Working blind is not very safe.
December 5, 2018 3:49 AM   Subscribe

I sometimes find myself in situations where I am supposed to wear both a mask and eye protection. However, when I put a mask on, my eye protection fogs up. Is there a solution to this age-old problem?

So for instance, today and yesterday I am doing a lot of drilling and screwing (eye protection) in an attic (mask). In principle, I'm 100% on board with wearing my PPE—there's a lot of rather gross dust flying in my face and I'd like to keep it out of my eyes and lungs. However, within a couple minutes my breath causes my safety glasses to fog over and I literally cannot see. If I remove my mask my glasses clear, or I can just remove the glasses, but I can't wear borh simultaneously and still see what I'm doing. I'm wearing a disposable N95 mask with the nosepiece pinched down onto my nose the way it's supposed to be, but I've also had this problem when wearing a properly fitted half-face respirator.

To the best of my knowledge, this is a universal problem. Has anyone ever solved it? In theory I could get in trouble at my company for not wearing required PPE, but regardless of policy I do want to protect myself from all the nasty crud that I'm rolling around in. If different equipment is the answer, my company might be willing to purchase it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The to Work & Money (26 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
There are some fog-resistant safety glasses, if you haven't tried that route yet. I don't have any in particular to recommend, but if you Google there are lots of options.
posted by Fig at 3:54 AM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

In my experience and that of all the coworkers I've spoken to, "fog-resistant" is a shameless lie. If someone does have specific recommendations then I'm here for them, though.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:03 AM on December 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

As someone who lives in a cold climate, I have a similar problem in the winter with a scarf + glasses, where I am torn between the two options of can't see because fogged up glasses or can't see because took glasses off, world blurry. Long story short, I usually show up to work sans scarf with a red face.

However I have used this to some limited success:
posted by photoelectric at 4:18 AM on December 5, 2018

Frequent stops to air out my vision protection is the only thing that works for me... (never take the respirafor off if you are working with dodgy stuff)
posted by larthegreat at 4:33 AM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Shaving cream is supposed to stop windows from fogging up. I’ve seen videos on YouTube supposedly showing that it works. So maybe just try that first, before spending any money.

(Clearly I’m still skeptical. I’d be interested to know if it actually does work, and for how long.)
posted by catatethebird at 4:37 AM on December 5, 2018

Magnetic wiper:

Also if you can improve the ventilation of your glasses with, e.g., backwards facing vents (won't admit particles flying towards your eyes), that really, really helps.
posted by anaelith at 4:38 AM on December 5, 2018

For what it's worth I'm wearing safety glasses, not goggles or a mask. So, ventilation is already excellent and a magnetic wiper or similar won't really work. If answering this problem involves upgrading to a mask or goggles then I might consider it but for the level of stuff I'm doing, glasses are perfectly sufficient. As long as I can see through them.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:43 AM on December 5, 2018

Does your N95 have an exhalation valve?
posted by skyl1n3 at 4:45 AM on December 5, 2018

Can you get a full face mask? You would need to do a fit test but it will solve the problem
posted by parmanparman at 5:14 AM on December 5, 2018

If they are willing to spend the money, you can get powered full face masks with built in ventilation like the trend air/pro. Also useful if you have a beard.
posted by Poldo at 5:20 AM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Years ago at a photography trade show, a fellow demonstrated a pink anti-fog paste for camera lenses so you might look in that direction. DIY suggestions are rubbing in bar soap or a small amount of dish washing liquid, have you tried that?
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:05 AM on December 5, 2018

I've had the most luck trying to get the mask to fit snugger at the top than at the bottom, so when you breath out, the moisture goes down. There are also slightly better disposable masks that have a plastic valve in the middle where the breath then comes out of.
posted by Don_K at 6:23 AM on December 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

I’ve dealt with this for decades as a lifelong glasses-wearing astigmatic, physician (wearing face masks and eye protection daily), and as a scuba diver. Two factors cause fogging: the lens is cooler than the air behind it and the air has higher relative humidity.

In air-conditioned, dehumidified hospitals, it’s still a problem with endoscopes, bronchoscopes, laparoscopies, etc. In the humid environment of the body. If the scope is warmed, it helps but not completely. There are a number of products for endoscopes and scuba which are moderately effective.

