U.S. Government Distribution of N95 Respirators from the Strategic National Stockpile: In January 2022, the U.S. government announced a program to distribute N95s to Americans from the Strategic National Stockpile. If you receive 3M N95 Respirators (sometimes referred to as "masks") through this program, read through the information on this page to learn more about how to put on and use your 3M N95.
Select the 3M N95 respirator you may have received for information on how to properly wear and care for your respirator. Always consult and follow the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and your local health authority.
We've compiled some commonly asked questions to help you use your 3M N95 respirator.
In their COVID-19 guidance on respirators (updated as of January 14, 2022), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states: “Parents and caregivers may have questions about NIOSH-approved respirators (such as N95s) for children. Although respirators may be available in smaller sizes, they are typically designed to be used by adults in workplaces, and therefore have not been tested for broad use in children.”
If a parent or guardian decides to provide a respirator to a child (such as when directed to do so by health authorities), then the parent or guardian must understand that he/she will be willingly accepting several risks for their child, including but not limited to the following considerations:
IMPORTANT: Infants and toddlers should never be given respirators due to the risk of choking and suffocation.
No. Under no circumstances should an attempt be made to clean or wash a 3M N95 filtering facepiece respirator. 3M N95 respirators should not be put into ovens or sprayed with disinfectant. 3M N95 respirators should be stored in a clean, dry place between uses. Storage in a clean paper bag is a common practice.
N95 filtering facepiece respirators can be reused until they are dirty, damaged, or difficult to breathe through. You should inspect your N95 respirator before each time you put it on. If the straps or noseclip are broken, it’s torn, dirty, or otherwise damaged, then you should dispose of it. You should always wash your hands before and after handling your respirator.
There is no time limit to wearing an N95. Respirators can be worn until they are dirty, damaged, or difficult to breathe through. To be effective, a respirator needs to be worn correctly and worn throughout the duration of the hazardous exposure. People using a respirator will need to go to an area with safe air to remove the respirator for any reason, including to eat and drink.
No. N95s should never be shared, due to hygiene and fit considerations.
N95s are carefully designed to both filter particles and seal to the face. To help protect the condition of respirators so they can function correctly, it’s important to store them according to the specified storage requirements. Until they are needed for use, N95s should be stored indoors, in their original packaging when possible and in a storage space where they can’t be crushed or distorted. If a respirator will be stored between multiple uses, it should be stored similarly to a new N95, and placed in a clean, breathable bag. Do not crush, crumple, or fold your respirator. Do not stuff it into a pocket.
It is very important that your respirator seal completely to your face. Your respirator should be well-sized for your face, so no gaps or leaks are detectable around the edge of the respirator. If a respirator does not seal well to your face, airborne hazards can enter around the gaps between the faceseal and the face. If you cannot achieve a good seal with your respirator, you should try a different model until you find one that is well sized and seals well to your face. The respirator should not be so large that it is very close to your eyes or impacts your vision.
It is very important to always follow the model-specific user instructions for your respirator and to do a user seal check (fit check) before each use. Remember, the better the seal, the more of the air that you breathe goes through the filter.
Your face should be cleanshaven in the area where the respirator seals to your skin. Beards, long mustaches, and stubble may cause leaks into the respirator.
Yes. In the CDC’s questions and answers regarding personal protective equipment they state that “an N95 filtering facepiece respirator will protect you and provide source control to protect others. A NIOSH-approved N95 filtering facepiece respirator with an exhalation valve offers the same protection to the wearer as one that does not have a valve. As source control, findings from NIOSH research suggest that, even without covering the valve, N95 respirators with exhalation valves provide the same or better source control than loose-fitting surgical masks, procedure masks, cloth masks, or fabric coverings. In general, individuals wearing NIOSH-approved N95s with an exhalation valve should not be asked to use one without an exhalation valve or to cover it with a face covering or mask.” Some organizations, cities, and companies have specific guidance on face coverings with valves. If you have an N95 respirator with a valve that you use, you should review local policy or call ahead to the place you are visiting and determine if they allow valved respirators.
If you receive a 3M model 8511 valved N95 respirator and you wish to block the valve shut, 3M has a NIOSH-approved method that you must follow. Please click here for directions on how to properly block the valve using the specified 3M tape (PDF, 178 KB).
If you have obtained a 3M respirator through the U.S. federal government distribution of N95s then you have received a genuine 3M respirator. If you have purchased a 3M respirator from a 3M authorized distributor then you have the highest assurance that you have received a genuine 3M respirator. If you are unsure if the distributor is authorized, or if you have other questions or concerns, then you can contact the 3M fraud hotline at 800-426-8688 and they will be able to help you.
We want you to feel confident you are getting the most from your respirator. Here are additional resources to help answer questions you may still have.
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