Airbrushes produce overspray. Plain and simple. For those who work indoors, overspray is a dangerous lung hazard, and it can linger in the air for hours. We all know that a proper mask offers protection from overspray, but masks are often not worn for a variety of reasons.
Here is a simple way to reduce your exposure to overspray of water-based paints in a small room of your home or studio, and it won't cost you a lot of money.
The most common way to clean air is to move it through a filter designed to capture and remove particles. This involves a filter that is designed to remove particles from the air. Common HVAC filters have a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) that rates the overall effectiveness at removing particulate matter from the air. A MERV rating is a numerical value ranging from 1 (lowest efficiency) to 20 (highest efficiency) and tells the consumer how well the filter captures and holds particles and dust of a specified size range.
A higher value MERV rating equates to finer filtration, meaning fewer dust particles and other airborne contaminants can pass through the filter. A higher MERV rating seems like it would automatically be better, but it's not. The higher the MERV rating, the smaller the pores are for air to flow through the filter. This can create more resistance in airflow, thus making it inefficient. Remember that we want to move air quickly before we breath in any contaminates.
Airbrush overspray measures from 2 to 8 microns, usually averaging around 5 microns in diameter. This falls into the category of a MERV 8 filter. For those who want to arrest smaller particles, a higher MERV rating will do the job, but as the numbers become higher, air is moved more slowly, and many of the particles will linger before passing through the filter. Merv 11 would be the upper limit before efficiency becomes an issue.
We need a method which allows us to pull air through the filter, and an inexpensive way would be a box fan. In this case, I purchased a 20" box fan by Lasko for $16.88 from Walmart. Its quiet and has 3 speeds.
Next I found a 20 x 20 MERV 11 filter for $13.88. A MERV 8 would probably be even better because its less restrictive for air movement.
To hold everything together, I used a pair of 36" bungie cords for $3.66
I strapped it all together, making sure that the filter was placed so that the fan pulled the air through the filter.
Where to place it.
For this system to work the best, you will want to place it as close to your spray source as possible so that the overspray is pulled INTO
the fan. Next to your workstation is best, NOT
in some remote corner of the room. Allow the fan to run for a while even after you've finished spraying to reduce overspray traveling to other parts of your building.
Bottom line: Not everyone can afford a spray booth, and most of us don't enjoy wearing a respirator all day. This little system provides a solution to both problems with a total cost: $34.42 (plus tax).
Good luck with your artistic endeavors. Spray Safe!