The Ultimate Guide to Buying N95 Face Masks Online

The Ultimate Guide to Buying N95 Face Masks Online




With the second wave of COVID-19 approaching in certain parts of the world, and the first wave of COVID-19 still going around certain parts of the world, the need to educate ourselves on the possible choices of protective equipment has never been greater.


Once again, N95 face masks have become a hot topic due to their incredible air filtration capabilities, as well as the fact that they’re easily accessible in nearly all places in the United States.


In this article, we will clear the confusion once and for all. You’ll learn everything you need to know about N95 face masks, including:


  • Can you buy them online or in-person?


  • Where can you buy N95 face masks online?


  • What’s the difference between NIOSH approved and FDA registered, and what does it mean to you?


  • In which states is most important to wear a mask?


  • What’s the difference between NIOSH and GB2626?


  • What’s the difference between FFP2 and FFP3?


  • What to do if every shop has sold out their N95 face masks?


  • What’s the difference between P2 respirator and N95 mask?


  • Do I have to wear a face mask?


  • What is bacterial filtration efficiency?


  • And much, much more!


By the end of the article, all of your questions regarding the N95 face masks (and where to get them) will be answered.

Let’s get started with one of the most important frequently asked questions about respirator face masks – should you buy them online, or is buying them in-person safe?


Should I buy my mask online or in-person?


At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were shortages of face masks. You couldn’t find them anywhere.


Related: Why Was There a Shortage of N95 Respirators?


However, since then, most stores have access to high-quality N95 face masks, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding one. 


You can buy a face mask either online or in person. Buying an N95 respirator in person gives you the opportunity to check and try out different masks and see which one suits you best. Some masks may make it hard for you to breathe, so experimenting with different masks will help you make the right choice. A place like Walmart has stocked up recently with face masks.


However, buying a face mask in person has its own risks. First of all, you’ll be exposed to different people, and you won’t have an idea if they have COVID-19. Also, it’s possible that you have to wait in line with other people before you get into the store. That makes you even more exposed to viruses because you’ll be in close proximity to other people. If you don’t have a face mask, to begin with, it’s best not to go into a store unprotected. 


On the hand, ordering online offers you complete protection. You’ll be able to purchase an N95 face mask, and you can get them delivered to your home without having a contact with anyone. That’s the best option if you want to be entirely sure that you’re not going to catch COVID-19. 


So, if you want to be able to try on different masks and see which one is the best for you, you should go into a store and pick your favorite. However, if you want to ensure that you’re not exposed to COVID-19, then you should order your N95 masks online.


Related: Do I Actually Need a Face Mask to Protect Me from COVID-19?


Let’s see the different options you have when it comes to purchasing face masks from the Internet.


Where can you buy masks online?


1) Clinical Supplies US


We found Clinical Supplies at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to supply personal protective equipment to every American that needs them. The radical and somewhat surprising expansion of the novel coronavirus took the entire world by storm.


Like we said, in the beginning, there were shortages in tons of places. Even hospitals and healthcare professionals couldn’t get access to face masks, gloves and hand sanitizers. Also, there were tons of online scams that took advantage of the growing necessity. Many people were ripped off because they couldn’t find a better solution.


That’s why we created Clinical Supplies to provide Americans with access to high-quality protective equipment. In the beginning, we started with a small supply of face masks, but as the demand increased, we started offering a wider range of products at reasonable prices. Some of our products are made overseas, but all of our face masks are made here in the US.


It would have been a lot cheaper to outsource our production abroad, but we want to operate from the United States, so we can quickly deliver high-quality face masks to the people that need them the most, including healthcare professionals.


We take pride in that because we are doing the right thing – providing personal protective equipment to the people that need it the most. We want to do our part and be able to inspire more Americans to help each other, especially in these hard times.

You can order N95 face masks right here.


You can choose between different models, including:


  • 3M 8210 Plus respirator.


  • 8210 face mask.


  • 3M 1860 respirator.


  • 9500 N95 mask.


  • 8210v respirator.


  • 8200 face mask.


  • 8511 respirator.


  • 1804s mask.


Also, if you want to make a bulk order for more than 2,000 N95 face masks, you can reach out to us here, and we will help you out.


2) Amazon 


Amazon was founded by Jeff Bezos as an online bookstore and has quickly become one of the most used online stores in the world. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon was the go-to online retailer. You can order anything from them from baby products to protection masks and hand sanitizers. When the pandemic of the novel coronavirus started, a lot of retailers took advantage and started overcharging for protective equipment.


However, Amazon made a conscious effort to prevent that. They removed all sellers that offer low-quality or shady personal protective equipment like N95 face masks and hand sanitizers. Every product that doesn’t comply with their new policies is removed. Also, every seller that charges more than the current market prices of PPE is banned.


This showed that Amazon is not in the business just to make money. They want to provide their customers with high-quality protective equipment like N95 face masks at affordable prices. Before you go on Amazon and start ordering, you should know that they have a limit on how many masks, hand sanitizers and other protective equipment you can buy.


