N95 Respirator Frequently Asked Questions

  • An N95 respirator is a government approved respirator that is intended to seal tightly to the face, covering the mouth and nose, and can filter at least 95% of airborne particles, including those that may contain viruses and bacteria. The entire surface of the respirator is a filter, which makes it very efficient at capturing airborne particles.

    To get a NIOSH approved “N95” designation, a respirator must filter at least 95% of non-oily particles, including very small particles that can’t be seen (such as a virus) using standardized test methods. It’s important to remember that a properly fitted respirator is intended to reduce your exposure but not eliminate it completely.

    N95 respirators play a crucial role for healthcare workers, first responders and other essential workers on the front lines of the COVD-19 pandemic.

  • KN95s are disposable respirators that are tested and certified to a China government standard (GB2626). The required filtration efficiency is very similar to that required for U.S. N95 disposable respirators; however, they are not approved by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). There are some respirators that have both the NIOSH N95 and the China KN95 approval on the same model.

    Many KN95 respirators have a construction called “vertical flatfold,” which is not as commonly seen in the U.S. These respirators are packaged flat, with a vertical fold down the middle, but open up into a cup shape.

    While N95 respirators feature headbands, KN95 respirators may feature either headbands or ear loops.

    KN95 respirators are typically designed to fit people with facial features common in China. As a result, some individuals with different facial features may not be able to achieve a satisfactory fit. U.S. workers may experience fit test pass rates that are lower than they are accustomed to. If a fit test cannot be conducted – or the worker cannot pass a fit test-then these products should be used as a face covering/mask, not a respirator. If appropriate fit can be attained, KN95s can help reduce exposures to airborne particles that is similar to that of N95 respirators. You can learn more about KN95 respirators here.

  • For normal use with non-harmful dust and debris, disposable respirators can, in fact, be used until they are dirty, damaged or difficult to breathe through. However, if you have used a respirator in public to help protect yourself from airborne particles, such as liquid droplets that may contain germs and viruses, care should be taken when handling the respirator, as those particles may be captured on the filter fibers and remain on those fibers. The respirator should be removed with care so as to not touch the outside surface that may be contaminated and then appropriately handled after use. If you have questions, call the 3M technical service line, in the U.S. call 1-800-423-4630 and in Canada call 1-800-267-4414.

    For normal use with non-harmful dust and debris, disposable respirators can, in fact, be used until they are dirty, damaged or difficult to breathe through. However, if you have used a respirator in public to help protect yourself from airborne particles, such as liquid droplets that may contain germs and viruses, care should be taken when handling the respirator, as those particles may be captured on the filter fibers and remain on those fibers. The respirator should be removed with care so as to not touch the outside surface that may be contaminated and then appropriately handled after use. If you have questions, call the 3M technical service line, in the U.S. call 1-800-423-4630 and in Canada call 1-800-267-4414.

  • As healthcare workers and first responders fight the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, they may be exposed to airborne germs in much higher concentrations than the general public. This is why N95 disposable respirators are so important on the job.

    The current U.S. CDC guidance to wear face coverings doesn’t refer to N95 respirators or medical masks, which should continue to be reserved for healthcare workers, first responders and essential workers.