The usual tricks are:
1. Select safety glasses which fit relatively loosely and do not seal the eyes from air flow. (This is obviously not possible in certain applications. Still ventilation of the space behind the glasses is key.) The glasses should fit closer to the skin below the eyes as humid exhaled air is coming from that direction.
2. Certain plastic glasses, like polycarbonate, are somewhat less prone to fogging than glass.
3. Is you use a glass lens, make sure the glasses are scrupulously clean. Use dilute baby shampoo followed by isopropyl or very dilute ammonia, or other commercially available cleaners that don’t leave a residue.
4. Apply a piece of tape along the top of the mask below the eyes to prevent venting of exhaled air in that direction.
5. You can breathe in anyway you want but breathe out through your mouth. Try it. It reduces exhaled air flow from the top of the mask and directs it more out the bottom.
posted by sudogeek at 6:39 AM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Nthing that the trick is to make sure the mask seals to your face along the top edge. Many dust masks have a strip of soft metal there that needs to be bent to fit your nose. If you skip this step then there's likely to be a gap on each side where your nose meets your cheek, and this produces a jet of warm, moist air up towards your glasses with every exhalation.
posted by jon1270 at 7:08 AM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I wear a powered full face mask for work, and it will fog up if I'm sweating, so that's not a surefire solution. They're also heavy, uncomfortable, and expensive.

The N95s with valves do help some. I haven't fogged up the bigger, squared off safety glasses (vs the ones that look more or less like sport glasses), so trying different styles could help.
posted by momus_window at 7:26 AM on December 5, 2018

Hmm, my N95 does have a valve and I am pinching it down onto my nose and breathing through my mouth already. My glasses are polycarbonate, but the attic I'm working in is unheated and it's in the 30s (Fahrenheit) today, which no doubt worsens the condensation issue. I don't think a full-face mask or a PAPR are in the cards. Taping the top of the mask to my face might help but I doubt it would stay put very long as I'm moving around a lot and sometimes I pull the mask down for a moment if I need to talk or if I step outside for some fresher air.

Thanks a lot for the advice; if anyone has further ideas I'm all ears.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:00 AM on December 5, 2018

3M 1/2 face with proper exhaust. I would suggest one from the 75## family - likely the medium sized 7502 for about 15$. These exhaust down and are made out of silicone, and are designed to address exacly the problem you are having. As a bonus, they are much nicer than whatever you are using. You'll need to order the filters separate which are not cheap, but you can get exactly the filters for your project/environment. P100 rated are the ticket for my only set of lungs.

I have both a full faced and 1/2 faced and use the full faced for dusty work. But full face, while great, are hot, heavy and I wouldn't get one that cost less than 100$. And then you are still paying for filters plus you'll need a plastic screen protector, because you don't want to get the thing scratched up.....and you've traded fog for sweat inside your mask. So even if someone else is paying my first choice is still the 1/2 face.

And your company should pay for it.
posted by zenon at 9:02 AM on December 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hmm, I have a 1/2 face but I can see having a downward exhaust like that (which my mask doesn't have) might make a big difference. And it's cheap enough that I could see the company paying for it. I'll talk to my boss!
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:10 AM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Two things: when I used to scuba dive, pretty much the standard antifog was: rinse mask, spit on the inside, wipe spit all around the inside, rinse quickly. Dive!

The second rec: Use a mask with a rubber gasket that seals firmly to your face—the kind that uses screw-in filters. That should keep moisture from your breathe out of your eyes at least.
posted by executive_dysfuncti0n at 10:37 AM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Try a lens wipes so the water beads instead of fogs. I use McMaster item 10895T21 but you can use whatever
posted by Dmenet at 11:11 AM on December 5, 2018

Use lens wipes. See if your safety person has some lens wipes, tell them your gear is fogging and you need some help.

(I used to spit in my glasses which is useful in a pinch but i might spring for wipes now)
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 12:28 PM on December 5, 2018

I went with a $80 set of goggles from the local paintball supplier that have an integrated fan. That does wonders.

Unfortunately it's still a bit uncomfortable to fit the goggles with a good seal and the respirator on at the same time, but it got me something that both made me feel like I had decent air to breathe and let me see without crap falling in my eyes when I installed the insulation in my crawlspace.
posted by straw at 1:34 PM on December 5, 2018

Zipwax I work in the trades and use it on my eye protection to clean and keep the lenses from fogging.

I use it on my civilian eyewear when wearing my balaclava for winter cycling

I use in on the bathroom mirror at home so I don’t need to wipe off the glass after a shower to groom myself.

Whenever I get around to it, I’m going to apply it on the inside of my windshield so I won’t need to listen to the passengers complain about overheating when Defrost is on
posted by ayc200 at 1:55 PM on December 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

ExFog fan for full-scale googles? Looks like <$80.
posted by evilmomlady at 4:06 PM on December 5, 2018

Chainsaw users and some firefighters use mesh googles that can't fog, but I don't know that I would use them with an angle grinder.
posted by 445supermag at 4:24 PM on December 5, 2018

FWIW telescope makers and users, who commonly deal dew and condensation problems on mirrors, lenses, and eyepieces, often rely on battery-powered heating elements and the like to raise the temperature of the lens condensation collects on, thus preventing the the condensation. Example 1 2 3

This is probably way on the end of extreme solutions to your particular problem, but I can tell you that applying a bit of heat to the surface where condensation appears does indeed dramatically reduce the problem, if you can figure out how to do it in a practical way.
posted by flug at 11:22 AM on December 6, 2018

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