3) eBay


eBay is also one of the biggest online stores. You can buy order anything on eBay from verified sellers. They did the same thing as Amazon – cracked down the sellers that were scamming people by selling low-quality protective equipment. eBay keeps the prices of all PPE like face masks, hand sanitizers and gloves low. 


If you’re on the look for high-quality N95 face masks, eBay will offer you dozens of options. You should keep in mind that they also have put a purchasing limit on all personal protective equipment.


4) AliExpress


AliExpress is an online retailer that is based in China. They are similar to eBay because you can create your own personal account and offer different products as a seller. They are one of the most popular online stores. Most of their products are coming from China and Singapore. On AliExpress, you can find dozens of N95 face masks and other protective equipment.


However, they didn’t have the same quality control as Amazon, eBay and Clinical Supplies. As of now, they haven’t restricted any sellers from offering low-quality personal protective equipment. Their prices are fairly low, but they haven’t made a conscious effort to keep them that way. Also, you can order unlimited face masks, hand sanitizers and gloves from AliExpress.


If you’re looking for cheap masks, AliExpress is an excellent place to start, but keep in mind that you may sacrifice quality in the process.


5) Home Depot


Home Depot is another great place where you can order any personal protective equipment that you want from N95 face masks to hand sanitizers. They are based in America, which means that they have to exercise more quality control compared to a company like AliExpress that is based oversees.


Home Depot remains one of the go-to retail stores in America because they offer quality products at affordable prices. The same goes for personal protective equipment. If you order N95 face masks from Home Depot, you can be sure that you’re going to get a high-quality product.


They have made an effort to protect the American people, and currently, everyone who is overseas can’t access their website and purchase face masks or other protective equipment. That makes Home Depot one of the few exceptions that didn’t take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic.


If you’re looking for high-quality N95 face masks, hand sanitizers and nitrile gloves, Home Depot is a great place to buy them from. You can be sure that you won’t be scammed or ripped off by some 3rd party seller.


Related: Top 10 3M N95 Respirator Recommendations.


Related: How Long Does a 3M Mask Last?



NIOSH Approved v FDA Registered – what’s the difference and what’s important to you to know?



What’s the Difference Between NIOSH Approved and FDA Registered?


NIOSH stands for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. It’s a US Federal agency that’s responsible for researching and recommending different ways to prevent work-related disease and injury. NIOSH is part of the CDC and has 3 main functions:


  • Investigating potential dangerous working conditions when a request is made by either the employers or employees.


  • Recommending and providing information on preventing diseases, injuries and disabilities that can occur in the workplace.


  • Providing training to health professionals to ensure safety.


NIOSH is responsible not only for that but also for nursing, epidemiology, statistics, engineering, medicine and industrial hygiene. Every day, nearly 9,000 US citizens die because of work-related injuries. Thanks to the NIOSH, enormous progress has been made.


Recently, NIOSH has received signals that some respirator manufacturers may not know what NIOSH approval means. Some companies have lied that their respirators have NIOSH approval without actually having one.

Keep in mind that NIOSH approval is only issued to a specific respirator after it has been thoroughly evaluated in a laboratory. The respirator has to comply with all the requirements of Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 84. A NIOSH approved respirator has to be made of components that are included on the NIOSH approval label.


That doesn’t allow the manufacturer to modify the respirator in ways that affect the form or function. Also, the creators can’t claim that it has NIOSH approval with components that aren’t certified by NIOSH.


Any manufacturer that makes false claims might be a subject to rescission of all NIOSH certificates that they have.


On the other hand, the Food and Drug Administration (the FDA), is a government agency in the US that it has only one goal in mind – to protect public health. The FDA has regulations on a wide range of products such as food, medications, vaccines, medical devices, and even tobacco. You can find the complete list of products regulated by the FDA online.


The FDA protects the public health by ensuring the safety and security of these products. The products themselves have to be completely safe to use and have to outweigh the potential risks and to be effective for the intended purpose.

Within the FDA, there are additional regulatory organizations:


  • CDRN


The Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRN)

The CDRN is a regulatory bureau that has the responsibility of implementing and enforcing a regulation that applies to radiation. That include producing electronic products and medical devices that have lasers.


  • The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)


That’s an international organization that creates and publishes the international standards for all electrical and electronic technologies.


  • The American National Standards Institute (ANSI)


It oversees the creation and dissemination of different business norms and standards in the US. ANSI is a private nonprofit organization that doesn’t develop any standards but oversees the creation of voluntary standards for a wide range of manufacturing processes, products, systems, services and even personnel in every business sector in the US. Also, it ensures that the US standards are consistent with the international standards enabling US-based products to be sold overseas.


You should know that the FDA doesn’t approve companies as well as healthcare laboratories, facilities or manufacturers. However, they do have the authority to inspect regulated facilities to ensure that they comply with manufacturing regulations. 

