N95 mask with black background

A surgical mask is a necessity these days. However, not all masks are the same nor do they offer the same level of protection. There are regular surgical face masks and ultra-protective masks like N95 respirators.

N95 respirators are particularly in demand because of the extra fit and protection they give. But how do N95 respirators work? Is there something special about it as to how it gives double protection to its wearer? What does the department of control and prevention CDC say about it? All of this will be briefly discussed as we go on.

What is an N95 mask?

According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), an N95 is a "respiratory protective device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles. Note that the edges of the respirator are designed to form a seal around the nose and mouth. Surgical N95 Respirators are commonly used in healthcare settings and are a subset of N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirators (FFRs), often referred to as N95s."

N95 was tested and approved for fluid resistance, filtration efficiency, flammability, and biocompatibility however, shouldn't be reused.

How does an N95 respirator work to protect its wearer?

The N95 has parts and characteristics that work together to provide double protection and prevent the spread of airborne viruses. These parts and characteristics offer several protective benefits:

1) Valve: N95 have valves but there are some N95 respirators that don't have valve parts; it's optional.

N95 has a valve on it (usually located at the center of the mask), which adds to the easement of breathing on the wearer. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), "The presence of an exhalation valve reduces exhalation resistance, which makes it easier to breathe (exhale)."

2) Material: The material used as a covering and barrier in an N95 is made up of electrostatic non-woven polypropylene fiber. Electrostatic non-woven polypropylene fiber works because it has an extremely fine structure, thus, filtering well the particles in the air. This kind of material also has electrostatic adsorption capacity, which further enhances its particle filtration power.

Furthermore, the material is cut out to fit the face of the wearer comfortably. It completely covers all the possible holes on the sides of the face, successfully covering the mouth and nose.


    1. N: The N in N95 stands for "Non-Oil," meaning if there are no oil-based particles present, you can use the N95 in the working environment.
    2. 95: The 95 in N95 stands for 95% efficiency in filtering airborne particles.
    3. microns: An N95 offers protective barriers to as small as .3 microns in size contaminants like dust, mists, and fumes which can't go through the mask. According to CDC, .3 microns won't pass through the barriers set by the N95 respirator.