Before 2020, many of us did not know anything about N95 masks. Because of the current pandemic situation and the wildfires, you might have noticed that many people are either talking about N95 masks or wearing them, and you probably wonder what an N95 mask is, how it protects you from COVID-19 and other germs, and where to find a genuine one. If you take a few minutes to read this article, you may find all the answers about N95 masks.
What is an N95 mask and how does it protect us from COVID-19?
An N95 mask is a respiratory protective equipment that is originally designed for industrial use to mechanically filter more than 95% of very small airborne particles and liquid contaminants, including viruses and bacteria, and some harmful particles from smoke. It is basically a mesh of very thin fibers.
The interesting point here is that N95 masks do not only prevent the passing of very small molecules by their small gaps just like a net, but they also trap super small particles like viruses via weak intermolecular forces called van der Waals interactions and by electrical forces! The more layers a mask has, the bigger the chance of a very small particle to stick on a fiber and to be trapped, but the harder it is to breathe through.
Fun fact: We all think that the smallest particles are the most difficult to trap. But it is actually the middle-sized ones! Super small and super big particles are easy to trap by the fiber mesh and van der Waals interactions, but middle-sized ones are the struggle. When we say 95%, we are talking about the middle-sized particles which are the cough particles, as almost 100% of small and big particles are trapped anyway. How cool is science!
How are N95 masks different from surgical face masks and cloth masks?
According to the FDA and CDC, surgical masks, aka regular face masks do not seal the respiratory airway and do not have pores thin enough to provide complete protection from germs and particles from smoke floating in the air. N95 respirators, on the other hand, provide a much better facial fit and they have at least 95% filtration efficiency for very small particles. Also, both are designed to be disposed of when breathing through becomes difficult.
As we mentioned earlier, N95 masks use three principles to trap airborne particles: 1. Gap size, 2. Weak intermolecular interactions, 3. Electrostatic attraction. Any cloth or surgical face mask can achieve the first and second principle, but they are not qualified for the electrostatic attraction. Also, the sealing capabilities of N95 masks should not be underestimated. As you will guess, none of these principles will be useful without a proper fit, and that proper fit cannot be provided with a surgical mask or a cloth mask.
How should I wear an N95 mask?
N95 masks might come in different designs, depending on the manufacturer’s choice. Thus, users should always read and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Either with a head strap or an ear loop, an N95 masks should cover and seal the nose and mouth completely, which requires contact with smooth skin. We will talk about this below, but please note that a smooth contact cannot be achieved with facial hair.
Are N95 masks really reusable?
Both surgical masks and N95 masks are designed to be disposable; “ideally”, N95 respirators should be disposed after each use. However, as the demand is high and supply is low for N95 masks, and they might be a bit pricy compared to surgical masks, extended use and reuse might be an option during the current pandemic situation. Although the efficiency of an N95 mask is decreased by washing, decontamination, and reuse of N95 masks may be needed to enable continued availability.
According to the FDA and CDC, both N95 masks and surgical face masks should be disposed of when it gets hard to breathe through.
Is wearing a mask enough to protect ourselves from the virus?
No. The first and foremost precaution is not to be exposed to the virus by paying attention to the social distance and self-hygiene. According to CDC’s Hierarchy of Control pyramid, PPE is the least feasible and effective preventative control against Covid-19 infection, after elimination (physically removing the hazard), substitution (replacing the hazard), engineering controls (isolating people from the hazard), and administrative controls (changing the way people work), respectively. In certain circumstances, like health care settings or one-on-one businesses, elimination and substitution are not possible, so the other three options should be applied to reduce the exposures to transmissible respiratory pathogens. Note that the best way to prevent airborne transmission is the implementation of these strategies concurrently.
Who cannot use N95 masks?
A properly fitted N95 mask protects the user from viruses, bacteria, and other harmful particles; however, it should be taken into account that it makes breathing more difficult. Thus, people with heart conditions, lung diseases, or respiratory issues and psychological conditions like claustrophobia should not use N95 respirators without a proper medical evaluation. Please make sure that you are not harming yourself while trying to protect yourself from the virus.
Secondly, people with facial hair and no medical issues can surely use N95 masks, but facial hair prevents a proper fit and causes leaks.
Also, the majority of N95 masks are designed for adults. For children, a proper fit cannot be achieved with an adult-size N95 mask.
Where can I find genuine N95 masks?
This is probably the most critical point. Finding a certified, genuine, high-quality N95 mask can be challenging during the pandemic times. Ironically, searching the stores for an N95 mask is highly risky without an N95 mask.
Online shopping seems to be the best option at this point; however, you need to find a supplier that is trustworthy, not ridiculously expensive, and can provide you all the information and documents including FDA registration, Certificate of Compliance, and Test Results.
We are honored to say that our masks were tested for all features and their minimum filter efficiency is between 98.7%! They are shipped from Santa Ana, California, and we ship all orders on the same day of purchase. You can check and purchase from our N95 listing.
If you have any further questions, our excellent support team will be happy to help you within minutes.
Stay safe and healthy!
Please read about extended usage guide from CDC at;