Top Picks for Respirators, Masks and Face shields

News and reviews on the most popular PPE gear.

Disposable 3m n95 mask with cool flow

Disposable n95 masks

Ah yes the highly sought after and  hard to find  n95 mask.  The n95 is by far one of  the most effective masks in filtering out covid 19. A study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection last month  determined  that N95 and N99 masks reduce a person’s risk of infection by 94 to 99 percent when exposed to a highly contaminated environment. These masks are reserved for health care workers because of their effectiveness at filtering and and creating a seal around the nose and mouth. If you can find one, count yourself lucky.  There are a few n95 masks variations that made our top picks.  

The first choice would be any type or brand of N95 mask.  3M is probably the most known and available but there are other brands such as Honeywell and Kimberly Clark.  Unfortunately all of these brands are unavailable to the general public at this time.

The KN95 masks would be the second choice if an N95 masks can’t be found.   The KN95 mask is more widely available but its effectiveness is not certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health or NIOSH.  KN95 masks are made in China and are certified by the chinese version of NIOSH.  According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health the KN95 can be used in place of the N95 masks. There are counterfeits of the KN95  so beware.  If you see a KN95 mask with NIOSH stamped on it, that’s a dead giveaway that it is a fake.

Face shields

When I was a kid I used to watch a comedy show called  the  Three Stooges.  Every saturday morning I would get up early to watch a rebroadcast of this old black and white classic.  In the show the characters would often practice their knuckle head impromptu karate moves on each other.  One of the signature moves was to hold a Karate hand up and align it with their nose.  This would prevent the attacking opponent from stabbing them in the eyes with a horizontal peace sign.   If you can imagine that then you can understand the level of protection that a face shield can offer.

Face shields  prevent sprayed particles from hitting the face and eyes kind of like the Three Stooges.  They also prevent the wearer’s breath from being sprayed out.  They are however very easy to breathe through because they offer no filtration whatsoever.  According to the CDC face shields are not a substitution for a mask.  That being said they do offer some protection to those around the wearer.

Credit: Kevin Dietsch AP

Cloth Masks and Surgical masks

By far the most widely used are cloth and surgical masks. There are many reasons why so many people are wearing cloth and surgical masks.  The number one reason is that they are easy to find.  Just about every place you go nowadays has masks for sale. The cloth masks come in many different fashions and materials.

The first choice would be  surgical masks.  These masks are not  as good as N95 masks but if you wear them correctly they can offer some protection according to the Mayo Clinic.  It should be noted that at this time the CDC recommends that surgical masks be reserved for health and frontline workers.  According to the CDC cloth masks should be used by the general public.

The second choice would be cloth masksThese masks when made from 100% cotton can actually be pretty decent when used to filter out small particles according to MIT medical.  There are also a wide variety of cloth masks made from other materials that allow the wearer to breath more easily.  But remember the easier it is to breath through the less effective the filtration.  As the masks become more flimsy and cheap they  will become nothing more than a barrier to knock your exhaled breath down and away from those around you.

3m full face respirator

Reusable respirators

Turn on the news any time and you will no doubt see a hospital worker in a hazmat suit wearing a reusable full face respirator.  These respirators made by 3m and Honeywell offer some of the highest levels of protection against airborne particles.  There are various cartridges that can be fitted to the system offering different degrees of filtration.  These types of facemasks  have to be fitted by a professional to the wearer.

The respirators come in half face and  full face styles.  The half face style pairs well with goggles.  Both styles go well with the hazmat suit for the full effect.  Unless you are going into a paint  booth or a house full of covid 19 patients this type of setup is really too much protection for the average person.  But if you don’t mind looking like you just stepped off the set of a movie about a pandemic then this is the ultimate level of protection. 

Large crowd of people

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