6 NIOSH-Approved N95 Respirator Face Masks You Should Be Shopping Right Now

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been 5,330,750 Covid-19 cases in the past seven days alone. The highly contagious omicron variant has caused a huge uptick in cases, which has consequently gotten people talking about face masks all over again and re-evaluating the efficacy of their current collection. To help combat the spread of this particularly contagious variant, the CDC is in the midst of considering an update to its mask guidance, according to The Washington Post. The department may soon recommend that we all opt for KN95 and N95 versions—but nothing is set in stone quite yet. 

While any mask is better than no mask, it’s a well known fact that N95 options are more ideal to protect yourself and others against Covid-19. It might be time to ditch your cloth face masks, since they don’t provide the best defense against the virus.

You might be wondering about the difference between masks (i.e. cloth) and respirators (i.e. N95). “Masks are designed to contain your respiratory droplets and particles. They also provide you some protection from particles expelled by others,” according to the CDC’s website. Meanwhile, “Respirators are designed to protect you from particles, including the virus that causes COVID-19, and in doing so they also contain your respiratory droplets and particles so you do not expose others.”

Getting the correct type of respirator mask is super important. As you’ve probably seen and heard all over the news, with Covid-19 cases surging, you should opt for N95 face masks. “The N95 respirator is the most common of the seven types of particulate filtering facepiece respirators,” wrote the CDC. “This product filters at least 95% of airborne particles but is not resistant to oil-based particles.”

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When worn, an N95 mask should form a tight seal on your face. Make sure you don’t try to wash your N95 respirators, since they’re disposable (a.k.a intended for single-use). Definitely throw yours away when it has become dirty, broken or difficult to breathe through.

You’ll know you have an N95 mask when it has a cup, flat fold or duck bill shape, two straps that wrap around your head and a bendable wire nose bridge. You should not wear an N95 mask if you have certain types of facial hair, mistakenly purchased a counterfeit mask or if you’re already wearing a mask or second respirator.

Additionally, the CDC advises against using N95 respirators with “surgical” in the name, as healthcare personnel should get those masks first. 

The next question is what the heck are KN95 masks and how do they vary from N95 ones? KN95 face masks are manufactured in China and therefore must fulfill different certification requirements than ones made in the United States. They also fasten around your ears. On the other hand, N95 masks must satisfy guidelines established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and they wrap around your head for a closer fit. The CDC has a list of NIOSH-approved N95 respirator masks posted on its website, as well as a list of counterfeit respirators and how to spot fakes

A quick note on KN95 face masks: “About 60% KN95 respirators in the United States are counterfeit (fake) and DO NOT meet NIOSH requirements,” wrote the CDC. So, before you check out, be sure you know for certain that the one you’re buying is real. 

Either way, N95 and KN95 options are far more effective than cloth and surgical ones, and certainly better than not wearing a face mask at all. But to make things easier on you, we’ve rounded up six NIOSH-approved N95 respirator masks that you can shop right now. (For the sake of being able to cross check with the CDC’s list of NIOSH-approved N95 respirators, we’ve only included N95 options, below.)

Kimberly-Clark Professional N95 Pouch Respirator Amazon

Photo: Kimberly-Clark.

Kimberly-Clark Professional N95 Pouch Respirators

This mask’s pouch design gives you tons of breathing space and added comfort. The box of 50 masks is great for the long haul.

Xiantao Zhong Yi N95 Face Masks

Photo: Xiantao Zhong Yi.

Xiantao Zhong Yi NIOSH N95 Foldable Masks

This cup style N95 respirator mask has a foldable design that makes it easy to store. Stock up on this 20-pack for $20 off right now.

3M Aura Particulate Respirator N95 Foldable Masks The Home Depot

Photo: 3M.

3M Aura Particulate Respirator N95 Foldable Masks

These masks sport a three-panel design that allows for comfortable movement. The box includes 10 foldable masks.

Makrite 9500-N95 Masks

Photo: Makrite.

Makrite 9500-N95 Masks

This mask’s premium filter material provides low breathing resistance and full protection for at least eight hours. Right now, get a set of 20 masks for a whopping $50 off.

DemeTECH NIOSH N95 Respirator Face Masks Amazon

Photo: DemeTECH.

DemeTECH NIOSH N95 Respirator Face Masks

Each of the 20 masks in this pack has six layers of filtration.  

Fangtian N95 Masks Amazon

Photo: Fangtian.

Fangtian N95 Masks

This 10-pack of masks has all the makings of a quality N95 respirator. 

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