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The difference between N95 and KN95 respirators

N95 mask wore by a medical staff

Which type of face mask is the most effective, N95 or KN95?

N95 and KN95 are two types of respirators with similar names which have created confusion amongst the masses. N95 and KN95 are not the same. Both these respirators are fairly different. In this bit, both the N95 and KN95 face masks will be thoroughly discussed.


N95, KN95, and COVID-19 pandemic :

KN95 respirator

Before the pandemic, when life was normal, many people hardly knew N95 or KN95. Amidst the pandemic, WHO and CDC declared that these respirators were effective in curbing the coronavirus from entering into our respiratory system. This led to a shortage of these respirators and in particular N95 face masks.

This doesn’t imply that N95 and KN95 face masks were useless before the pandemic. Previously these respirators were used to safeguard from pollution. Both N95 and KN95 are one of the best respirators to counter the pollutants and of course the coronavirus.

But this pandemic has turned these respirators into a necessity. What is the reason that N95 and KN95 face masks have been recommended by the WHO and CDC? Let’s find out!


How to properly wear and remove N95 and KN95 masks?

Go through the video provided by SingHealth in which both the processes (N95 respirator used in the video) are clearly demonstrated.



Similarities and Differences between N95 and KN95 :

Let's analyze the similarities and differences between both these respirators.

Similarities :

Both these respirators have a common term of ‘95’. What does 95 mean? It means N95 and KN95 protective face masks filter 95 percent of particles smaller than 0.3 microns (1 micron is a millionth part of a meter).

COVID-19 is caused by the virus, SARS-CoV-2 which is in the size range of 65-125 nm (1 nm is a billionth part of a meter). Thus, both N95 and KN95 face masks that easily restrict the virus. The functionality, material, and use of both N95 and KN95 are similar.

Differences :

In the design aspect, the main difference between these two masks is that the N95 has headbands, while the KN95 masks have ear loops (though it is possible to get KN95 masks with headbands). The ear loops, attach the mask to your face while the headbands have a better fit.

The main difference between these two masks is certification. The N95 masks are NIOSH approved and meet the US standards while the KN95 masks are certified under the Chinese standards.

While the US NIOSH standards and Chinese standards are very similar, there are few differences in both the standards.

KN95 protective face mask


Chinese standards :

1) For a face mask to be certified as a KN95 mask, the Chinese standards require the mask manufacturer to run a special mask fit test. This test is performed on humans. The test requires the face mask to have ≤ 8% leakage (Test agent: NaCl, Flow rate: 85 L/min).

2) KN95 mask also has to pass a test which requires the face mask to have ≤ 1% Carbon Dioxide clearance.

3) KN95 masks have less strict requirements for pressure drop while inhaling (350 kPa) and exhaling (250kPa).

US NIOSH standards :

1) The N95 mask, to pass US NIOSH standards doesn't require manufacturers to run fit and leakage tests.

Note:- This doesn’t mean that fit tests aren’t helpful. Many hospitals, universities, and even companies run a fit test. However, these decisions are made by the entities themselves and, not for the US NIOSH certification on the mask.

2) N95 mask doesn’t require manufacturers to run a carbon dioxide clearance test.

3) N95 masks have slightly stricter requirements when compared to KN95 masks for pressure drop while inhaling (343 kPa) and exhaling (245 kPa).


So, if we go through the similarities and differences of both N95 and KN95 face masks then we understand that both are rated to restrict 95% particles (in the range of 0.3 microns). The other similarities include material selection and design aspects.

While the KN95 masks need to pass fit tests, the N95 masks have slightly stronger breathability standards which mean that they are slightly more breathable than KN95 masks.

At times you may feel difficulty in breathing through the masks, dying due to lack of oxygen is highly impossible.

KN95 protective face masks at Trueppeusa :

KN95 for sale at Trueppeusa


At Trueppeusa, we have KN95 protective face masks which are FDA (Appendix A) approved. Our KN95 masks come with a 3D shape which is designed and even tested according to the ergonomics of the human face. The mask ensures a secure fit and thus increases the breathing capability. The mask is quite comfortable to wear, breathe, and speak. The mask is designed in such a way that it can be folded flat ensuring hygienic storage.

Why should you buy KN95 protective face masks from Trueppeusa :

WHO and CDC recommend wearing protective face masks.
It has a very high-filter efficiency – 95% 0.3 microns (smaller)
Masks are lightweight, breathable, and fit comfortably.
They provide high-level protection in enclosed spaces.
They are very durable when compared to the traditional rectangle-shaped ear looped masks.
Protects against dust, pollen, smoke, microbes, and the coronavirus.

KN95 and N95 questionnaire :

Q: Can KN95 and N95 face masks re-used?

A: According to the CDC, N95 reuse should be reduced and extended use is recommended. The same instruction should be followed for KN95 respirators.

Q: Should I buy N95 or KN95 with a valve?

A: Avoid using N95 or KN95 masks with a valve. They usually are one-way valves. Though they restrict the entry of particles and microbes from outside, they don’t restrict the outward flow of particles to the environment.
This means that if a person is infected by coronavirus he can still transmit the virus as the valve only filters the particles coming from the environment and not the other way around.

Q: Do the number of layers matter in N95 and KN95 masks?

A: WHO and CDC recommend using a three-layer mask. Any mask with three or more layers is recommended. An N95 four-layer respirator consists of an outer layer of spun-bond polypropylene. The second layer is of either cellulose or polyester. The third layer is made by the melt-blown process and made-up of polypropylene filter material. The fourth layer is made up of spun-bound polypropylene.

Q: Are all N95 NIOSH approved?

A: Yes, each N95 respirator is NIOSH approved. There is no ‘N95 without NIOSH' as the respirators which pass the NIOSH test are called N95 face masks.

Q: Can N95 or KN95 masks be washed with soap and water (or alcohol)?

A: It usually depends upon the manufacturer and design. Many manufacturers don't recommend washing as it may affect the efficiency of the filter. Washing removes the static electric charge of the material. Thus, it decreases the efficiency of respirators.

Q: Why does my N95 mask smell?

A: It has nothing to do with the mask, it may be due to your bad breath or the area around you may have a peculiar smell.

Q: Do KN95 and N95 protect against smoke?

A: Yes, KN95 and N95 protect against smoke and every particle smaller than 0.3 microns which may include mold, PM 2.5, etc.

Q: Are KN95 and N95 masks electrostatically charged?

A: During the manufacturing process, the material used (fiber) is electrostatically charged.

Q: Are KN95 and N95 masks best for COVID-19?

A: Yes, according to WHO and CDC, KN95 and N95 respirators are the best for protection against COVID-19.

Q: Are KN95 and N95 masks biodegradable

A: No, the respirators are not biodegradable and should be disposed of with proper safety to avoid any infections.
Research on biodegradable N95 respirators is in progress.

Q: Can anyone be allergic to KN95 and N95 face masks?

A: There can be discomfort and itching of skin but allergy cases are quite rare. Mostly the complaints are regarding acne, itching, and rashes.