N95 face masks are a hot-ticket item right now. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to obtain them due to shortages and because most manufacturers are prioritizing shipments to first responders and government agencies over the general public. But there is an alternative: The KN95 mask is the next best thing and effective at filtering out unwanted germs.
According to both healthcare manufacturer 3M and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the KN95 mask is a “suitable replacement” for the N95 mask. Much like the N95, the KN95 can filter 95% of non-oily particles larger than 0.3 microns, offering superior protection over the rectangular paper masks that seem to be popping up at many dollar stores nationwide. While KN95 masks are technically disposable per CDC guidelines, for normal personal use outside of the healthcare community, you may be able to stretch a mask beyond a couple of days — especially if you’re just using it for strolls around the neighborhood or quick grocery store runs.
Paper and cloth masks don’t do much
Stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s are selling out of N95 masks as soon as they come in, with some stores reserving their stocks for local first responders and hospitals. Early on, our local hospital here bought the entire stock of N95 masks from the Home Depot because they were unable to get them through other channels.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen a few dollar stores nearby begin to sell the rectangular paper masks. But most are selling them for as much as a $1 per mask, and the protection you get from them is questionable.
While these masks will prevent you from spreading germs to others, they don’t do a good job of filtering out incoming germs. The same goes for cloth masks, which, after the CDC’s recommendation a few weeks back, have become a lot more popular — plus with the latter, you need to make sure you’re sanitizing them properly.
The bottom line is if you want real protection, you need a mask that not only protects others from your germs but vice versa.
Try these retailers
We’ve found at least two retailers that seem — at least for now — to have a substantial stock of KN95 masks and who are committed to not only supply first responders but the general public as well.
Honest PPE Supply is a recently launched company with a mission to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) at an affordable price. In fact, the company is selling KN95 masks for only $3 a piece with a minimum order of at least 10 masks. The company also sells surgical disposable 3-ply face masks for $0.60 apiece with a minimum order size of 10 pieces; and face shields for only $2 with a minimum order amount of 5 shields. Their KN95 and 3-ply masks are both FDA registered. The company is also selling uncertified KN95 masks that are not registered by the FDA for even cheaper at only $1.95 per piece. The company also ships within 24 hours so you don’t have to wait weeks to receive your much-needed masks.
N95 Mask Co recently launched the Respokare NIOSH N95 Respirator Mask, a new type of mask that promises to deliver even more protection than the sought-after N95 mask. While the company is U.S.-based, masks are made and shipped from China.
The Respokare goes further than just blocking particles like the N95; it also inactivates up to 99.9% of flu viruses and other airborne health hazards within minutes. The Respokare NIOSH N95 Respirator Mask passed the N95 standard tests conducted by Nelson Lab following the Food and Drug Administration’s Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) regulation to achieve the approval of the FDA and the CDC. The Respokare NIOSH N95 respirator mask is in stock and available for immediate shipment in all sizes and colors. A bundle of four masks costs $50 and a 10-pack for $90. N95 Mask Co promises to deliver your masks in just three days.
If you’re looking for KN95 masks, the brand offers packages of 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500. As you buy more, you save more. Unlike Honest PPE, the smallest option is for KN95 masks are packs of 20, but it’ll cost you $60 for the set. For the 50-pack, you’ll pay $150, the 100-pack $299, 200-pack $499, and the 500-pack $1,129. The 500-pack is the best deal at about $2.25 per mask, but you’ll also have to shell out $1,129 for it. N95 Mask no longer sells smaller 3-pack and 10-pack bundles.
N95 Mask Co recently added NIOSH-approved N95 Respirator masks to its inventory in quantities from 20 to 1,000 masks. The N95 masks conform to industry standards and block at least 95% of very small (o.3-micron) particles. N95 sells the N95 Respirator Masks in packs of 20, 40, 60, 80, 100, 240, 500, and 1,000. The price per mask ranges roughly from $9 to $7, depending on the quantity. A 20-pack of N95 Respirator Masks for $179 costs about $9 per mask, for example. If you buy 1,000 N95 Masks for $6,999, each one costs just under $7.
Most people will not need 100 or more masks at a time, so the minimum 20-pack is probably your best bet for the KN95 and N95 masks without breaking the bank, unless you’re splitting them with others (which we recommend as your per-mask cost is much less). And if you’re wondering, these prices aren’t significantly higher than pre-pandemic, and shipping is via three-day air. With the latter, and shipping costs adding another $20 or so to the order, we recommend you buy as many as you can afford to get the best deal. Shipping is free for orders of $149 or more.
Nomad Goods is better known for its quality smartphone and computer accessories, and especially its beautiful leather cases. The luxury accessories brand, however, has decided to put their efforts behind combating COVID-19 by making medical-related supplies available at affordable prices. They are selling a 10-pack of civilian-use KN95 masks (that aren’t FDA registered) for $20, and a 50-pack of 3-ply disposable masks for $20, as well. The brand also has gloves, hand sanitizers, cleaners, and wipes available. The company ships within 24 hours so you can expect your order delivered in days.
Out of luck?
If you can’t afford this right now, we still recommend making a homemade cloth mask. Some protection is better than none, of course. The CDC has instructions on how to create one. While they don’t offer a substantial amount of protection, you’re at least lessening your risk of getting sick and sickening others.
The great thing about these masks is that they’re reusable, and sanitary as long as you follow the proper precautions.
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