Comparing N95 and KN95 respirator masks

In light of protective mask shortages across the United States, the Food and Drug Administration announced on April 3rd that it would allow the use of the KN95 respirator — a widely available mask that meets standards set by China’s government. Nearly identical to the American N95 version, this article aims to explore the differences between the two models.

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N95 vs. KN95

N95 and KN95 merely refer to the class of filtering facepiece respirators (FFR), which are subject to various regulatory standards around the world. FFRs are tight-fitting respirators that must seal to the wearer’s skin to work correctly. It reduces the amount of airborne particulates that a wearer inhales. 

Before diving into the similarities, it’s important to understand some key pieces of info. 

  • The N95 is the American standard.
  • The KN95 is the Chinese standard.
  • Filter performance is evaluated to measure the reduction in concentrations of specific aerosols in air that passes through the filter. 
  • The test agent refers to the aerosol generated during the filter performance test. In this case, it was sodium chloride. 
  • Total inward leakage (TIL) refers to the amount of a specific aerosol that enters the tested respirator facepiece via both filter penetration and face seal leakage, while a wearer performs a series of exercises in a test chamber. 
  • Inward leakage (IL) means the amount of a specific aerosol that enters the tested respirator facepiece, while a wearer performs a normal breathing for 3 minutes in a test chamber. The test aerosol size is about 0.5 micrometer. 
  • Pressure drop is the resistance air is subjected to as it moves through a respirator filter.
Certification/Class  N95  KN95 
Filter performance – (must be ≥ X% efficient) ≥ 95% ≥ 95%
Test agent NaCl (Sodium Chloride) NaCL (Sodium Chloride)
Flow rate 85 L/min 85 L/min
Total Inward Leakage (TIL) N/A ≤ 8% leakage (arithmetic mean)
Inhalation resistance – max pressure drop ≤ 343 Pa ≤ 350 Pa
Flow rate 85 L/min 85 L/min
Exhalation resistance – max pressure drop ≤ 245 Pa ≤ 250 Pa
Flow rate 85 L/min 85 L/min
Exhalation valve leakage req. Leak rate ≤ 30 mL/min  Depressurization to 0 Pa ≥ 20 sec
Force applied -245 Pa -1180 Pa
COclearance req.  N/A ≤ 1%

*Source: multimedia.3m.com


N95 – what does that mean?

The number on a NIOSH-rated mask signifies the filtration effectiveness of the filter. Both N95 and KN95 masks are required to stop at least 95% of particles of 0.3 microns in size.

So why were KN95 masks deemed a suitable replacement?

The FDA said KN95 masks were eligible for authorization if they met certain criteria, including documentation that they were authentic.

According to The New York Times, hospitals have not been willing to order KN95 masks based on uncertainties over certain imports being allowed into the United States, in addition to the potential liability if the masks turned out to be counterfeit. 

Why isn’t there a shortage of KN95 masks?

In China, Coronavirus transmission has been reduced, therefore more masks are available.

Should I be worried about importing issues?

The FDA adjusted its import screening to expedite imports of legitimate products and will continue to monitor its import systems to prevent and mitigate any potential issues. 

Can CustomUSB help me procure respirators?

Yes. As an FDA-registered facility, we’re leveraging 15+ years of product sourcing expertise and our quality control team in Asia.  Our trusted supply chain partners produce genuine certified PPE articles such as N95 / KN95 respiratory masks, hand sanitizer and other safety essentials. 

Browse our COVID-19 Safety Solutions Product Catalog, or contact us for more information. 

Key Takeaways

  • KN95 masks are the standard masks that are intended for the vast majority of wearers. They are the same as N95 in the U.S.
  • Certified KN95 masks are suitable replacements if N95 masks are in short supply.
  • The FDA concluded, based on the totality of scientific evidence available, that certain imported respirators that are not NIOSH-approved are appropriate to protect the public health or safety.
  • On April 3, 2020, in response to continued respirator shortages, the FDA issued a new EUA for non-NIOSH-approved N95 respirators made in China — making KN95 respirators eligible for authorization if certain criteria were met, including evidence demonstrating that the respirator meets certain standards.

Download Infographic: N95 vs. KN95 Comparison Infographic


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Randy Clorereply
June 4, 2020 at 5:01 pm

The n95 mask is supposed to restrict 95% particles 0.3 microns and larger. The Coronavirus is an average sized a 0.06u to 0.14u in size. So how does a n95 mask do any good?

David Vinokurreply
June 11, 2020 at 1:21 pm
– In reply to: Randy Clore

Randy, thank you for the great question. According to Mayo Clinic:

“…face masks combined with other preventive measures, such as frequent hand-washing and social distancing, help slow the spread of the virus.”



kevin j cumminsreply
July 6, 2020 at 1:22 pm
– In reply to: Randy Clore

In practice, N-95 filter media traps better than 95% of particles in the size range of viruses. Best filter media, are those which have minimal pressure drop across the filter, which translates into ease of breathing through the respirator. Leakage around the filter media is the major source of exposure for the wearer, especially if the respirator has a high pressure drop. A good seal between the respirator and face is important to minimize leakage. Leakage around the filter media rather penetration through the filter media is the largest source of exposure, hence need for a good face seal. Leakage around the nose can be a particular problem.

Jeremy Trotmanreply
June 11, 2020 at 10:44 am

Does “adjusted its import screening” mean lower scrutiny (to expedite imports) against possible counterfeits?
Are these (KN95) masks available in Australia?

David Vinokurreply
June 11, 2020 at 1:26 pm
– In reply to: Jeremy Trotman

Jeremy, thanks for your questions. Correct, the government’s loosening of import screening apparently contributed to a spike in imported counterfeits.

Please contact sales@customusb.com for more information, and for product availability in Australia.

July 14, 2020 at 2:29 pm

The general population should be fine by using KN95 masks when going shopping or having short exposures to other people. But for doctors and those in the front line, N95 are definitely better!

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