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Even though the vaccine rollout is going well in many parts of the world, there is still a need to continue wearing masks even for people who have been vaccinated. It’s also important to make sure that you have the right kind of mask for maximum protection and comfort.
With so many face mask options available, which one is the right choice? Here we take a closer look at N95 vs. KN95 masks, and some of the key differences between them.
What Are KN95 Masks?
When weighing up the KN95 mask vs. N95 masks, both are incredibly similar at first glance - though there are some subtle differences. Aesthetically speaking, KN95 masks have a seam in the middle at the front that lets you fold the mask in half, making it convenient to carry with you. The mask is attached with help from loops that go over your ears.
When looking at the capabilities of KN95 masks vs. N95 masks, both are expected to filter out 95% of tiny particles. The main difference, however, lies in how each one is standardized. KN95 face masks were originally made and held to Chinese standards but are FDA approved.
These KN95 masks are designed and rigorously tested to ensure protection against microbes and harmful, virus-causing particles as well as dust, pollen and other pollutants. For this reason, they are a go-to choice for people to wear everyday if they’re not working on the frontlines in hospitals and other medical environments. When weighing up against cloth masks, KN95s are seen to offer superiority in terms of comfort and protection.
The debate of KN95 masks vs N95 masks mainly comes down to manufacturing and what each is designed to do. N95 masks are ultimately the standard for use in medical environments and are therefore prioritized for frontline PPE. Genuine KN95 masks, on the other hand, offer great everyday protection against droplets, pollutants and harmful microbes.
N95 masks are round in shape with the top of the mask shape to fit over the bridge of your nose. Elastic holds the mask in place by stretching over the head and they are made from non-woven polypropylene fiber that’s flexible yet still tougher than the material used to make most other types of masks.
N95 masks are often used in medical settings but they are also sometimes used in construction and other industries where there are particles in the air. Another key difference between KN95 masks vs. N95 masks is that some N95 masks come with a valve. These valves make it easier to breathe but it’s not necessary to have them. Moreover, although the valve won’t affect how well the wearer of the mask is protected, it lowers the protection to people around them because particles can be exhaled out through the valve.
How Do They Work?
N95 masks are designed to fit snugly to the face to help prevent particles from being inhaled through gaps between the mask and the skin. Air passes through the material as the user breathes in and out and the design of the material makes it easy for air to pass through it, while still catching very small particles.
When considering, between N95 vs. KN95 masks, both are made to filter out 95% of particles around 0.3 microns. The coronavirus on its own is only around 0.1 microns in size, but they are nearly always bonded to something else, preventing them from getting through the mask. With this kind of performance, it’s easy to see the level of protection that these masks give you against COVID and other pathogens.
N95 masks are effective on the frontlines against such small particles because of electrostatic absorption. The fibers of the mask have a charge and this charge attracts the particles, causing them to get stuck on the fibers thus preventing them from passing through. However, this is also why it’s not recommended to reuse N95 masks. When the masks are being stored or used, the charge dissipates, reducing the mask’s ability to attract particles to the fibers.
Another reason N95 masks are so effective against such small particles is a phenomenon known as ‘Brownian motion’ that causes such small particles to move in a zigzagging pattern. Because they don’t take a straight route through the filter, they are likely to get caught in the filter’s fibers.
Key Differences between KN95 Masks vs. N95 Masks
One of the main differences between KN95 masks vs. N95 masks is that the latter are regulated more strictly for use in hospitals. They are both designed to stop around 95% of particles that are 0.3 microns in size, but N95 masks are slightly more effective at close contact due to higher regulatory standards and the fact that the straps are often designed to stay on for extended periods of time.
The appearance of the masks is another difference between the KN95 mask vs. N95 masks, with N95 masks being rounder and KN95 masks having a vertical seam that protrudes from the front of the mask. Some N95 masks will also come with a valve that makes breathing easier, but at the cost of losing some protection to people in the vicinity.
The differences between N95 vs. KN95 are so small that they will make little difference to people who aren’t expecting to be working in hospitals or other environments where COVID is prevalent. Although a cloth mask will also offer some level of protection for everyday use, it is still advisable to wear a surgical mask underneath for enough protection.