N95 Mask: A Review And Functions Of A Household Respirator

The N95 Mask is one of the most common household protection devices for the airways. It is simple, cheap, disposable and useful for a number of situations where without it, a person would be breathing in hazardous substances that can have a range of mild to serious effects on the body. The N95 mask provides protection against 95% small dust and mold particles bigger than 0.3 microns in diameter, giving it the rated title of a NIOSH-approved N95 respirator.

Important Features and Specifications

  • Removes 95% of particles from breathed in air that are at least 0.3 microns in diameter (see below for micron table)
  • Affordable and disposable, minimizing contamination
  • Uses cooling valve to release hot air from the N95 mask
  • Can come in a variety of styles specific to the environment, such as medical, painting, or strong dust masks
  • Lightweight design allows for more comfortable use and increases wear time
  • Able to filter pollution in city atmosphere at a high rate (Pollution particle size: 10 – less than 2.5 microns in diameter).

Details of the N95 Mask

n95 mask review

Mask Type

The N95 mask is one of the most popular forms of respiratory protection across a number of industries of use. It is a highly comfortable, reliable, and affordable particulate respirator and dust mask that provides high protection to the wearer against non-oil based particles.

It is a disposable respirator making it affordable and more beneficial in environments where contamination may be an issue, allowing the discarding of less expensive breathing masks. The mask provides at least 95% filtration efficiency against most non-oil particles, which is why it is a dominant respirator in household projects and home-projects. It provides strong protection against circumstances where there may be a higher than normal amount of particles in the air (some hazardous) such as: grinding, sanding, sweeping, sawing, bagging, or other dusty operations.

While the N95 mask holds a firm place in construction, cleaning, and industrial-based work, it can also help reduce inhalation of certain airborne biological particles, such as mold, Bacillus anthracis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. N95 respirators have been found to be significantly protective against bacterial and viral infections, which is why many medical professionals will wear a NIOSH-approved N95 respirator rather than a normal surgical mask.

What can the N95 Mask Filter?

Keeping in mind that the N95, N99, and N100 respirators filter particles of at least 0.3 microns in diameter, here is a list of substances people might be using respiratory protection for, to give an idea as to the sizing of various particles from different backgrounds.

Atmospheric Dust0.001-40
Bromine0.1 - 0.7
Carbon Dioxide0.00065
Fiberglass 1 - 1000
Metallurgical Dust 0.1 - 1000
Mold Spores 10 - 30
Oil Smoke0.03 - 1
Pesticides & Herbicides 0.001
Radioactive Fallout 0.1 - 10
Saw Dust 30 - 600
Spores3 - 40
Tobacco Smoke 0.01 - 4

How does the N95 capture particles?

Most particulate filters are constructed with a non-woven fibrous filter to capture particles that flow through the filter as air is inhaled by the wearer. The filter’s fibers form a crisscross pattern which in turn creates a web of layers. The spaces between the air allow the wearer to breathe. The tighter the layers are the harder the breathing. When a particle travels in the air and is inhaled into the mask, it is trapped on one of the web’s fibers. This ‘trapping’ is caused by a number of systems that masks use to essentially catch and keep the particle as it flows into the mask and lands on one of the many protective fibers.

In considering this, if the mask is used in situations where there has been contact made with hazardous particles, such as viruses, chemical, and toxic substances, due to the nature of the mask’s ability to ‘capture’ the particles, the mask should be disposed safely and not reused.

Design of the mask

how the n95 mask works

The N95 mask has a number of qualities that allow it to function as a respiratory protection device. As mentioned above, the mask uses an intricate web of fibers in order to filter fine particles. With that, the wearer must be able to achieve a tight seal around the edge of the mask, so that inhalation occurs through the filter, and not through any possible gaps that may occur around the sides of the mask. This is why it is recommended to be clean shaven and to not sport a beard if using a respirator in hazardous environments, as the wearer will not be able to create an effective seal to force inhalation through the mask.

