Surgical masks and N95 masks offer different levels of protection against airborne particles.  Surgical masks are designed to be used in medical settings while N95 respirators are intended for daily use by the general public. The main difference between a surgical mask and an N mask is that surgical masks are designed to protect the patient from the user’s own saliva and body fluids while N masks mainly protect the wearer from inhaling airborne particles. We encourage everyone to do their own research and decide which type of mask works best for them in their particular situation.

Surgical Mask

Picture of a surgical maskA surgical mask is a loose-fitting, disposable device that creates a physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer and potential contaminants in the immediate environment. Surgical masks are regulated under 21 CFR 878.4040. Surgical masks are not to be shared and may be labelled as surgical, isolation, dental, or medical procedure masks. They may come with or without a face shield.

(Photo by Justin Schwartfigure on Unsplash )

N95 Mask

picture of a n95 maskAn N95 mask or N95 respirator is a particulate-filtering facepiece respirator that meets the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) N95 classification of air filtration, meaning that it filters at least 95% of airborne particles. This standard does not require that the respirator be resistant to oil; another standard, P95, adds that requirement. The N95 type is the most common particulate-filtering facepiece respirator used in health care facilities globally due to its protection against various types of infectious diseases such as measles and smallpox as well as viruses like influenza

(Photo by Frank Zhang on Unsplash )

Surgical mask Vs. N95 mask – Key difference

N95 masks are much more effective at filtering out particles and protecting the wearer from potentially harmful airborne particles than surgical masks. Surgical masks are designed to protect the patient from the doctor’s respiratory droplets, but they are not effective at filtering out small particles in the air that could contain viruses or other germs. N95 masks are also much more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, due to their snug fit and advanced filtration capabilities.

How to choose the right type of mask

  • Do you need a surgical mask or an N95 mask? Surgical masks are designed to protect against bacteria and other contaminants, while N95 masks are designed to filter out 95% of airborne particles.
  • What is your budget? Masks can range in price from a few dollars to several hundred dollars.
  • What is your level of comfort? Some masks are more comfortable to wear than others. Consider how often you’ll be wearing the mask and how long you’ll need to wear it each time.
  • Do you have any allergies? Be sure to check the ingredients list on the mask packaging to ensure that you’re not allergic to anything in the mask.

Are two surgical masks as effective as N95?

Yes, two surgical masks can be as effective as an N95 mask. The key is to make sure that they fit snugly and that there are no gaps between the mask and your face. A proper seal will protect you from not only large particles but also smaller airborne viruses.

What is better N95 or KN95 masks?

When it comes to personal protective equipment (PPE), there are many different options. Two of the most common types of masks are N95 masks and KN95 masks. Both masks are designed to protect the wearer from harmful airborne particles, but there are some key differences between the two.

N95 Masks

N95 masks are the gold standard when it comes to personal protective equipment. These masks are designed to filter out at least 95% of airborne particles, including viruses, bacteria, and dust. N95 masks are also fit-tested to ensure that they provide a tight seal against the face, which is important for preventing airborne particles from entering the mask.

KN95 Masks

KN95 masks are similar to N95 masks in that they are also designed to filter out at least 95% of airborne particles. However, KN95 masks have slightly different requirements when it comes to fit-testing and filtration efficiency. KN95 masks must be tested for filtration efficiency at service flow rates of 85 L/min, which is higher than the minimum required by N95 standards (which is 32 L/min). Additionally, KN95 masks must be fit-tested using an Aerosol Generating Unit (AGU) instead of a Portacount machine like N95 masks.

How many times can you wear an N95 mask before you throw it away?

N95 masks are designed to be used once and then thrown away. However, some studies have shown that they can be reused multiple times without compromising their effectiveness.

One study found that N95 masks can be sterilized using low-temperature steam and reuse them up to 20 times without diminishing their filtration efficiency. Another study showed that N95 masks can be decontaminated with ultraviolet light between uses and still maintain their efficacy.

How do you clean N95 masks for reuse?

It is important to clean N95 masks for reuse. There are two ways to clean them. One way is to use a UV disinfection chamber. The other way is to clean the mask with soap and water.

UV disinfection chambers are effective at killing viruses and bacteria, but they are expensive and not widely available. Soap and water is a more affordable and accessible option for cleaning N95 masks.

To clean an N95 mask with soap and water:

  • Remove the mask from your face and discard the filters, if present.
  • Place the mask in a bowl of warm, soapy water.
  • Use your hands to gently agitate the mask in the water for 1-2 minutes.
  • Rinse the mask thoroughly with clean water.
  • Allow the mask to air dry completely before wearing again.

Do N95 masks expire?

N95 masks are designed to protect the wearer from inhaling small particles, like viruses and bacteria. They filters out at least 95% of very small (0.3 micron) particles, making them much more effective than regular surgical or cloth masks. However, N95 masks are not perfect – they will expire eventually, and they can also become less effective over time as the filter collects particles from the air around it.

It’s important to know when your N95 mask expires so you can replace it with a new one before it becomes less effective. Most N95 masks have an expiration date printed on them, typically 5 years after their manufacture date. However, some manufacturers don’t include an expiration date because the mask is expected to be used only during a pandemic or other emergency situation where expired masks might still offer some protection.

If you don’t have an expiration date on your N95 mask, pay attention to any changes in its appearance or fit – if the straps loosen or the nosepiece starts to gap open, it’s time to replace it.

Can you sanitize N95 masks?

The quick answer is yes, you can sanitize and reuse your N95 mask. However, it’s important to note that N95 masks are designed for one-time use and should be replaced after each exposure. Additionally, N95 masks aren’t effective against certain types of particles, so they shouldn’t be used for longer periods of time or in high-risk environments.

Are N95 masks disposable?

N95 masks are designed to be disposable. However, they can also be reused if they are properly stored. Reusing an N95 mask is not recommended unless it is absolutely necessary, as it can reduce the effectiveness of the mask.

Can you reuse surgical masks?

Yes, you can reuse surgical masks. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that healthcare providers clean and sterilize reusable surgical masks after each use. However, there are some important things to keep in mind when reusing surgical masks:

  1. Make sure to clean and sterilize the mask before each use.
  2. Avoid touching the inside of the mask while wearing it.
  3. Do not wear the same mask for more than one patient.
  4. Do not share your mask with other healthcare providers.

Is it better to wear double mask?

The study, which was conducted in Hong Kong, found that when health care workers wore two surgical masks, they were about 60% less likely to contract COVID-19 than when they wore only one N95 respirator. However, it’s important to note that the study did not compare the effectiveness of double-masking with no mask at all.

What are the 5 layers of N95 mask?

N95 masks are made of several layers of special non-woven fabric, with a filtration facepiece respirator (FFR) in the middle.

The five layers of the N95 mask are:

  1. The outer layer is made of waterproof non-woven fabric to keep droplets and other contaminants from getting in.
  2. The second layer is made of electrostatic melt blown cloth to filter out small particles in the air.
  3. The third layer is made of hot air cotton for added filtering and breathability.
  4. The fourth layer is made of a high efficiency non-woven fabric to further filter out large particles and droplets.
  5. The innermost layer is made of a soft and comfortable non-woven fabric for added comfort.


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