What Are N95 Masks Made From?

N95 masks made from synthetic plastic fibers are most common. These plastic fibers are similar to the fibers in synthetic and polyester shirts many people wear.

N95 Masks Made From Synthetic Plastic

For example, let’s take the 3M 9332 masks that I wear in Beijing. Technically this is an N99 (FFP3) mask, but the idea is the same.



3M makes the filter material in the 9332 mask using polypropylene (PP) fiber.


N95 Mask Materials


N95 Masks Made Using This Raw Material

Polypropylene in the filter medium is a plastic. Manufacturers make this plastic out of fossil fuels like oil.

Polypropylene N95 masks


That means the fibers in these masks are similar to fibers ones in our clothes. Companies use these fibers to make clothes like quick-dry shirts, rain jackets, yoga pants, or any stretchy fabric.


Synthetic Fibers

Mask makers often give the polypropylene material a electrostatic charge. That static charges makes the filters more effective. 3M has a great video explaining how static charge works in masks:

N95 Masks Also Contain These Materials

Besides the filter material, N95 masks can also include other materials, such as metal. For example, the 3M 9502 (that Smart Air tested for decontamination in the microwave) contains several metal parts. The mask uses steel for the staples (which secure the straps to the mask) and aluminum for the bendable nose clip.

N95 Mask Materials

To make the straps of the 9332 mask, 3M uses polyisoprene. Polyisoprene is in natural rubber and also synthetic rubber. Other masks have elastic fabric straps.

Bottom Line: What Are N95 Masks Made From?

N95 masks are made from synthetic plastic fibers, usually polypropylene (PP). They also contain rubber and metal for the straps, staples, and nose bar.

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N95 Are Ratings, Not Materials

However, it is worth keeping in mind that N95 is a rating certification about performance, not materials. The N95 rating requires masks to capture 95% of particles. Thus, theoretically, N95 masks could be made out of any sort of material as long as they meet these requirements.

This chart explains exactly what’s required of masks to be certified as N95 in the US versus similar ratings in the EU, China, Australia, Korea, and Japan. Although there are differences on many aspects, none of the agencies require a specific mask material.

N95 Mask Ratings Comparison Chart

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9 thoughts on “What Are N95 Masks Made From?”

  1. I had a severe facial, tongue swelling from an N-95 mask and the co. would not tell me how it was made. Response will be 7-10 days. The information you provided helped. I am a retired RN and never had a reaction to 3-M or Kimberly-Clark N-95 masks used in the hospital. Please help.
    Do most use rubber?

  2. Is N95 mask eco friendly, and biodegradable. Is it save for the earth ? . If yes please explain and if not be honest.

    • Hi Shahnawaz, Liz here. That’s a good question! I’ve been looking for eco-friendly masks too. I did a search and saw most of the biodegradable masks are made from cotton or natural fibers. However, these materials, although can help to trap part of the tiny virus size particles, cannot be used as a substitution of the N95 or KN95 medical standard masks. I’d say if you are looking for something to wear daily in a relatively low risk environment, those should be fine. However, they cannot be used by frontline medical professionals, patients, or their families that are at high risks. Maybe there is more advanced technology out there, so if you saw anything interesting, let us know!

  3. I have purchased a mask which has six layers- outer layer is an air mesh, then a spun bonded material for Fluid protection, 3rd layer is Melt blown material for Bacteria filter/small particle filter, followed by another layer of Melt Blown material , then a layer of Spun bonded material, and finally towards the face an inner layer for moisture controlled anti-bacterial finish. The sample testing was done as per ASTM F 2101, and the sample showed 97.3% bacterial filtration efficiency against Staphylococcus aureus ATCC 6538, when tested according to the ASTM F 2101 test method. The mask is washable and reusable, upto 30 times use and being marketed as an N95 mask.
    Does this mask qualify as an N95 mask, as I was told N 95 masks are not washable. The mask is soft and comfortable to wear, when compared with the 3M masks.

    • Hi, Kumud, Liz here. ASTM F 2101 is a Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE) evaluation standard, and most of the bacteria falls around the 1 micron size range. N95 requires the mask be able to filter 95%+ 0.3 micron particles, which most viruses fall into this size range. So a good score on BFE doesn’t necessarily mean a good score on filtering out smaller particles.

  4. Are surgical masks made out of a different material ? I’m asking because the coronavirus survives up to 7 days on them.

    • Great question, Zeta. Surgical masks are made from very similar non-woven (typically melt-blown) material that you find in respirators.

      To clarify about how long coronavirus can survive on these types of materials: data shows that can coronavirus survive 48-72 hours on cardboard material, much less than 7 days. It’s important to note the difference between virus ‘viability’ (its ability to infect) and virus ‘detectability’. Some studies have shown it’s possible to detect viruses up to 7 days later, however that does not mean the virus is still able to infect at that point.


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