Before we get into the differences, it is important to discuss why these masks are in such high demand. Their desirability stems from two main advantages: protecting yourself and protecting others.
When it comes to protecting yourself from coronavirus, masks should be one of the main tools in your arsenal. This is because they create a barrier between your mouth and nose and the outside world. Creating this barrier is crucial since one of the main ways that COVID-19 has been shown to transmit between people is through respiratory droplets.
As someone speaks, coughs, or sneezes, these droplets become airborne and travel several feet. If they enter another person’s nose or mouth, then the disease can take hold. Therefore, you need a mask to create a barrier that helps to lower the chance of these droplets entering your mouth or nose.
Unfortunately, not all masks are made equal when it comes to this feature. For example, standard surgical masks do not maintain a full seal around the nose and mouth, which means that these particles can easily go around the mask and still enter orifices. That is why the main goal of wearing masks is to protect others.
Although the majority of masks are not able to block respiratory droplets from entering a person’s nose or mouth, they are quite effective at reducing the number of germs spread in the first place. In fact, wearing masks has been shown to block approximately 95 percent of the respiratory droplets that leave a person’s mouth and nose. By lowering the number of droplets being spread by such a significant amount, it prevents them from settling onto various surfaces and later contaminating someone else who touches the same surface.
These masks have several key similarities, one of which is the fact that they have their filtration systems tested by capturing salt (NaCl) particles. The efficiency of this test will allow the US NIOSH to determine whether or not the mask is able to meet N95 standards.
They are also tested using a flow rate of exactly 85L per minute. Based on these results, they need to achieve a filtration performance of at least 95 percent. This incredibly high percentage refers to how many small particles are able to be captured by the mask. In the interest of this test, a small particle is considered to be 0.3 microns in size. Both an N95 and a KN95 mask need to be able to meet this 95 percent standard in order to be certified.
A common misconception in regards to this 95 percent is that these masks are not able to help block minuscule particles that are even smaller than 0.3 microns. However, this isn’t the case. Both KN95 and N95 masks are able to block a significant amount of particles that are even smaller than the standard testing size of 0.3 microns. While it will be below the impressive efficiency of the factory test, it is important to recognize that they are still incredibly efficient at capturing Coronavirus particles, which are notoriously small and measure less than 0.14 microns.