To assist with creating that seal, the N95 mask uses elastic straps that secure around the back of the head, ensuring that the mask is effectively ‘pulled’ toward the face. Many mask brands such as the 3M N95 mask use either aluminum or another memory material to ensure that the wearer can bend the bridge of the mask over the nose to allow for customization for various facial features.

Materials composition of the N95 mask

The N95 mask uses a number of various materials that qualify under the two important brackets of both comfort to the wearer, and high-quality protection to the wearer’s respiratory system. The body of the N95 uses a polyester shell and cover web, while the filter uses webbed polypropylene. The attachments to the filter are made up of comfort applicable materials such as the nose foam, which uses a polyurethane material and the straps, which are made of a thermoplastic elastomer.

The different types of N95 respirators

3M have engineered a number of N95 masks to ensure that there is customization across the board for the various industries that use respiratory protection and need a respirator tailored to the specific needs of that role. The most common format of the N95 is the 8210, while there are others that have unique differences.

N95 8210

The N95 8210 uses advanced electrostatic media to enhance particle capture while reducing breathing difficulties that can be experienced with tight fiber webs in strong filter masks. The 8210 also provides a much safer seal with a more durable head strap, nose clip and soft nose foam.

N95 8110s

Similar to the 8210 with all of the same features, except that it is a much smaller mask.

N95 9210

Rather than using a standard face cap design, the 9210 uses a more modern three-panel filter design, much like what a surgical mask would use.

N95 9105

Uses the same technology as the 8210 aside from its loose front quad-panel system that expands to provide a comfortable seal and is more flexible allowing for mouth movement. This design was implemented to allow for wearers to communicate more easily.

N95 8511

Primarily made for wearers working in hot, warm climates where humidity and heat may cause excess heat in the mask.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Question- 1: Where can you buy the N95 Mask? 
Answer: The N95 is widely available in home depot stores and various supermarkets. For a more up to date pricing and availability, you can also find them here.

Question- 2: What is the N95 mask used for?
Answer: The N95 provides high-quality protection against airborne particles by forming a tight fit over the wearer’s nose and mouth and filtering 95% of common non-oil based particles that are 0.3 microns or larger.

The N95 masks do not protect against gases or vapors from cleaners, disinfectants, paints, oil spills, or gas powered tools and cannot offer protection against asbestos fibers.

Question- 3: How much does an N95 mask cost? 
Answer: You can view the current price of the 3M N95 Mask here.

Question- 4: What is the N95 mask fit test? 
Answer: To conduct a fit check, and to check the mask has a good seal, do the following:

If your respirator has valves:

  1. Place both hands completely over the respirator and exhale. The respirator should bulge slightly.
  2. If air leaks between the face and face seal of the respirator, reposition it and readjust the nose clip for a more secure seal.
  3. If you cannot create a seal, do not use.

If it doesn’t have valves:

  1. Place both hands over the respirator and inhale sharply. The respirator should collapse slightly.
  2. If air leaks between the face and face seal of the respirator, reposition it and readjust the nose clip for a more secure seal.
  3. If you cannot create a seal, do not use.

Final Verdict

The 3M N95 Breathing Mask has a strong level of applications for various industries, projects, scenarios and lifestyles. It is a disposable filter, which means there is no risk of recontamination as the N95 is regularly used in situations where viral and bacterial infections may be present in the air. In these circumstances, an N95 mask is more recommended than a surgical mask.

N95’s use is also quite common in the home, as it is a domestic friendly mask that is easy to use, unnecessary to maintain, and cheap to replace. It provides strong protection against circumstances where there may be a higher than normal amount of dust particles in the air such as: grinding, sanding, sweeping, sawing, bagging, or other dusty operations.

The N95 also gets regular use in smoggy toxic environments, as it is able to filter particles that are larger than 0.3 microns in diameter. Particle pollution comes in two sizes, big (10 microns in diameter), or small (less than 2.5 microns). A majority of the particles, if not all, in pollutant, toxic city environments, are larger than the N95’s minimum filter size. Therefore the N95 is able to ‘capture’ particles in a pollutant atmosphere. This is why it is a highly recommended product for users in toxic cities.


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