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N95 or N99: Which Mask to Buy for Coronavirus

As the coronavirus spread more people around the world, one of the most debated topics is still the face masks and how they protect people. With the increasing number of people infected with the virus, fear of infection led everyone to buy more masks to protect themselves. This situation even caused significant shortages for medical workers in some countries.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all people should wear nonmedical face masks or coverings when they are outside the home. Most of the states in the US have advised their residents the same as a precaution.

Everyone agrees on the fact that covering the face is an essential precaution to prevent the spread. However, some people think that DIY or homemade solutions don’t enough to protect. When talking about the alternatives there are mainly two most preferred medical-grade masks out there: N95 and N99.

Before the spread of coronavirus, reusable face masks N95 and N99 were used in places with poor air quality levels. There is no doubt that these masks work especially if you live in heavily polluted areas. Moreover if you have to commute through congested roads you can use N95 and N99 masks.

However, now it’s the pandemic time and more people are concerned about it rather than air pollution. As N95 and N99 proved themselves during air pollution, they are the most preferred ones during the pandemic. Most people call these masks as “respirators,” and they usually refer to the N95. Several brands manufacture N95 or N99 respirators and there are different sizes of them.

N95 vs N99: which one is better?

If you use N95 mask, it should filter out 95% of dust and particulates in the air. However, N99 masks will filter 4% more which means 99% of the polluted particles. If you think N99 is the one that you should buy, don’t decide yet. There is more you should consider and one of them is breathing resistance. N95 masks offer 50% lesser breathing resistance compared to N99 masks which means it’s easier to breathe when you wear N95 mask. If you have any kind of a breathing problem or asthma, it would be hard for you to breathe in N99 even it protects you more. 

N95 and N99: Are they reusable?

N95 and N99 are not designed as reusable masks but there are some tips that you can use them again. Even some experts say that it’s not a good idea to reuse them, most people can’t afford or even can’t find them when they need it. So here are the tips to reuse these masks:

  • Dr. Peter Tsai, a designer of the modern N95 mask says that you can use N95 in a rotation so that each one is rested for at least 72 hours before being worn again. This is not an experimentally verified method but it depends on the belief that the coronavirus should not survive more than 72 hours on the surface of an N95 mask which is an inhospitable host. Assuming you use a single mask each day, you need at least four masks.
  • Another method Dr. Tsai suggests is submerging the mask in steam or boiling water for 3 minutes. You can try this method on 125C/260F degree which is good enough to disinfect the mask while keeping most of its filtration efficiency (FE). You don’t need to excessively stir the mask if you boil it. You just need to keep it submerged during boiling.
  • The last method is a controversial one because you need to have a second oven at home dedicated to this purpose. Dr. Tsai states that heating a mask for 30 minutes at 70C (160F) is enough for decontamination. Please don’t try it on your only oven because you may contaminate your main food preparation oven.

As these masks filter smoke, small particles and airborne viruses, the tight-fitting design they have is the key factor in this filtering. As you try any of these methods, you may experience some situations that the fit of your mask is broken and it doesn’t fit your face anymore. At this point, it’s not advised to reuse it again and you should get a new one because any kind of virus or harmful livings can easily pass into. 

Bottom Line

According to the CDC, the main spread way of coronavirus is the interaction among people nearby including speaking, coughing or sneezing. Wearing a face covering is a good way to prevent spread but it’s effective if you continue to take social distancing measures and basic hygiene seriously. If you have a high sense of security, you should buy any of N95 or N99 masks according to your needs and health concerns.

N99 provides better filtering compared to N95 but it’s harder to breathe on N99. If you have any kind of breathing problem, you should better to choose N95 but it’s up to you. 

Even N95 and N99 are not designed as reusable masks, it’s really hard to get one during these days. You can try some of the methods above to decontaminate and reuse the masks again. You can buy at least 4 of them and use them in a rotation that keeps each one in a 72 hours rest period. Another method is merging in boiled water or steam. And the last one is heating up in an oven but not the one you cook. While you try any of these reuse methods, don’t forget to keep the fitting good enough on your face. If you experience any kind of broken fitting, you shouldn’t keep wearing them and you should buy a new one. 

Keep your distance, stay safe…

You can see our mask types from the catalog below

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