For how long can you use an N95 mask with a carbon filter?

Before the world got familiar with the word “coronavirus”, masks were mostly worn by people associated with the medical sector or the ones working in construction sites. However, the inhabitants of some polluted countries also used to wear masks to seek protection against pollution. But when the pandemic began, everyone realized the true importance of this essential piece of PPE in their lives since social distancing and wearing a face mask are the only two ways one can protect themselves from contracting COVID-19.

Many states in the US and some other countries as well have made masks compulsory and have even resorted to charging a fine if an individual is spotted without a mask. The reason the governments have adopted such extreme measures is to curb the spread of this virus and avoid further damage to humanity. Wearing a mask, be it a respirator like an N95 or even a surgical mask for extensive hours is not an easy task and requires a sufficient amount of patience. Masks can sometimes cause allergy or lead to acne and also makes breathing difficult.

What is a carbon filter in an N95 mask?

While the acne and allergy problems are not quite solvable, there is indeed a solution for the difficulty in breathing that one encounters while wearing a mask and the name of that solution is ‘carbon filters’. Activated carbon filters can increase a user’s amount of air intake while they’re wearing a respirator and in addition, can also strengthen their respiratory muscles. Due to this reason, these filters are especially a great option for those who are required to wear N95s for longer hours.

However, the N95s with this specific filter does not provide any protection against viruses and bacteria. Furthermore, in terms of protection, a mask with this filter is only 10% to 20% efficient in this regard. Carbon filters are found in many N95 respirators and can efficiently protect its user against gaseous pollutants. This filter is particularly used in N95 respirators that protect against pollution since the use of this filter can also help prevent respiratory diseases and allergies.

Life of N95 carbon filters

Carbon filters are futile when worn to seek protection against a disease like a coronavirus since these masks do not filter out viruses or bacteria. This filter is mostly found in N95s and anti-pollution masks. Face masks that come with carbon filters can be replaced with newer ones that make such N95 masks reusable. It also makes these N95 masks more economical as a user can go on to utilize this mask for a long time by just changing its filter and replacing it with a newer one.

But how does one know that it’s finally time to change that filter and put in a new one? A carbon filter's life is limited and for most of these masks, the time limit of changing the carbon filter is prescribed by the manufacturer on the box and some respirators’ filters have an expiration date of as long as 21 days. However, some situations could cause your carbon filter to expire or become inefficient before the actual expiration date.

One such situation could occur if a person wearing an activated carbon filtered N95 mask is exposed to a dusty environment—in which the use of such a mask should be limited to a maximum limit of 8 hours only and after that a new filter should be used. Some indications could be the signal for when a change of filter is required. If a user is having difficulty breathing, which should be not the case for an N95 mask that has an activated carbon filter, then it is an indication enough that the current filter must be discarded. Other indications include discoloration, in which a mask could become greyish. If you spot the mask becoming soiled, moistures, or showing any sign of damage, in such cases the mask should also be discarded. Apart from these signs, a user should refer to the guidelines to know for sure when a filter should be replaced. The replacing of a filter is also highly concerned with the activities a person engages in.

If a user of this N95 mask is mostly present in unhygienic environments then the filter should be changed earlier than the actual expiration date. Also, there is no one constant date for the changing of these filters but the user must refer to one that is prescribed to them by the manufacturer. But the best way to determine the right time for the change is dependent upon a user’s usage, thus the user is the best examiner in this regard. Another thing to be noted is that when the mask starts showing any of the aforementioned signs or reaches its expiration date then it should be discarded since these filters aren’t re-usable.


An activated carbonated filter not only strengthens its user’s respiratory muscles but also protects them against various allergies and illnesses related to the respiratory system. Although these masks do not protect against viruses and bacteria, they make a good choice for an anti-pollution or an anti-dust mask. N95s with carbon filters can be reused when replaced with newer filters and due to this reason, they are quite pocket-friendly as well. N95s masks with activated carbon filters are also a good choice for people who are required to wear masks for extensive hours as these N95 masks are easier to breathe in.

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