Gone are the days when the words “face mask” brought to mind refreshing spa treatment.
As the Covid-19 coronavirus sweeps the globe, we’ve all been asking ourselves: should I be wearing a mask? And what’s the difference between all these masks, anyway? Is an N95 the same as a KN95?
To help you out, we’ve put together an overview of the most common kinds of face masks out there. And always remember, a mask isn’t an excuse to be careless. Unless you’re a healthcare worker, your best defenses against Covid-19 are still social distancing and good hygiene.
Surgical Masks Vs. N95 Respirators
The first thing you need to understand is the difference between a simple face mask and a respirator mask. Surgical masks are the basic model: disposable, loose-fitting covers for your mouth and nose. N95 respirators are the heavy-duty option: they actually filter tiny particles (like germs) from the air.
Got it? Great. Here we go:
These masks are loose-fitting and won’t filter the air you breathe, but they’re good for a few things. First, they’ll protect you from getting any fluids splashed in your mouth or nose. They’ll keep your own germy fingers away from your face. Surgical masks are also helpful for people who are already sick. By covering those coughs and sneezes, surgical masks protect the people around sick people. Check ours here.
Certified by: FDA
Use each for 1 day
Non-Surgical, Non-Respirator Face Masks
Okay, we know people are confused, so we’ll explain: these are basic, disposable face masks that look like surgical masks, but they haven’t been certified by the FDA. They’re just masks, like the homemade ones you’re seeing all over the internet.
Certified by: No one
Use each for A few hours
The CDC is now recommending that all civilians older than two years old wear cloth face coverings when they’re out and about. A good one will be made out of several layers of fabric. It’ll also be washable, so you can sanitize and reuse it. If we all cover our nose and mouths in public, even when we’re feeling fine, we have a good chance of slowing the spread of the virus. We have some trendy ones here.
Certified by: No agency
Use each for: Until it wears out; just wash it regularly
N95 Respirator Mask
These are the gold standard of face masks. They’re molded to create a seal around your mouth and nose, and when they’re fitted properly, they can filter out at least 95% of tiny airborne particles. N95s are a hot commodity right now, and they’re desperately needed by healthcare workers, so it’s hard to get your hands on them.
N95s might not be for you if you have respiratory issues since it’s a bit harder to breathe through them, or if you’ve got a beard that could get in the way of the seal.
Certified by: NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health)
Use each for 1-2 days, or until it gets wet or dirty or doesn’t seal properly
KN95 Respirator Masks
These are basically the Chinese version of N95 respirators: close-fitting masks that protect you from tiny airborne particles. They have similar specs, but they’re tested and certified by Chinese authorities instead of the American NIOSH. The American Center for Disease Control lists the KN95 as a suitable alternative for the hard-to-find N95. See ours here.
Certified by: Chinese agencies
Use each for 1-2 days
We hope this list helps. Keep calm, be careful, and stay healthy.
As the world starts to open up we have a selection of masks available here: https://madisonbraids.com/collections/masks.