The FDA’s logo is only for government use. It shouldn’t be used to misrepresent the agency or to suggest that the FDA endorses a certain organization, product or service.


What does this mean for you?


Two words – online scams. Tons of people and manufacturers took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and started offering N95 face masks claiming theirs have either FDA approval or NIOSH certificate. You need to learn how to distinguish the fake ones from the real ones.


Face masks that are approved by the NIOSH have a label on or within their packaging. Also, there’s an abbreviated approval on the FFR itself, and you can verify the number on the NIOSH website to see if everything is legit. NIOSH approved respirators will have one of these designations – N95, N99, N100, R95, R99, R100, P95, P99 or P100.

As for the FDA requirements, you should know that face masks are subject to different standards compared to respirators. The FDA authorizes the use of all NIOSH-approved respirator for healthcare settings.


Also, you can fit test different respirators to see if they have a close facial fit. Many face masks that are made in China have an ear loop design which makes it difficult to achieve a proper fit.


If you have any questions or concerns regarding your N95 face masks, you should either contact the distributor or go to the FDA website and get more familiar with their standards.


Related: The Checklist to Avoid Fraudulent N95 Respirators.


In which states is it most important (or mandatory) to wear a mask? 



The second wave of COVID-19 is here, and while some states are opening up, others have chosen to keep some of the regulations in place, such as wearing a face mask in public.


Related: Tips for Staying Protected During Phased Reopening. 


As of now, 18 states have made it mandatory for their citizens to wear face coverings in public. If you live in one of these states, you are likely going to be wearing protective equipment until these measures are lifted, so you might as well choose a respirator that offers a higher degree of protection. These states include:


  • California

On June 18, the governor of California Gavin Newsom issued a statewide order that requires the use of face coverings in public indoor spaces like the grocery store, public transportation or hospitals.

Also, the order mandates the use of face masks in public outdoor spaces when people can’t be social distancing. 


  • Connecticut

On April 20, the state of Connecticut released an order that applies to any resident that is over the age of 2. They have to wear face masks in public space when they can’t do social distancing. The rules apply to individuals that use public transportation as well as taxis or rideshare services like Uber.

Connecticut’s department of economic and community development has released a face mask guideline for essential workers. Employees that work in essential businesses like grocery stores must wear face masks or other materials that cover their mouth and nose while they are at work.

Employers must provide their employees with either face masks or the materials to make them. All customers over the age of 2 must wear them.


  • Delaware

Delaware’s governor John Carney ordered residents to wear face masks in public on April 28. That includes places like grocery and convenience stores, pharmacies, doctor’s office and even public transportation. 

Children that are under the age of 12 don’t have to wear face coverings, and those age 2 or under shouldn’t wear any face coverings because they can suffocate.


  • District of Columbia

The mayor of District of Columbia Muriel Bowser created order on May 16 that makes the use of face masks or coverings mandatory when people are in public like going to the grocery store or travelling in public transportation. People should wear face masks when social distancing isn’t possible.

Children between the ages of 2 and 9 also have to wear face masks.


  • Hawaii

Customers and employees at essential businesses have to wear face coverings as of April 20. The companies have to limit the number of customers in the store and keep them six feet apart. Anyone who violates the rules can get a fine up to $5,000, or up to a year in prison if they are found guilty.


  • Illinois

The governor of Illinois JB Pritzker has made the use of face masks in public mandatory since May 1. If you’re living in Illinois, you’re required to wear face coverings while you’re shopping at essential businesses, using public transportation, or visiting your doctor and you can’t do social distancing.


  • Kansas

The governor of Kansas Laura Kelly issued an executive order that made the use of face masks mandatory statewide in all public places. They have to be worn in indoor public spaces and outdoors if social distancing isn’t possible. The governor ensured that this order would keep Kansas open for business.


  • Kentucky

As of May 11, the governor of Kentucky Andy Beshear has ordered that all state residents wear face masks in public. People won’t be fined or arrested for not wearing a mask in public, but the order gives businesses the power to turn customers away if they aren’t wearing a face covering.


  • Maine

Janet Mills, the governor of Maine, has issued an order that makes wearing face masks for anyone over the age of 2 mandatory. That include public spaces like supermarkets, retail stores, pharmacies, and hospitals.

The order was issued on May 1.


  • Maryland

As of April 18, residents of Maryland must wear face coverings when they are using public transportation. The employees and as well as the customers of essential businesses over the age of 9 have to wear face coverings.


  • Massachusetts

The governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, has issued an order on May 6 that requires the use of face coverings both indoors and outdoors when people can’t do social distancing. Children that are under the age of 2 don’t have to wear face coverings.


  • Michigan

Businesses in Michigan can deny entry of customers that aren’t wearing face coverings. All residents should wear either face masks or coverings in all public settings.


  • Nevada

Nevada requires all residents to wear a face mask in public spaces, including public transportation, retail stores, essential businesses and when interacting with others. The order was issued on June 24.


