KN94, KN95 and Elastomeric Respirators: What and Where to Buy

Updated 2-17-21Where to purchase non-counterfeit N95 masks from small U.S. manufacturers February 17, 2021

More kN95 masks are counterfeit. Be Careful what you buy. Better to have a cloth or surgical mask that an fake n95 that does nothing!! Use the link above.

Another post on this blog was done the same time as this post . Surgical and Cloth Face Masks – What to Buy and Where to Purchase February 4, 2021

Updated 2-10-21 The only regulated face masks are surgical, n95, and elastomeric respirators. They are regulated by the FDC and NIOSH. There is lots of information on using the masks, safety, and lists of approved masks. There are no regulations for any other type of face masks.

It’s really the Wild West out there,” said Joseph Allen, associate professor and director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “We’re a year into this pandemic. It shouldn’t take hours and hours for a consumer to try and figure out what’s a decent mask,” he said.

I spent a lot of time trying to find information on what face masks to buy and where to buy them. Cloth mask information was not too difficult to find. KN94 and KN95 information was not clear.

Assume that any n95 mask in a store or online is counterfeit except Where to purchase non-counterfeit N95 masks from small U.S. manufacturers February 17, 2021

Finding the specific face mask you want on Amazon is very difficult without the product’s exact full name. When you get the name, use google to give you the exact link to amazon. There are too many face masks available online.

There is still a shortage of n95 masks after almost a year. They are only available to health care workers and are purchased through medical supply companies that do not sell to consumers. President Biden wants to get more masks for healthcare workers. Maybe someday they will be available to everyone else so we can buy the “Gold Standard” for maximum protection from the virus.

NOTE: At the Super Bowl game February 7, 2021, the attendees wore KN95 masks. For more info and an excellent graphic, How the NFL kept its players and staff safe from Covid February 6, 2021 – Very, very interesting including what was risk and what was safe with lots of data from daily resting and genetic sequencing. Relevant for many sports.

The FDA has given EAUs ( Emergency Use Authorizations to KF95 AND KF94 masks, which are alternative masks for n95 masks.

How to use FDA lists of EUAs for n95 equivalent masks and surgical masks

Finding surgical masks is very easy as there are only 17 on the FDA list. Copy and paste the names into Amazon. Read the reviews.

To find the names of KN95 and KF94 using the FDA list was too long and difficult to use to find a mask, so I used masks from the articles below and other sources. I double checked the FDA list.

FDA Personal Protective Equipment EUAs (Emergency Use Authorization or Emergency Use Approval, depending on the category) Link for FDA lists of masks

List of FDA categories

  • Umbrella EUA for Surgical Masks
  • N95 and Other Respirators EUAs
  • Umbrella EUA for Non-NIOSH-Approved Disposable Filtering Facepiece Respirators (FFRs)
  • Umbrella EUA for Imported, Non-NIOSH-Approved Disposable Filtering Facepiece Respirators (FFRs)
  • Face Shields and Other Barrier EUAs

From CDC 1-5-21 Counterfeit Respirators/Misrepresentation of NIOSH-Approval – n95 and elastomeric – the only regulated face masks. Pictures of what to look for.

N95 Vs. KN95 Masks: What’s the Difference? 2-2-21

Here’s what the science says—and which one is right for you.

Note: This article has links to masks. Per the article: “At time of publication, the masks featured in this story appeared on the FDA’s Appendix A: Authorized Imported, Non-NIOSH Approved Respirators Manufactured in China list. We suggest you check each listing’s manufacturer name against the FDA approved list before you make a purchase. The brand name does not always match the manufacturer.”

You should do this for every article with masks with FDA EAUs to be sure they are still okay.

KN94 vs KF95

Be sure the mask was manufactured in South Korea. Many are made in China and may be counterfeit. Check the FDA list before purchasing. Note: KN94 masks, and some K95 masks, typically have mask loops. Using a mask extender bar may help to get a better fit.

Excerpt is from the third article listed below

KN94 MASK

The “KF” in KF94 stands for “Korean filter,” and the “94” indicates a 94 percent filtration efficacy. It is the South Korean equivalent to the N95 mask, with a few differences. It combines elements of an N95 mask with those of a cloth mask, contouring close to the face with an adjustable band around the bridge of the nose.”

Many people like the KN94 because the tent-like shape creates a little pocket of extra space between your mouth and the mask.

KN95 MASK

KN95 masks, however, look more like a bird’s beak and stick out farther off the face. They are considered the Chinese equivalent to N95 masks and “are made of the same synthetic material and [also] filter out and capture 95 percent of particles in the air.”

The second and third articles below have a discussion of the masks and whether or not the mask is on the FDA list. They have comments on the masks. I purchased both KN94 and KN95 masks from Amazon from the article above and the second and third articles below. There were on the FDA list. In the articles below, the mask vendor name is listed, with a link, for each mask. Some masks are available on Amazon, and others are from other vendors.

