If you're looking for a professional-grade face covering, KN95 and N95 masks offer similar types and levels of protection. They also use similar materials and feature a similar structure.
However, the products exhibit a few differences. These include their certifications and availability.
Uncovering The KN95 Mask vs. The N95 Mask Debate
The KN95 vs. N95 Mask: Similarities and Differences
The World Health Organization and CDC recommend face coverings as an important weapon in the battle against COVID-19.
Options range from simple DIY face coverings to stylish masks to match every outfit.
However, if you're a member of an at-risk group or you work in an environment where exposure to the virus is more likely, you're probably more concerned with safety than style. If so, you might consider a professional-grade mask.
As you explore your options, you'll likely encounter two types: KN95 and N95. So what's the difference, and which one is best for you?
Read on to learn how a KN95 mask can help you stay safe.
"Face masks, these face masks, are the most important powerful public health tool we have, and I will continue to appeal for all Americans, all individuals in our country, to embrace these face coverings."
- CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield
KN95 and N95 Mask Uses
Face masks, including the KN95 and N95 models, provide a barrier between potentially harmful airborne particles and the wearer's nose and mouth. These particles can include:
- Environmental and industrial toxins, including smog
- Allergens, including dust and pollen
What's In a Name? Deciphering the Level of Protection Afforded by KN95 and N95 Masks
The letters and numbers in the masks' names refer to the type and level of protection you can expect against these particles. They also indicate where the mask was tested and what approvals or authorizations it has received.
As a tool to control virus transmission, the most important part of the KN95 and N95 mask names is the "95." Ninety-five refers to the percent of particles you can expect the mask to filter out. If you wear a KN95 or N95 mask, you can expect it to filter out 95% of particles measuring 0.3 microns.
These particles include microscopic—and potentially virus-carrying—droplets of saliva produced during speech. According to recent research comparing face coverings, well-fitted masks with a filtering rate of 95% offer the most effective protection against these droplets.
Besides the filtering rate, the names of professional-grade masks describe other features. For example, professional-grade masks vary in their ability to resist oil, which can make the mask's filtering capabilities less effective.
In industrial settings, oil resistance can be important because workers are more likely to come in contact with oils from machinery. Thus, industrial workers may prefer masks designated as "R" or "P." Masks with an "R" designation are somewhat resistant to oil. Masks with a "P" designation are strongly resistant to oil. As such, they may be considered oil proof.
KN95 and N95 masks have neither an "R" nor a "P" designation. Rather, they share an "N." The "N" indicates that the mask is not oil resistant. For controlling disease transmission, this "N" designation is generally sufficient.
Testing and Certification Processes
The difference in the names of the KN95 and N95—and the difference in the masks themselves—is represented by the remaining "K." The "K" in the KN95 mask name refers to the testing and approval process the mask has faced.
N95 masks are tested and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health depending on the type of N95, surgical or standard.
KN95 masks are tested by the Chinese government. Like N95 mask testing, KN95 testing evaluates the protection the mask provides from airborne particles. In doing so, it assesses the mask's ability to filter these particles efficiently.
The FDA does not grant approval to masks tested elsewhere or certified under foreign governing bodies. In fact, the FDA only grants approval to small subset of surgical N95s that meet liquid barrier protection standards as well as filtration standards. However, the FDA has issued emergency authorization of KN95 masks that meet certain criteria.
KN95 and N95 Mask Structure
Because they serve similar purposes and achieve similar results, KN95 and N95 masks have similar structures. Both types of masks consist of multiple layers.
Consistent with FDA and WHO recommendations, N95 and high-quality KN95 masks include at least 5 layers. The first and fifth layers are the layers you see and touch. These are made from nonwoven, hypoallergenic fabric.
The inner layers of a KN95 and N95 mask are made from dense melt-blown fabric and hot air cotton. Melt-blown fabric refers to a synthetic—usually polymer—fabric that is not woven but heated and blown into sheets. Hot air cotton likewise uses heat to adhere fibers together. The resulting nonwoven fabric offers superior protection from airborne particles.
KN95 and N95 Mask Structure
Wearing a mask effectively is key to maximizing its protection. Both KN95 and N95 masks are intended to be worn with a snug fit.
With both masks, the 3-D design allows it to fit comfortably over the nose and mouth. An adjustable nose bridge lets you further customize the fit to your face. Meanwhile, a headband or earloops secure the mask in place.
While N95 mask regulations require them to use headbands, KN95 masks offer headband or earloop designs. Like the mask itself, these features are hypoallergenic and latex-free.
Where to Buy KN95 Masks
Bona Fide Masks offers KN95 masks that have been granted the FDA's authorization. These are acceptable for use by medical professionals. We also offer non-medical KN95 masks for use by the general public.
Where to Buy KN95 Masks
Whether you're guarding against virus-carrying saliva droplets, pollen and other allergens, or industrial toxins, KN95 masks offer professional-grade protection. In the face of mask shortages, KN95 masks offer an available and effective alternative to scarce N95 masks.
As you explore your PPE options, count on Bona Fide Masks for all your needs. Contact us with questions or to place an order today.
Written by Scott A