  • New Jersey

The first state to require customers and employees of essential businesses to wear a face mask was New Jersey. Employers must provide their employees with face coverings and also deny entry to customers that don’t wear them. 

Residents of New Jersey have to wear face coverings while they are using public transportation. If they don’t, they can be denied entry.


  • New Mexico

As of May 16, residents of New Mexico have to wear face masks when they are in public settings. There are a few exceptions such as eating, drinking or exercising. It’s recommended for children that are 3 years old or older to wear face masks. Children that are 5 years old or under have to be accompanied by an adult.


  • New York

The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, issued an executive order on April 17, making wearing masks in public mandatory for all residents over the age of 2 when social distancing is impossible.


  • Oregon

As of July 1, the governor of Oregon, Kate Brown has made wearing face coverings in all indoor public spaces mandatory.  


  • Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, since April 19, essential businesses have to provide their employees with face masks. Also, customers of these businesses must wear face coverings, or they will be denied entry.


  • Rhode Island

As of May 8, the governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo has issued an order that makes wearing face masks mandatory for all residents over the age of 2. They have to wear face coverings when they are in public whether that’s indoors or outdoors.


  • Texas

In Texas, as of July 3, all residents in counties that have 20 or more COVID-19 cases have to wear face masks in public. If they fail to comply with the order, they can get a fine.


These are all the 18 states that have made it mandatory to wear face masks. However, things change fast, and there could be more states that follow their example.


Related: What to do if you come in contact with someone who has coronavirus (and think you might, too)


The Various Types of Respirator Face Masks & Their Differences



Depending on what part of the world you live in, or what places your local government imports respirators from, there might be a variety of options presented to you in terms of face masks and personal protective equipment. 


Right now, we are going to explore the differences between the most common face masks, respirator models, and the different production and certification standards they abide by so you can make the right, educated choice on what protective equipment to purchase for yourself and your family.


What’s the difference between NIOSH and GB2626?


Like we said before, NIOSH is the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. It’s a US Federal agency that ensures that as few people as possible suffer from work-related diseases or injuries. It’s part of the CDC, which makes it responsible for researching diseases that range from lung cancer to carpal tunnel syndrome.


As for GB2626, that’s a mandatory national standard in China for respiratory protection. It has been active since July 1, 2020, replacing the previous standard GB 2626-2006. GB2626 applies for non-powered respirators that can provide respiratory protection against particles. It doesn’t apply to respirators that can protect you against harmful gases or vapors. Also, it’s not suitable for masks that are used in hypoxic environments, underwater operations, firefighting and escape.


Related: Which N95 Face Masks Have Been Most Popular in Each Country?


Think of it this way, the GB2626 standard is the equivalent of our N95 face mask standard. The GB2626 is also known as KN95. If you stumble upon a KN95 face covering, you should know that it’s relatively similar to our N95 masks, but there are slight differences.


Related: The Ultimate 3M N95 Mask Guide – Which Mask Do You Need and Why?

Related: N95 vs KN95 – Which Respirator Will Protect You More?


However, we recommend you to use N95 face masks rather than a mask coming from China unless you’re absolutely certain that the supplier you’re buying from has legitimate KN95 face masks. Products from China aren’t following the same regulations as the face masks in America, and you can be a subject of scams.


Even worse, you can order fake KN95 face masks, use it for a couple of weeks and then get sick because the mask hasn’t protected you at all. If you want to purchase a KN95 face mask, by all means, go for it, but before that ensure that you’re ordering a real mask, not a cheap duplicate.


American suppliers such as Clinical Supplies, Amazon, eBay or even Home Depot can provide you with high-quality N95 face masks ensuring your protection at all times. Don’t hesitate to choose an American supplier because it can be a little bit expensive compared to their Chinese counterparts.


When you’re buying N95 face masks that are made in America, you’re paying for the quality, protection and the NIOSH and the FDA standard. In most cases, if you order a face mask from America, you’ll get a more high-quality product due to the endless regulations that protect customers from being scammed online.


Most face masks in America are created by 3M the company, which ensures their quality. They provide high-quality face shields to a wide variety of industries including healthcare, worker safety and consumer goods. Annually, the company produces over 60, 000 different products including face masks, respirators and N95 face covering under different brands.


They are one of the most trusted companies in America, so you can be sure when you’re buying an N95 face mask from them, you’re getting a quality product. They offer a wide range of face masks, some of them are disposable, NIOSH and the FDA approve others. You won’t be scammed if you get N95 face masks that were created by the 3M company or any other American supplier.


That doesn’t mean that the KN95 face masks aren’t high-quality, even the opposite. As we said, they are fairly similar to N95, but it will be hard for you to find a legit KN95 mask without ordering a few that are damaged goods.


What is the difference between FFP2 and FFP3 respirators?