Coronavirus FAQ: Why Am I Suddenly Hearing So Much About KF94 Masks? General interest with some humor. Easy to read 1-22-21
What’s the Difference Between KN95 and KF94 Masks? Very good explanations on masks and other topics such as 1-28-21
The Best KN95 Masks for COVID Protection 4 masks are listed 1-29-21

TOP PRIORITY!! Your mask MUST fit very close to your face and cover your nose and mouth.

You don’t want to not let as little as possible air in or out of the mask. Some more rigid KN95 masks can be difficult to fit, especially with facial hair. Most KN94 and K95 masks are flexible and much easier to fit but have ear loops. For a better fit, use a face mask extender bar.

Buy one or two masks to see how they fit you. It took me awhile to find the masks I am using now. I tried both KN94 and KN95 but preferred the fit of the KN95.

Adjustable ear loops, face mask extender straps and bendable nose bars an can really help.

The first KN95 masks I purchased fit me well . I was lucky. There were many comments on Amazon about how small they were for many people. My face is small, so it fit me well. I have one to a friend with a small face and she did not like the mask.

Ties are better than ear loops, standard for n95 masks, as you can get the mask close to your face for a good fit. The ties go over and behind your head. Some other masks may have them as well.

Facial hair can be a big problem with fitting these masks

To Beard or not to Beard? That’s a good Question! has a graphic of 36 facial hair styles, both ok and not ok I had not seen some of the styles and had never heard most of the names!Source: CDC

Proper N95 Respirator Use for Respiratory Protection Preparedness  From CDC very good graphics and links. Use this link. Source: CDC

Three key criteria are required for respirators to be effective
1. The respirator filter needs to be highly effective at capturing particles that pass through it,
2. The respirator must fit the user’s face snugly (i.e., create a seal) to minimize the number of particles that bypass the filter through gaps between the user’s skin and the respirator seal; and
3 . The respirator must be put on (donned) and taken off (doffed) correctly before and worn throughout the exposure.

If your KN94 or KN95 masks have ear loops, use a face mask extender strap to make them fit better

FACE MASK EXTENDER STRAP

They are available on Amazon.

How to test for mask leaks

I test my flexible masks by breathing in and out. If the mask moves in and out when I breathe it is tight but I can still breathe.

Leaks on surgical masks and KP94s with ear loops require face loop adjustment. Using an extender bar may help.

Good graphics and information CDC User Seal Check – for N95 masks, but useful for all masks

Elastomeric Respirators (Face Masks)the best face mask available to consumers because n95s are not available

ELASTOMERIC RESPIRATOR

These types of masks have been used for many decades and are regulated by NIOSH. They have N95 level protection.

You have probably seen them worn by construction or landscaping workers. I have seen a few people wearing them in grocery stores.  Some of them have a face covering. They are available on Amazon. I bought mine at my local hardware store about 3-4 years ago. I used the name “respirator”.

To buy on Amazon, Search for elastomeric face mask. Read the reviews. Check the FDA list. I have been using them when we have bad wildfire smoke and may use one in very risky situations. N95 equivalent safety but bulky and not very comfortable to wear.

CDC Elastomeric Respirators: Strategies During Conventional and Surge Demand Situations

My test of KN94 AND KN95 masks

I purchased them from Amazon. They were both on the FDA list. The KN95 was much more comfortable than my N95 masks and fit close to my face, plus they folded up and were much more portable. Both had mask loops and I purchased a face mask extender. For one of my masks with very long loops, I used a paper clip. The KN94 mask was looser and did not fit as well. It may work well under a cloth mask.

Per recent face mask reports, KN95 masks are becoming popular with many people. A recent Wall Street Journal article said in November than NFL was requiring KN95 masks when teams were traveling. Super Bowl attendees on February 12, 2021 will be given KN95 masks.

N95 mask (with valve) I used in the past can be purchased without valves.

I had used these for the past 3-4 years when we had smoke from wildfires. I covered the valve with tape on the inside. The valve is round, on the front. 

I quit wearing them when the news came out that the valve let your air out but blocked inside air from coming in. People would look at me funny if I wore one now, unfortunately. It is the same as a medical n95 mask, which does not have a valve.

Updated 2-12-21 5 Places To Buy N95 Masks Right Now! Some manufacturers can’t get their masks into the hands of healthcare workers, so they’re hoping you’ll buy them instead. Source: Huffington Post. I have been using these dust masks for many years, but they had a valve and are not suitable for Covid protection. They are regulated by NIOSH. CDC list of approved manufacturers

Masks I am using now

I use KN95 and a 3 layer cloth mask. For detail on my cloth mask, see the article below. Surgical masks have don’t have enough protection for me. But, if I was doing a low risk activity, such as walking, I may wear a surgical mask which is loose and have my cloth mask on a lanyard which I can put on easily if someone comes too close and there is no room to move away.

Please leave a comment. We want to know what you think!!