Tips for Finding a Safe KN95 Mask

When deciding on a good mask, fit and filtration matter most. Finding safe KN95 options with good filtration efficiency is essential. We put tips below to help!

KN95 Mask - Image w/ Sky

The Basics

  • KN95 masks are respirators that are regulated for use in the Chinese market and have become popular in the US for personal use by the general public. These masks are not currently recommended for use in healthcare settings.

Why is it hard to find a good KN95 mask?

  • Due to different regulatory requirements and counterfeiting, a number of KN95 masks are available for sale in the US that do not have a 95% filtration rate and consequently do not meet the KN95 standard.

How can I find a good option?

  • Project N95 has options up on our site, including KF94, KN95, and a wide range of N95 options.
  • If you are looking specifically for a KN95 option, you can also look at third-party testing conducted on different KN95 masks by Armbrust or the Mask Nerd to identify KN95 options available in the market that are more likely to be safe.

Potential Signs of Counterfeit KN95s and Misleading Claims

Incorrect labeling on the front of a KN95 mask is a sign of a counterfeit KN95 mask. The front of a KN95 mask should be labeled with the information below.

  • GB2626-2006 or GB2626-2019 is printed on the mask to indicate the standard.
  • The manufacturer or brand name is printed on the mask.
  • If the KN95 is labeled with the GB2626-2019 standard and the manufacturer makes multiple KN95 models, then the mask should also be labeled with the model number.

Having an FDA registered facility or mask is not an endorsement by the FDA of product quality, and consumers should not use this information to determine if a KN95 mask is safe.

  • KN95 masks are not regulated by the US government. The FDA does not perform quality control or checks on KN95 products.
  • As stated by the FDA, “When a facility registers its establishment and lists its devices, the resulting entry in the FDA's registration and listing database does not denote approval, clearance, or authorization of that facility or its medical devices.” You can learn more from the FDA here.

NIOSH does not approve or certify KN95 Masks. Be wary of claims that a KN95 is NIOSH approved. According to NIOSH, KN95s marketed or misrepresented as being NIOSH approved or certified “may not be capable of providing appropriate respiratory protection to workers.”

  • NIOSH is part of the CDC. You should also be skeptical of claims that a KN95 mask is approved by the CDC.
  • You can learn more about this topic from the CDC here.
NYT Wirecutter Logo

12 Signs You Have a Fake N95, KN95, or KF94 Mask

NYT Wirecutter - Joanne Chen - January 13, 2022

On the mask There’s no branding. You should see the name of the company or logo right on the mask, whether it’s an N95, KN95, or a KF94. “Commercially speaking, companies are in the mask business to build brand loyalty and generate sales,” said Anne Miller, executive director of Project N95, a nonprofit clearinghouse that vets and sells masks. A blank mask runs counter to that goal. ... On N95s The NIOSH mark is missing. NIOSH—spelled correctly—should be in block letters and easily detectable.

There’s no approval number. This alphanumeric designation starts with the letters “TC-84A,” followed by four additional digits, and can be found on the mask or the bands. If there is one, check for it on the NIOSH Certified Equipment List. (Sometimes, crafty counterfeiters make one up, says the FBI. It’s also possible, though, that some might just steal one from a legitimate mask, whether or not they co-opted the branding as well.)

The Hoya logo

DC Residents Raise Concerns Over Quality of Free KN95 Masks

The Hoya - Minoli Ediriweera - February 17, 2022

Many organizations unknowingly purchase counterfeit masks, according to Project N95, a nonprofit working to make respiratory protection nationally accessible.

“The reality is that many procurement professionals simply do not have the information they need to make good purchasing decisions,” the project N95 spokesperson wrote to The Hoya. “They are usually doing their best to protect students and teachers, but knowledge about the high level of fakes, counterfeits and substandard masks is not widely known.”

Around 60% of KN95s imported to the United States could be considered counterfeit, according to Project N95.

“You cannot look at a mask and tell it is authentic,” the spokesperson wrote. “The active part of a mask is the electrostatically charged meltblown layer, and that is on the inside. What you have to do is know who made it and be assured that it is not expired.”

AXIOS Logo

D.C.'s pandemic procurements face scrutiny

AXIOS - Chelsea Cirruzzo - February 25, 2022

Project N95 executive director Anne Miller says that identifying authentic KN95 masks is complicated.

KN95s, which are manufactured in China, are not standardized by U.S. regulators like N95s are. Miller encourages people to look for the international regulation code: “GB2626-2019” or "GB2626-2006" which should be printed directly onto the mask. As City Paper noted in its reporting, D.C.'s masks only say KN95 on them, but a D.C. official told the paper that the boxes the masks come in do have the international regulation code on them.

theEAGLE logo

American University unknowingly distributed counterfeit KN95 masks during return to in-person class

The Eagle - Skye Witley - February 4, 2022

ProjectN95 spokeswoman Jana Sanchez said her organization has “zero certainty” that the University’s KN95 masks are authentic because of the missing Chinese standard code. ProjectN95 is a nonprofit organization that vets personal protective equipment, including KN95 masks, for consumers and various local and state governments.

“I'm sure that the person who bought those for the University probably thought they were doing their very best for students, and we have to assume that their intentions were good,” Sanchez said. “But, you know, if it's me, I want to know where my mask comes from … how it was made and whether or not it's authentic.”

USA TODAY GRAYSCALE

N95 and KN95 masks are your best mask option—here’s where to buy them online

USA TODAY - Felicity Warner - January 14, 2021

Where to buy N95s and KN95s masks online When shopping for an N95 mask, you can check the CDC's list of NIOSH-approved N95 respirators to confirm that the mask you're looking at has been tested and meets NIOSH regulations. All masks we list as "NIOSH-approved" have been cross-referenced with the NIOSH-approved list.

You can choose to wear "industrial" N95 masks that are often sold at hardware stores. "The FDA expanded under emergency uses authorization approval for industrial respirators that are not traditionally used in healthcare settings," Dr. Cassandra Pierre, infectious disease specialist at Boston Medical Center, tells us. You'll still want to make sure that the industrial N95 masks are on that NIOSH-approved list and provide a proper, tight fit on your face.

Here are few retailers and online storefronts where you can buy N95 and KN95 masks right now:

Project N95