FFP2 respirators offer a much higher degree of protection than, for example, FFP1 masks. They provide protection at concentrations around 12x OEL (occupational exposure limit) or 10x APF (assigned protection factor). 


They are essentially the European equivalent of the famous N95 respirator that is used in the United States, and they meet the same qualities and follow the guidance of the World Health Organization (WHO.)


FFP3 respirators, consequently, offer more protection than FFP2 masks. They protect the wearer against materials in concentrations nearly 50 times more OEL and 20 times more APF. This is extremely high protection, significantly higher than FFP1 and FFP2. Moreover, they can block both solid aerosols and liquid aerosols, making them the most secure choice for anyone wishing to protect themselves against the inhalation of viral particles.


The current guidelines by the National Health Service (NHS) conclude that FFP3 respirators and face masks are a powerful agent against virus and bacterial infections when the infections are spread through sneezing or coughing, as the case with the novel coronavirus. They are most commonly used by healthcare personnel when they are handling potentially hazardous pharmaceutical materials or treating infected patients.


Which is better – N95 respirators or FFP2/FFP3 respirators?


The N95 respirator is the United States equivalent of the FFP2 respirator, in that it offers the same degree of aerosol protection (95 percent) and is created through similar production guidelines. 


That being said, both the N95 and the FFP2 do not provide as much protection as an FFP3 respirator. This is because the United States equivalent of the FFP3 respirator would be the N99 mask which provides the wearer with up to 99 percent aerosol particle protection.


All respirator types – FFP2, FFP3, N95, and N99 – can and will protect you from the novel coronavirus and it is unlikely that an extra 4 percent of protection will make the difference between you getting sick and you staying well. That being said, you can still opt for a respirator with a higher protective degree if you wish to stay secure, though FFP3 and N99 respirators should usually be kept for healthcare personnel that are in the front lines against COVID-19.


Which is better – N95 face masks or the P2 respirator?


A lot of people confuse P2 dust masks and N95 dust masks. Though both are certified and fully legitimate forms of personal protective equipment, both masks abide by different production and certification standards. 


This happens because some products tested under the American National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the (CE) European Standards are exported to other parts of the world, in this case, Australia.


Because of this global personal protective equipment market, manufacturing companies often test, produce, and market under different standards. This means that a wide range of certifications is necessary and acceptable for sale in Australian markets.

Overall, N95 respirators are very similar to P2 respirators – with, of course, slight differences. However, this occurs because of the different testing process and practices in the United States and Australia.


P2 masks essentially feature the Australian and New Zealand standards for production, while N95 abide by the US NIOSH standards. 


The filtering efficiency of the P2 is 94 percent, while the N95 provides you with 95 percent. Nevertheless, there is virtually no impact on the degree of respiratory protection you, the wearer, will be provided with. Both masks are tested with a substance called Sodium Chloride Aerosol, with the P2 having an aerosol flow rate of 95 liters per minute while the N95 has an aerosol flow rate of 85 liters per minute.


What’s the difference between unvalved and valved masks?


When we’re talking about the efficiency of respirators, we have to talk about unvalved and valved respirators.


An unvalved mask is one in which the filtration system is directly built into the fabric itself. This means that unvalved masks are lighter in weight and they can be more discreet. It also means they are going to be more comfortable to wear because they are not big and bulky, and they do not feel heavy or constraining on your face.


Valved masks are an alternative to unvalved masks. Even though a valve can make a mask heavier and a little less comfortable (at least as far as face masks go,) this means that air can also be let out of the mask. Valved masks are not as stuffy, and they are less sweaty, meaning they are usually more comfortable to wear and highly breathable.


What’s the difference between folded and molded face masks?


Another element in the design of face masks is whether or not the face mask is folded or molded. 


Molded face masks ensure that the closest fit possible is achieved. They are designed to fit the shape of your face and to keep your nose, mouth, and chin covered in any situation. This makes molded face masks way more effective because it minimizes the risk of an airborne viral particle reaching into your respiratory system – because this can happen through a gap present in a loose-fitting mask.


Folded face masks are much more discreet, and they are very easy to carry around anywhere because the fabric and the design are quite light and breathable. They offer a great fit around the face, but considering their elastic head straps, they rarely provide you with a perfectly positioned fit around the face.


What respirator is the right choice for me?


Making the right choice of respirator will largely depend on (1) which part of the world you’re in and (2) what degree of protection you desire.


The standard respirator that you can find online will be a variation of the N95 respirator adjusted for your country’s production standards.


If you’re living in Europe, you’re most likely going to opt for an FFP2 respirator (95% protection) while FFP3 respirators (99% protection) will be reserved for medical personnel and healthcare workers.


If you’re living in the United States, you’re going to get the standard N95 respirator (95% protection) with N99 respirators (99% protection) being reserved for the healthcare personnel.


If you’re living in China or you’re buying from a company that imports from China, you’re going to opt for the KN95 respirator (95% protection.) KN95 is very similar to the N95 with slight differences.


