We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic shut down in the United States and while case counts have been consistently dropping over the last few weeks, the new, more contagious variants have experts worried. Viruses mutate naturally as they jump from person to person, but these latest mutations have made certain strains of the COVID-19 virus more transmissible which could mean more cases and more deaths. Thankfully, our current preventative measures of social distancing, mask-wearing and handwashing seem to be effective against the new variants — so we all need to do our part and continue these practices.
Cloth face masks are still an excellent daily accessory to wear whenever you leave the house — and there are plenty of face masks for running out there to incorporate into your exercise routine. Another great way to protect yourself is an N95 mask, 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. 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, as well as where to buy N95 face masks online.
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.
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. 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 miron 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.
2. 3M N95 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 10 pack is available via Amazon. The masks are a cup shape and have a head and neckband for a secure fit. They have the exhalation valve as well as 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.
3. 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.
4. 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 the 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.
5. 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.
6. ALG Soft Shell N95 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.
7. 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.
8. Makrite SEKURA N95 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.
9. UNIAIR N95 Face Mask 20-Pack
This is another NIOSH-approved N95 face mask from UNIAIR with a cup-shaped design that’s breathable and comfortable. One headband and neckband secure the mask on, both of which are latex-free. The outer layer of the mask is made of P.P cloth made to reduce fiber-shedding and make the mask more comfortable. The mask has an ergonomic design that’s made to not fog up glasses, and there’s foam padding along the nose bridge for comfort.
10. Patriot N95 Face Mask 25-Pack
This is another face mask made by ALG health, very similar to the one above. It’s a cup design with a nose clip that’s pre-formed to be a secure fit on a variety of faces. It’s a NIOSH-approved N95 respirator that’s also been FDA-approved for use as a surgical mask. This 25-pack will set you back about $100, and the ship date was estimated to be February 15th at the time this piece was written.
11. PHG N95 Mask 10-Pack
These N95 masks are made by PHG or Protective Health Gear, a NIOSH-certified PPE manufacturer. They’re made of non-woven polypropylene spunbound fabric that’s built for comfort and performance. The head strap on them is comfortable to wear, and they conveniently lay flat when not in use which is convenient for storage.
12. UNIAIR N95 Face Mask 3-Pack
This is the same UNIAIR face mask mentioned above, available on a different PPE retailer’s site in case that one sells out. This is a 3-pack, so another small order option for those who don’t have a lot to spend on their protective gear. Otherwise, the mask is the same — it’s NIOSH-certified, made of protective, filtering polypropylene fabric and has nose cushioning and a metal nose piece for a secure fit. The mask is also made with electrostatic filter cotton as well as melt-blown fabric that’s not woven to improve its filtration abilities.