What’s the Difference Between N95 and KN95 Masks?

With such similar-sounding names, it can be confusing to understand the difference between N95 and KN95 masks. What are KN95 masks, and are they the same as N95 masks? This handy chart explains the similarities and differences between N95 and KN95 masks. 

N95 vs. KN95 Comparison Chart

Source: 3M – Comparison of FFP2, KN95, and N95 and Other Filtering Facepiece
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In short, N95 masks are the US standards for respirator masks; KN95 masks are the Chinese standards for masks.

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What's the difference between N95 and KN95 masks?

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According to mask manufacturer 3M, “it is reasonable to consider” China’s KN95s “equivalent” to US N95s. Mask standards for Europe (FFP2), Australia (P2), Korea (KMOEL), and Japan (DS) are also very similar.

Australia P2 Mask Standards similar to N95 and KN95 masks

N95 vs. KN95: What’s the Same?

Lots of users care most about what percentage of particles the masks capture. On this metric, N95 and KN95 respirator masks are the same. Both masks are rated to capture 95% of tiny particles (0.3 micron particles, to be exact).

Differences Between N95 and KN95 Masks standards

Since N95 and KN95 masks are rated to capture 95% of 0.3 micron particles, people will often assume that masks can’t capture particles smaller than 0.3 microns. If that was true, then it wouldn’t make sense that masks do a really good job of preventing virus transmission.

N95 masks can capture and filter viruses, reducing virus transmission

The crazy reality is that particles smaller than 0.3 microns are actually easier to capture. Don’t believe us; believe the data. Here’s the science behind it »

Difference Between N95 vs. KN95 Masks

Both ratings require masks to be tested for filtration efficiency at capturing salt particles (NaCl). Both are tested at a flow rate of 85 L/minute. However, there are some differences between N95 and KN95, highlighted here.

KN95 vs. N95 – Differences Highlighted

Difference Between N95 and KN95 Masks Highlighted

Most of these differences are small and would be uninteresting to the average mask user. However, here are the key differences:

1. To be certified as a KN95 mask, the Chinese government requires the manufacturer to run a special mask fit test on real humans with ≤ 8% leakage. The N95 mask standard does not require manufacturers to run fit tests.

This does not mean that fit tests aren’t helpful. Many hospitals and companies require their workers to be fit-tested. However, those are requirements of companies themselves, not for the US NIOSH certification on the mask.

Mask fit test requirements KN95 vs N95

2. N95 masks have slightly stricter requirements for pressure drop while inhaling. That means they’re required to be slightly more breathable than KN95 masks.

Don’t worry, despite it sometimes feeling difficult to breathe through masks, dying from oxygen starvation is very unlikely when wearing a mask.

3. N95s also have slightly stricter requirements for pressure drop while exhaling, which should help with breathability.

Some KN95/N95 Masks on Market Do Not Meet Filtration Standards

Smart Air tested 31 N95 masks on the market coming from China. We used a wind tunnel and Met One particle counter to see how many particles were getting through each mask.

Smart Air N95 mask test setup wind tunnel

13 out of 31 masks did not meet the N95 standard, many far below.

13 out of 31 masks failed to meet N95 standard

When purchasing a KN95 or N95, note that not all mask brands are of equal quality. Sticking to reputable brands such as 3M can help better ensure the mask actually meets the KN95/N95 standard.

Bottom Line: Difference Between N95 vs. KN95 Masks

N95s and KN95s are both rated to capture 95% of particles. Among the minor differences, only KN95 masks are required to pass fit tests, while N95 masks have slightly stronger breathability standards.

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N95 Masks India Delhi

Availability of N95 and KN95 Masks

Availability of N95 and KN95 masks can varily greatly depending on location. In the United States, KN95 masks are far easier to get your hands on than N95 masks. The reason is KN95 masks do not meet the NIOSH standards for face masks, so hospitals and healthcare facilities can only use N95 masks. For this reason, N95 masks may be reserved for healthcare workers, leaving a larger supply of KN95 masks for the average consumer. This does not mean the KN95 masks are inferior, as long as they are genuine KN95 masks.

Learn More About N95 and KN95 Masks

Wondering how to wash a KN95 or N95 mask? Read more on the most reliable way to wash and disinfect your KN95 or N95 mask »

Check out the full US Code of Federal Regulations for N95 (and also N99, N100 masks).

How I Protect Myself

Along with wearing masks, air purifiers with HEPA filters are also one of the best ways to stay safe from a variety of pollutants in our air including viruses and dangerous PM2.5. A recent CDC study confirmed significantly lower COVID-19 infection rates in schools that used HEPA air purifiers.

Read More: Four Steps to Choosing the Best Air Purifier

Smart Air is a certified B Corp committed to combating the myths big companies use to artificially inflate the price of clean air.

Smart Air provides empirically backedno-nonsense purifiers and masks, that use the same HEPA filters (that filter 95-99.5% of particles of size 0.3 microns) for a fraction of the cost of big companies.

Smart Air Blast Mini air purifier CADR

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Smart Air is a social enterprise that creates simple, no-nonsense air purifiers and provides free education to protect people’s health from the effects of air pollution. We are proud to be the only certified B-Corp dedicated to fighting air pollution.