If you’re living in Australia or New Zealand, you’re going to opt for the P2 respirator (94% protection.)


If you’re living in Brazil, opt for the standard FFP2 respirator.


If you’re living in Japan or buying from Japanese exporters, the equivalent of the N95 respirator is the DS2 or DL2 respirator.


If you’re living in India or buying from Indian exporters, the N95 respirator equivalent is the BIS P2 respirator.


Overall, we’ve taken a thorough look at the differences between these common respirator models so you can make the right choice for yourself. That being said, their differences often lie in the production and certification standards employed by their producers while their practical protection ability remains largely the same.


Frequently Asked Questions About Respirators – How are they created? How do they protect you? How do you wear your respirator correctly?



How are respirators constructed? 


N95 masks, as well as FFP2 masks, are created by several layers of fabric that’s non-woven, with most having a filtration valve in the middle.


They include two outer layers – both made of melt-brown fabric. These two layers filter our small airborne particles. These fabrics are created by melting polypropylene (as well as other similar plastics) and then using special machines to draw out the material into fine strands. These strands then bond together to form a solid sheet.


In the middle of these two layers is non-melting cotton for absorbing moisture, as well as the filtering valve. 


This respirator component differentiates respirators from any other face mask, be it surgical or cloth coverings. Even though they still protect the wearer from a certain degree of airborne particles, the respirator component is what ensures the filtration of the air and therefore brings the higher degree of protection you desire. 

Every respirator has its own degree of protection, a term coined the “bacterial filtration efficiency.”


What are the different components of a respirator?


The “N” symbol in your respirator stands for the respirator rating class. In this case, N stands for “non-oil.” This means that in an environment that contains no concentration of oil-based particles, this mask will protect you. 


The “95” of your N95 respirator means that the respirator has an efficiency of 95 percent. However, you should keep in mind that masks ending in 100 do not translate to 100 percent efficiency, but rather 99.95-99.97 percent. 


Valve: the exhalation valve in your N95 mask is there to help reduce the resistance in exhalation, so it is much more comfortable for you to breathe through your mask.


Material: respirators are made with electrostatic non-woven fiber made based on polypropylene.


What is BFE - bacterial filtration efficiency?


If you are buying a face mask or respirator, probably the most in-demand question you have to answer is “how much protection am I getting?” The best answer to this question comes in the form of a variable called the BFE – the bacterial filtration efficiency.


Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE) is essentially a measurement of the resistance to penetration of bacteria of the materials of any given respirator. Many tests can be devised to test respirators, with results often being reported as a percentage – percent efficiency – and this percent correlates with the level of resistance to bacterial penetration by any given fabric. 


The higher the number on these tests, the higher the degree of protection offered to you by the respirator. 


Does 95 percent efficiency mean that 5 percent of the viral particles will get through?


Every single respirator is created not to eliminate, but to reduce the exposure to airborne hazards. If you’re using an N95 respirator, this means you’re using a respirator with a 95 percent filtration efficiency against non-oil particles.


The particles used to test the levels of filtration are in a range of size considered the most efficient at penetrating. 


That’s why you have to remember that filtration efficiency does not determine the total reduction of hazards. However, from the perspective of the wearer, this does ensure a high degree of practical protection against hazards such as the novel coronavirus.


How do respirators ensure protection?


Viruses like influenza and the novel coronavirus spread in a couple ways, most notably through the airborne particles of body fluids released when someone sneezes or coughs.


When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they send out these small particles of body fluids in the air. Another way the virus can spread is when these airborne particles land on a surface and stay there, only to be touched by another person and then transmitted via touching their face into their system.


What respirators do for you is they do not allow these particles to reach your system. 

The protection granted by respirators comes in the form of air filtration that doesn’t let viral particles reach you close enough that you would be able to inhale them. 


Surgical masks also provide you with the filtration of airborne particles, yet their efficiency reaches up to 2-3 percent. Respirators, on the other hand, provide you with more than 90 percent air filtration of viral particles, allowing you to stay safe and well in potentially dangerous environments.


How do we make sure we’re wearing our respirator correctly?


The efficiency of respirators is measured by performing what’s known as a fit test. Fit testing is perhaps the most important part of the respiratory protection program. Not only is an initial respirator test performed to identify the right style, size, and model of a respirator, but also annual fit testing by producers and respirator suppliers.


Not only that, but respirators like FFP2 and N95 require the wearer to perform their own personal test known as a seal check when they are putting on a respirator. 


Keep in mind that respirators require an initial medical evaluation for people who have trouble breathing through them. What this means is that some conditions, or even something as simple as having facial hair, can make wearing a respirator ineffective and unadvisable.


If you’re suffering from lung disease, heart conditions, or even conditions such as claustrophobia, a medical evaluation should be performed before use – and may be necessary once more if the wearer experiences any harmful symptoms.

There are also alternatives for people who cannot pass a fit test due to either medical conditions or just having facial hair. These alternatives include various forms of air-purifying respirators.


