What’s The Difference Between N95 and KN95 Masks?

N95 vs KN95 Masks Differences

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).

In short, N95 masks are the US standards for respirator masks; KN95 masks are the Chinese standards for masks. These are the requirements that the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health requires manufacturers to meet in order to label their masks as N95s. Despite the long list of differences, the two masks are equivalent or nearly equivalent on the features that most people care about.

WATCH: What’s the Difference Between N95 and KN95?


 

N95 vs. KN95 Comparison Chart

Difference Between N95 and KN95 Masks
Mask Types Chart. Source: 3M

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.

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. For example, here’s an infographic in the South China Morning Post claiming just this. They even go so far as to say “N95 respirators protect the wearer from breathing in particles bigger than 0.3 microns in diameter.”

SCMP Masks Cant Capture Under 0.3 Microns misleading

However, that’s not true. Masks are actually more effective at capturing smaller particles than many people believe. Empirical data finds that masks are actually highly effective at capturing smaller particles.

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 mask fit tests 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.

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

Bottom Line: Difference Between N95 vs. KN95 Masks

Bottom line: N95s and KN95s are both rated to capture 95% of particles, although only KN95 masks are required to pass fit tests. N95 masks have slightly stronger requirements for breathability.

N95 Masks India Delhi

 


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 »

Read more: learn about the differences between KN95, N95, FFP2, FFP1 masks using this handy mask comparison chart »

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


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Mike f

What’s the best cleaning method for KN95 masks?

Good question Mike! We’ve written up on a reliable way of disinfecting respirators like N95 and KN95 in this article.

JillJJ

*PLEASE* put a big red “not true” lettering over the pictures/charts that are false. Instead of randomly mixing true and false images and buried somewhere in the text are small mentions of what’s true/false. Ugh. People on Facebook are sharing the “false” images as “directly found on SmartAirFilters.com”

Great point Jill, we definitely don’t want to see the data being taken out of context. We’ve updated the graphic in this article to state how it is misleading.

Kristīne Klints

For how long time can person wear this respirator kn95?

This is a tough question to answer Kristīne. It really depends whether your mask has been infected with the virus. We suggest you read this article on how long pollution masks really last, as well as our article on the recommended practice for disinfecting masks.

marco diaz

Hi, i have a question. Is there a difference if the respirator uses the elastic loops over the ear or if it is worn over the neck, as the kn95??

Liz - Smart Air

hi Marco, strip designs doesn’t affect the mask efficiency. So you can pick one with the loop that helps to fit the mask on your face the best.

Cathy

I think you have this wrong. I have always had to get a “fit test” with N-95 masks for healthcare usage. Many years and many different companies have required this.

We’ve updated our article to add more clarity on this matter, Cathy. The N95 (NIOSH) standard does not require a fit test, but many hospitals and companies do. We’ve added this to the article.