This March, we marked the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 shutdown here in the United States, and while mass vaccination is giving many of us reason to feel optimistic again, this is a terrible time to let down your guard. Anecdotally, the Spy team knows a number of people who have contracted COVID recently. And according to The New York Times, new COVID-19 cases have increased by more than 20% over the last 14 days. There are also new contagious variants that have some experts worried. Thankfully, our current preventative measures of social distancing, mask-wearing and vaccination seem to be effective against the new variants.
After a long, terrible year, life is finally on the verge of going back to normal — or, at least, a new normal. Personally, we would feel horrible if we tested positive in the final days of this pandemic, which is why you should continue to mask up in public. And while cloth face masks and face masks for running serve an important purpose, N95 masks provide the best protection (remember, masks are as much about protecting other people from the asymptomatic spread as they are for self-protection). Fortunately, thanks to a herculean effort to increase production, it’s easy to find N95 masks for sale online.
N95 masks are the most critical type of PPE for protecting yourself and those around you from the coronavirus. The best N95 masks were in short supply across the country early in the pandemic, but supplies have since rebounded and are now widely available to the general public. (Yes, there is a difference between KN95 masks and N95 masks, which you can read about in a separate piece.) In this article, we’re tackling all things N95 and KN95, as well as where to buy N95 face masks online.
A Note About Counterfeit Masks: Use Caution When Buying N95 Masks Online
As the demand for N95 masks outside of healthcare settings has increased the market for fake or counterfeit N95s has become larger and more sophisticated, and therefore deciphering which masks are real and which are fake more difficult.
It’s crucial to make sure the mask you’re purchasing has NIOSH-approved written on the mask and package it comes in. This means the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has approved it for use and ensured it protects in the way it promises to. There should also be an approval number written on the mask that’s easy to read.
We’ve carefully selected each mask featured below, ensuring that they’re all NIOSH-approved. If you want to buy N95 masks online for COVID-19 prevention, we’re confident in all of the options below. We wanted to offer a variety of options in case one goes out of stock, and we’ll try to keep this list updated as often as possible, as items like this tend to sell out quickly amidst the pandemic. If you aren’t sure about a particular brand or supplier when purchasing PPE, check the CDC website for the official list of approved N95 face masks.
1. ALG Soft Shell N95 Face Masks — 20 Pack
This is another clamshell N95 mask that’s multi-layered and equipped with an inner filtration layer that removes 95% of airborne particles that aren’t oil-based. These masks from ALG are lightweight and made to be disposable, easier to wear and therefore more protective due to increased use. They have a two-strap design and each of the straps are latex-free. These masks are also glue-free, odorless and used by healthcare professionals around the country. For both medical professionals and civilians who want to buy N95 masks online, this is a fantastic option.
2. Blue Bear Protection N95 Masks — 20 Pack
Like all of the best genuine N95 masks, these masks are approved by both the FDA and the NIOSH for use as personal protective equipment. Each box contains 20 Makrite N95 masks with dual ear straps and a secure cup shape that covers the mouth and nose.
3. Blue Bear Protection KN95 Masks
KN95 masks don’t go through as strict a testing process as genuine N95 masks, but they still offer serious protection against airborne diseases like COVID-19 and are used by many frontline workers. This 100-pack of KN95 masks comes in both black and white and offers a great value. We don’t want to jinx it, but this might be the last pack of face masks you have to buy. Blue Bear Protection offers a wide variety of PPE and KN95 face masks for sale.
4. ALG Hard Cup Shell N95 Mask — 25 Pack
This is the same mask and company from option #5 but in a cup shell design that lifts the mask off of the face for more breathing room and has a nose clip for sealing off a secure fit. This pack also contains 25 masks as opposed to 20, and has 99.7% filter efficiency according to third-party laboratory testing. The straps are latex-free and designed for a close fit and seal.
5. Respokare N95 Respirator Masks 5-Pack
This mask is a patented design by Innonix, a PPE company that’s been around for 19 years that blocks 95% of 0.3 micron particles in the air and inactivates up to 99.9% of particles within a few minutes while wearing it. The inner layers are designed for comfort while the outer layers are water-resistant. There’s a filter layer as well as an antiviral layer — both of which work to combat viruses and pathogens in the air. These masks block 18 common seasonal and pandemic viruses including coronaviruses, influenza, measles, tuberculosis and common allergens. The mask is pricey, at $50 for a 5-pack, but the level of protection is worth it.
6. 3M N95 Face Masks 10-Pack
3M is one of the verified sellers of PPE and N95 masks on the CDC website, and 3M N95 masks have been hard to find online since the earliest days of the pandemic. As supply chains have adapted, it’s become much easier to buy 3M N95 face masks online, and this affordable 20 pack is available via Amazon. The masks are a cup shape and have a head and neckband for a secure fit. They also have the NIOSH-approved number on every mask. They’re made for use during woodworking including sanding, sawing and other dusty jobs, but they work just as well at filtering out viral pathogens in the air.
7. Cup Style N95 Respirator Mask — 40 Pack
This N95 mask design is different from the one above in its shape. It cups the face rather than resting on top of it, but both designs are NIOSH-approved with the proper fitting. This mask is able to filter out 95% of non-oily particles in the air down to 0.3 micron levels, and has head and neck loops attached for keeping it secure. The design is also ideal for storage since the cup masks can all stack on top of each other easily. If you want to stock up and buy N95 masks online, then this mask pack is a great albeit expensive option.
8. PHG N95 Particulate Respirator Masks — 50-Pack
This N95 mask from PHG has a softly molded shell design with a metal nosepiece, like the one above, for creating a tight seal on the face. The nose also has foam on it and the cloth head straps help keep the mask in place during use. This mask is NIOSH-approved for filtering out 95% of particles in the air. If you’re looking specifically for N95 face masks made in the USA, this is the best option for you.
9. Makrite SEKURA N95 Face Mask — Individual
This is an individually-sold N95 mask, so if you’re on a tight budget and don’t want to buy a larger pack for hundreds of dollars this is a good option to go with. Makrite SEKURA’s masks and soft and comfortable to wear as well as flexible around the edges. They’re made to adapt to the user’s face and form a tight seal. They also have a vertical fold that enables them to lay flat when not in use, and they’re NIOSH-approved for 95% filtration.
10. Magid N95 Respirator Masks — 10 Pack
These respirator masks from Magic are NIOSH-approved and have metal nose clips and headbands to help achieve the proper fit. It has a triple-layer construction for protection and compliance with health and safety standards and has an exhalation valve that makes breathing easier. The nose seal has padding on it for comfort and a clip for sealing it off, and the whole mask is equipped with ultrasonic seals to keep it intact.
Frequently Asked Questions About N95 Masks
N95 respirators are face masks designed to filter out 95% of very small (0.3 micron) airborne particles, including the respiratory droplets that can cause COVID-19. The masks are tight-fitting and usually have straps that go over the head, rather than ear loops like regular face masks.
N95 masks are made of thick material that prevents leakage on all sides when fitted correctly, so your breath is sealed from others and your air is filtered as you breathe in. They're designed to form a tight seal around the face that other masks don't provide. N95 masks must be NIOSH-approved in order to provide this protection, so it's important to ensure yours is real and not counterfeit (more on this below).
Yes, some N95 masks have exhalation valves that make it easier to breathe, less hot inside and decrease moisture build-up. N95 masks with the valve are just as protective for the user as ones without a valve. However, the valve doesn't filter your breath as you breathe out the way other masks do — so these masks aren't effective at preventing COVID-19 spread from the user. The simple solution for this is wearing another cloth or surgical mask over the N95 for added protection.