How long does a respirator last? What should I do with an expired respirator?


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) does not require respirators to have an expiration date. This makes it a little difficult for everyday users to learn when they should throw their respirator out and replace it. 


If your respirator also does not have an expiration date, then you should check either the user instructions or the manufacturer guidelines on time and storage conditions. Factors such as humidity and temperature play a major role in the longevity of your respirator, so they naturally have an effect on its performance.


Needless to say, single-use respirators should be disposed of after about a day of use and should not be sanitizer or re-used. Multiple-use respirators should come with some guidance in regards to shelf life.

During times of limited supply and increased demand, some people can choose to use N95 respirators past their normal shelf life. That being said, this comes with risks that the respirator will not perform as effectively as it was certified to. Elements such as the nose bridge or the elastic straps can affect the quality of the respirator, meaning that they no longer meet the certification requirements created by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.


What’s the normal time limitation for wearing a respirator?


Usually, there is no time restriction on how long you should be wearing your respirator. They can be worn until they are either (1) damaged, (2) contaminated, or (3) difficult to breathe through.


If you want your respirator to be effective, your respirator needs to be fit tested. After a successful fit test, the respirator should remain on your face throughout the duration of the potentially harmful exposure. The people who use a respirator should have a separate area where they can communicate, eat, and drink to avoid more dangerous exposure. The longer someone remains in a clean environment, the longer their respirator will keep its efficiency.


Can my child wear a respirator?


Around the world, most countries do not approve that children wear respirators and various certification agencies have only restricted the use of respirators by children to general emergencies (including disease outbreaks.) However, the biggest producers of respirators largely don’t create respirators specific to children. 


Unless marked otherwise, respirators are designed to be fit and tested on adults. Respirators are certified for use by adults, and the written instructions that they come with are made for adults. Even though some respirators can and will fit a child, you should contact your local health authorities and assess the possible risks on how to protect your child from poor air quality or surprise outbreaks.


What’s more, toddlers and infants should never be given respirators.


How do I remove a respirator?


Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water, then carefully remove your respirator face mask by using the straps on its sides. Make sure your eyes are closed while you’re taking it off, and also make sure you’re not touching the front of the respirator. Dispose of the respirator, then wash your hands once more with soap and warm water.


How should my respirator be stored before I use it?


Respirators are specifically designed to seal around the face and to filter particles. If you want to protect the condition and efficiency of your respirator, you have to make sure you’re storing them as shown in their specific storage requirements. This way, you’ll ensure they are working properly.


Until you actually need to use your respirator, you should store it in (1) its original packaging, (2) in a clean environment, and (3) away from direct exposure to sunlight.

This means that the best way to store your respirators, generally, is to keep them in a clean environment in their original packaging and have a separate space for them so they won’t be folded or crushed.


How do I make sure my FFP2/FFP3/N95 respirator is legitimate?


The reason you’re buying a respirator in the first place is so you can stay safe, so one of the most important things you can do to ensure that you’re really getting the protection you’re paying for is to make sure your respirator is indeed legitimate.


To do this, you must learn how to differentiate low-quality face masks from high-quality face masks, as well as learn how to perform tests that allow you to test the efficiency of the respirator itself. This is because even if you buy an N95 respirator, and you are supposedly expecting the 95 percent filtration protection from viral airborne particles, this protection percentage drops rapidly if the respirator is not placed properly and/or is leaking air.


To make sure this doesn’t happen, healthcare personnel perform multiple “fit tests” that will ensure that they have a tight fit around their face, not letting any air come out of their respirator. In addition to their personal fit test, they perform upon placing the respirator, the mask is also factory tested in the place in which it’s produced. However, if respirators are “fit-tested” inside their production factories, this will make them significantly less effective and will defeat the purpose of the mask itself.


This is one of the easiest ways to “expose” a faulty respirator. For example, if a respirator has loose ear loops, this will most likely result in a very loose grip around the face in which air can be leaking out. It is entirely up to you to test the efficiency of your respirator once you put it on – that’s why you have to know how to instantly differentiate effective and compromised face masks.


Across the country, we’ve seen KN-95 respirator imports that have failed fit testing and resulted in very low-quality protection because of inefficient or loose elastic. Remember the hundreds of photos of healthcare professionals with red marks on their faces? These marks happen precisely because of tight-fitting respirators that are tested and have shown to provide a great grip around the face.


How can I seal check my respirator?


A seal test is performed by “breathing through” your respirator in an attempt to test whether or not air is leaking out from or around the mask. 

To do this, you must follow three simple steps:


  1. Once the respirator is on your face, position your hands on it and push further toward your face while taking a breath. 


  1. When the respirator is fitting tightly around your face, and you exhale through your nose, you will feel whether or not the air is leaking from underneath/above/or from the sides of the respirator.


  1. If you do indeed feel some air coming out of the mask, you have to readjust the respirator piece, and if this doesn’t help, you need to find another piece of model that won’t leak any air.



