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 differences between N95 and KN95 masks (and all characteristics that are the same).
N95 vs. KN95 Comparison Chart
In short, N95 masks are the US standards for respirator masks; KN95 masks are the Chinese standards for masks.
WATCH: What’s the Difference Between N95 and KN95?
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 highly similar.
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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 »
Thomas is an Associate Professor of Behavior Science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the founder of Smart Air, a social enterprise to help people across the world breathe clean air without shelling out thousands of dollars for expensive purifiers.