How does filtration compare N95 masks and cloth face masks?

Filtration of N95 masks differs from cloth face masks, the reason for it being accepted as masks for medical experts.

The pandemic or COVID-19 has definitely increased our information about the sanitizers and masks. The coronavirus has led to the disease of COVID-19, and if one person is positive for the virus, the cure is self-isolation so that the virus doesn’t spread to another person. Also, there is no concrete treatment for the cure of the virus. It is a fact that it is only by treatment in a hospital to recover from the disease. The symptoms of the disease vary from mild to severe cases. In mild cases, there is the loss of taste and smell, and the treatment with hot water, steam, few vitamins, and ample rest. In severe cases, it is the only hospitalization that can cure the disease. The pandemic has devastated everyone and claimed millions of lives all across the world.

It was only due to the pandemic that we acquired knowledge regarding different masks and their utility—the approvals of masks by NIOSH and FDA for them being considered fit for the medical personnel. The pandemic explained the difference between original and counterfeit masks and the side effects of these masks. Although if the N95 face mask is NIOSH approved, then it has FDA approval also. However, certain N95 masks are not NIOSH approved but have FDA approval. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to this leniency in the approval of masks. However, the FDA has issued a benchmark to ensure that the face masks so approved are trustworthy and filter the virus. The policy of approval is to remain in effect only for the duration of the emergency.

How does the N95 mask work? 

The N95 respirator is a double strapped, flat shaped, folded filtering facepiece respirator. It has multiple layers of non-woven fabric. The filtration layer provides a barrier to particles of various sizes through mechanical entrapment. The particles are trapped in a torturous pathway by the surface attraction of electrostatic force. The outermost layer is coated to capture and inactivate viruses. The N95 mask has a layer of non-woven fabric that is ultrasonically sealed at the outer perimeter. The pair of elastic strips are stapled or welded to the edge of the respirator and prevent the mask from falling off the wearer's face. FDA recommends the N95 mask being a single-use mask; it is a respirator coated with a virus coat on the outer layer and is not an anti-viral drug. FDA elaborates that the N95 mask has the same filtering properties as the predicate device.  

How does the cloth mask work?

Cloth mask covers to filter only droplets released when the wearer talks, coughs, or sneezes. If everyone wears a cloth mask, the spread of the virus can be slowed. 

What is the filtration difference that makes N95 masks and cloth face masks?


The N95 respirator is a double strapped, flat rectangular shaped, filtering facepiece respirator. It is made from non-woven material, whereas the cloth mask is made from regular material and easily made at home with any material. N95 masks are made in factories with special machines, whereas the cloth masks can be made at home by sewing or without sewing.


FDA regulated N95 respirators are intended for a medical purpose. They assist in preventing the further spread of infectious materials during the COVID-19 pandemic. N95 masks offer both source control and protection for the wearer against exposure to splashes and sprays or droplets of the other's infectious materials. Cloth masks are approved only for use by the general public. FDA has reserved the N95 masks only for doctors, nurses, and emergency responders, as these masks are scarce. 


During the pandemic situation and public health emergency, the CDC recommends healthcare personnel wear face masks at all times. The mask is worn to be worn while they are in the health care facility also during the time spent in common rooms or break rooms where they could meet the co-workers or visitors. Cloth masks are to be used in public settings when a person steps out of the home.   

Genuine masks

The N95 respirator is compatible with various protective eyewear and hearing protection. The complete protection gear makes it easy and comfortable for the wearer to use it for extended periods. However, the market is flooded with fake N95 masks that do not deliver the assured promises. Thus before buying an N95 mask, check if it's fake or real. With cloth masks, there is no issue of fake cloth masks. 

Category of protection

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) refers to protective clothing, face shields, helmets, respirators, gloves, goggles, and other equipment used to protect the wearer from getting infected from the disease and spreading it further. A cloth mask is not a type of PPE.   


The N95 respirator is a type of face respirator. The N95 masks are a type of respirator that offers more protection than a surgical mask as it filters out both large and small particles when the wearer inhales. The name N95 is designated as it blocks 95% of microscopic particles. An N95 respirator is a respiratory protective device that gives a very close facial fit and effectively filters the airborne particles. Cloth masks offer no such filtration levels. 


N95 recommends N95 masks for aerosol-generating procedures in healthcare settings.  Also, for surgical procedures that pose a higher risk of transmission in the patient is infected from the coronavirus (the patients generate potentially infectious aerosols or involve anatomic regions where the viral loads are higher, like nose and throat, oropharynx, or respiratory tract).

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