Do I have to wear a face mask?



The answer to the question “should I wear a face mask” should be answered by you and you alone. We are here to help you assess the different factors so you can make a rational choice.


By thoroughly assessing different factors such as the risk of exposure, desire for protection, and local coronavirus spread coefficient, some people might choose to purchase high-grade protective gear to ensure that they’re staying safe during the novel coronavirus pandemic.


To help you make the right choice, we are going to explore some of these variables and provide you with educated guidelines on whether or not buying a mask is the right choice in your specific situation.


That being said, please keep in mind that protective equipment is not a substitute for social distancing or any other form of protective measures taken (or recommended by governments.) Face masks and respirators should be not your first, but your last line of defense against COVID-19, and if combined correctly with other protective measures, they will skyrocket your safety and confidence.


Let’s start with the first factor.


Factor #1 - What risk of exposure are you facing?


Your risk of exposure is going to be the deciding factor on whether or not you pursue high-grade personal protective equipment measures. So how do you find out how much risk you’re facing on a daily basis?

It goes without saying that medical personnel or people working in environments exposed to the novel coronavirus (or to people infected) should be wearing protective equipment at all times.


That being said, people who do not consciously pursue such environments will face a lower risk. 


People at social gatherings of more than five people will benefit from the extra protection, as well as people who communicate with a lot of people on a daily basis. While it is unlikely that you will need a new respirator every time you are going to the store, it will certainly benefit you to wear a respirator or at least a cloth face covering/surgical mask every time you’re heading outside.


An N95 respirator goes a long way to protect you from viral airborne particles, so they will be profoundly beneficial to people who come into contact with a lot of people on a daily basis, regardless if they’re visibly infected or not.


Service industry workers, medical personnel, and even everyday people who want to stay safe can all benefit by decreasing the risk factor of infection through N95 or similar respirators. 


To best calculate your risk of exposure, assess factors such as how many people you come into contact with each day and how much the virus has spread in your local community. Keep in mind that asymptomatic transmission is still possible, so do not hesitate to purchase a respirator if you are working in the service industry or you come into contact with more than a few people every day.


Factor #2 – What are your local government guidelines on face masks?


If your local government is recommending that you wear a face mask every time you’re out, or they’re even making it compulsory to do so, you should know why your local government officials have come to the conclusion to do it. 


Local governments will often urge people to wear masks when the basic reproduction number (R) has risen above 1. 


In epidemiology, the R number, or basic reproduction number, is a variable connected to a given infection that can be perceived as the expected number of cases that are directly generated by one case in a population that is considered susceptible to infection.


  • If the R number of the coronavirus in your local community is 1, this means that every case is likely to generate one more case, e.g. one person will spread the virus to another person.


  • If the R number is higher than 1, this means that every infected person will likely spread the virus to more than 1 person.


  • If the R number is lower than 1, this means that every infected person will likely spread the virus to fewer than one person.


When the R number of an infection drops below 1, this signals that an infection is dying out because every person will spread the virus to fewer and fewer people in their community.


Local governments usually urge people to wear a face mask anytime that number has risen above 1 as to prevent the spread of the virus and drop this number below 1.


If your local government is recommending that everyone wear a face mask when they’re heading outside, this means that there is no reason why you shouldn’t wear a respirator instead. Especially if you’re not infected, and you are showing no symptoms of an infection, a respirator will help you protect yourself from the people spreading the infection to others.


Factor #3 – How available are respirators in your area?


Generally, in early stages of the pandemic, respirators were withheld for medical personnel in fear of potential shortages. In some places in the world where these shortages are present, respirators can and should be accessible to healthcare workers before they’re accessible to anyone else.


However, at this stage, there should be no shortages across the United States, and with companies boosting their production massively, respirators are now widely accessible and can be purchased by the general public.


This means that if you want to ensure your protection and you live in an area where respirators are readily available, there is no reason why you should not have them.



What to do if everywhere is sold out?



Traditional major retailers such as Amazon and Home Depot could quickly find themselves facing shortages if another spike in demand arises. 


If you find yourself facing these shortages, but you want to keep yourself and your family safe, the one place in the United States you will always be able to find the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) is at Clinical Supplies USA.


If you’re looking to buy N-95 respirator face masks:


Browse Clinical Supplies USA’s collection of N95 respirators in our store here.


If you’re looking to purchase wholesale face masks for sale/distribution to your local community:


Reach out to us and inquire for any purchase above 2,000 units here.


Clinical Supplies USA is an American co-owned and run company specializing in providing quality protective supplies such as KN95 and 3ply masks, hand sanitizers, face shields, gloves, and more. We are here to answer the demand for personal protective equipment so you can keep you and your family safe.


Whether it is Amazon, EBay, Home Depot, or any other supplier, we will never fail to supply you and your local community with the protective gear you need to stay safe in these times of global crisis.





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