for many chimney sweeps.

Below are our top selling respirators for chimney sweeps:

1. The Gentex Pureflo PAPR with HardHat

2. The CleanAir Ready 2 Work Kit

3. The AirWing 3 PAPR

4. The Powercap Active PAPR

5. The CleanAir HEPA PAPR

If you have any questions or would like to schedule a 1:1 meeting with us to determine what respirator would be best for you, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Stay safe out there.

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