KN95 Buyers and Use Guide
The novel coronavirus COVID-19 has (understandably) caused sales of facemasks to skyrocket.
Unfortunately, though, not all masks are created equally.
Some masks – like KN95 masks, for example – offer better protection than cloth masks or disposable surgical masks. Comparable to the incredibly popular and medical standard N95 mask options used throughout hospitals and medical clinics in the US (and around the world), there’s not a lot of difference between KN95 and N95 options.
That isn’t to suggest, though, that there’s no difference at all.
Below we dig deeper into everything you need to know about KN95 masks. We cover what they are and how they differ from other mask options, the kinds of certifications and protection levels they provide, as well as how to wear them and how to buy them with as little headache or hassle as possible.
Let’s dig right in!
What are KN95 Masks?
Almost identical in form and functionality to the “universal standard” N95 respiratory masks that are made and certified in the United States, the major difference that these masks have is that they are made in China.
Providing similar levels of filtration to the N95 masks as well (a minimum of 95% filtration with a maximum of 8% leakage), these masks are made to the GB2626-2006 certification (but that’s something we highlight a little more in depth in just a moment).
At the end of the day, and for almost all intents and purposes, KN95 masks are identical to N95 masks most commonly found in the US.
Are These Masks Included on the EUA Approved List from the CDC?
Initially, KN95 masks were not on the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) list from the Federal Drug Administration.
On March 24, 2020 that change completely.
The United States FDA decided to issue a full EUA certification for KN95 masks, allowing for the importation of these masks from Australia, Brazil, Europe, Japan, Mexico, and Korea.
Shortly after that, on April 3 of 2020, the FDA declared an amendment to that EUA certification that allowed for the importation of Chinese KN95 masks as well. This was in a direct response to a shortage of respirator masks happening in the United States as a result of the novel coronavirus COVID 19.
Currently the CDC considers KN95 masks to be a “suitable alternative” to the more traditional N95 masks that have already undergone rigorous US FDA certifications. It is important, however, that all KN95 masks imported into the country include full documentation pertaining to their origin of manufacture and their authenticity.
Have These KN95 Masks Been Tested By the NPPTL?
The National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (as of September 10, 2020) has ruled that NIOSH certified KN95 masks are almost a direct replacement for N95 masks, following many of the same construction procedures, using almost all of the same construction materials, and providing a finished product that is almost identical across the board.
A lot of non-certified KN95 masks have ear loop designs only. The CDC through this national laboratory has concluded that the ear loop design makes it difficult to achieve the proper fit that N95 masks made possible with that extra head strap.
EIMO 9570K KN95 face mask has been tested by the NPPTL, and passed with a 99.42% effective filtering rate.
Are These Masks GB-2626-2006 Certified?
As highlighted above, KN95 masks – official KN95 masks, anyway – are 100% certified through the Chinese standard GB2626-2006.
This standard is nearly identical to the manufacture and medical standards required by the American FDA and the CDC (the NIOSH-42CFR84 standard) used to produce N95 masks in America.
As long as you invest in authentic KN95 masks you shouldn’t have much to worry about when it comes to enjoying the same kind of protective performance offered by American-made N95 masks.
How to Correctly Wear KN95 Masks
It is critically important that you get a proper fit when you are wearing KN95 masks. You really need a tight seal around your mouth and nose if you’re going to protect yourself from outside exposure, but also if you’re going to limit the exposure you could have potentially caused with each exhale as well.
What Kind of Precautions Should I Take with KN95 Masks?
The beauty of KN95 masks is that they (almost always) feature three, four or five different layers of protection.
Each individual layer is designed to stop different particulates and different airborne contaminants, including a non-woven hydrophobic layer that is 100% water and droplet proof.
The most important precaution you can take when it comes to KN95 masks is making sure that the mask you have purchased is 100% legitimate. Because of the demand for these masks (because they come out of China, where manufacturing rules and regulations are less stringent than in the United States) there’s always a bit of fear when it comes to counterfeit masks.
It’s critical that you double verify that your KN95 mask is legit. As long as it is you have nothing to be worried about as far as its performance is concerned.
Is It Safe to Order KN95 Masks from Retailers Like Amazon?
Ordering from retailers like Amazon and other online outlets can be safe, but again you have to double check and verify that you are getting legitimate KN95 masks from these third-party outfits.
Amazon reviews are critically important in determining whether a certain seller is on the up and up or should be avoided at all costs. Dig deep into these reviews before you make a purchase and you shouldn’t end up with counterfeits on your hand.
Obviously, if you’re able to purchase from medical supply organizations or similar retailers online you have a lot less to worry about, too.
Tips for Spotting a Fake KN95 Mask
There are a couple of ways that you can spot a phony KN95 mask, including (but not limited to):
- Zero official markings on any of the filtering components or the face piece respirator, for example not having KN95 on the mask.
- The 'Lighter Test' - How? Put on your face mask, hold and activate a lighter six inches from your mouth, and try to extinguish the flame by blowing on it. If you are not able blow out the flame no matter how hard you try, it’s authentic; If you can put the flame out, then it’s fake.
- The 'Water Test' - Water How? Hold your face mask by the elastic bands, with the inside of the mask facing up and fill the mask with water. If the mask cups the water with zero leakage it’s authentic; If the water leaks from the mask, then it’s fake.
Most of time you’ll know at a glance whether or not a KN95 mask is legitimate.
Counterfeits are almost always poorly made, poorly constructed, and obviously fake. They should be avoided at all costs. The CDC has a list of counterfeit NIOSH N95 Masks.
Images below are examples of counterfeit respirators from the CDC web site.