N95 vs. KN95 vs. Surgical Mask: The Differences and Why it Matters


If you've ever worn a face mask, you know how confusing it can be to choose the right one for you. Masking is an important public health tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is important to remember that any mask is better than no mask. The CDC recommends that you use the best protective mask that fits you well and that you wear it consistently to protect yourself and others against COVID-19. When worn correctly and consistently, masks and respirators can reduce transmission of SARS CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19.

Although all respirators and masks offer some protection, properly fitting respirators provide the best protection. This post describes the different types of respirators and masks that can be used in order to prevent others from contracting and spreading COVID-19. There are many types of respirators and mask, but well-fitting respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will provide the greatest protection. It is crucial to recognize that masking is an important public health tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19. The following provides options in order of the best protection. The CDC recommends that you use the best protective mask that fits you properly and that you continue to wear consistently to protect yourself and others against COVID-19.

N95 (Most Protection) U.S. Standard

The N95 respirator, is the most popular of all types of particulate filtering respirators, and is the most widely used. The N95 mask is a filtering face-piece respirator designed to trap 95% of airborne particles. These devices are essential in hazardous environments. They protect the health of the user by preventing them from inhaling harmful substances. These masks are commonly referred to as surgical mask, respirator mask, dust mask or general N95 face mask. The N95 masks made in the U.S. are made to comply with U.S. standards and are regulated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Individuals seeking this type of mask out should look for masks that are NIOSH approved.

KN95 (Most Protection) International Standard

The KN95 masks are made in China according to International standards. Like the N95 Mask, the KN95 mask blocks out <95% of airborne particles, and meets the requirements of the CDC for fit test. Both the KN95 and N95 masks are suitable for use for protection against the COVID virus and in medical environments and are suitable for protecting against harmful viruses and germs, regardless of whether you use them in your work environment or public settings.

While a KN95 masks may offer greater protection than a standard surgical masks, there is a concern that with the influx of mask to meet the demand, it has been determined that there is no way of verifying which mask are counterfeit and which are authentic. NIOSH has been informed by a number of manufacturers that they do not manufacture the products identified with their names. NIOSH encourages buyers of respirators and masks to reach out to the manufacturers if they have any questions regarding the authenticity of the products.

Procedural (Partial Protection) 

A procedural face mask covers your nose and mouth with a disposable, loose-fitting mask. There are many types of procedural masks: surgical masks; dental masks; medical procedure masks; isolation masks; laser masks. Procedural masks prevent large droplets from spreading and contain sprays and splashes that may reach the nose or mouth of the person wearing them.

These types of face masks cannot be used to protect your face from the inhalation of dust or protect against small airborne contaminants. Small airborne contaminants can pass through the gaps between the mask material and the face mask during inhalation. Procedural masks do not provide respiratory protection and are not considered respirators.


In short, N95 approved and KN95 mask are the preferred mask and provide the most protection from the COVID virus. The primary differences are the governing bodies that regulate their ability to prevent the transmission of virus's. The N95 is designed and approved based on U.S standards and the KN95 is approved based on International standards. When shopping for mask, be sure to look for the stamp of approval. N95 mask should be NIOSH certified and KN95 should have completed an assessment through The National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL)

No matter what type of mask you choose, the mask is only as effective as the fit on the face. It is important to ensure that whatever mask is chosen, that it fits on your face properly.

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Friday, 19 April 2024