Once upon a Spring 2020, we used a rotation of cloth masks, surgical masks, and KN95s to better protect ourselves COVID-19. Now that we’ve been doing this [squirts sani] for a while and it's new year, new variant [shakes fist at BA.5 strain], it’s becoming clearer that all those hand-sewn masks—as creative as some of them may be—just don’t cut the mustard anymore. Were they better than nothing years ago, when not even medical professionals had enough masks? Of course. But now, opting for a cloth mask is like leaving your house with your shoes untied. Given the rise of the BA.5 strain, it’s time to say it a little louder for the buddies in the back: Cloth masks aren’t the move. We've traveled far and wide to find the best masks of every type, and for now, we should be using the most effective ones available.
So what should you wear? Not everyone has access to the cream-of-the-crop N95 masks, and any coverage is better than no coverage. That being said, here’s a mask breakdown.
What’s the difference between KN95 masks, N95 masks, KF94 masks, and three-ply surgical masks?
All of the above are better than a cloth mask in terms of protection against ‘rona. KN95 masks are certified in China, while N95 masks are certified in the States by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health—and the only marked difference is that N95s require a little bit of fitting on your face. KF94 masks, which you may have heard about more recently, are essentially the Korean equivalent, with 94 percent particle filtration efficacy—essentially the same as N95s' and KN95s' 95 percent. Three-ply surgical masks are around five to 10 percent less effective than N95 and K95 masks, according to CNN. The good folks over at the CDC also made this handy infographic about the difference between surgical masks and N95s.
How long can you use a KN95 or N95 mask?
Can you extend the life of a KN95 or N95 mask?
The NCBI also says you can boil your N95 (not the straps, though) for five minutes, and air dry them for extended use if you’re short on masks or unable to scoop any extras. However, it’s important to note that according to the NCBI, “Readers should also be aware that as of this writing, these methods are not officially approved by regulatory agencies.”
So, where can you buy a KN95 or N95 mask?
While KN95 and N95 masks are now widely available in pharmacies and online, you may be in search of some cooler, more attractive styles than the very workmanlike white masks we couldn't wait to get our paws on earlier in the pandemic. A variety of retailers are making N95s in different colors and patterns now, and there's no better time to pick up a solid supply for every 'fit since we're still in the mid-summer surge. Here are some of our faves.
What is it about the black masks that just looks better? It probably has something to do with the goth phase we collectively went through. (Or the one we’re still in—and it’s NOT a phase, Derrick!) Load-up on affordable multi-packs on Amazon to get the best bang for your buck.
If you're looking for a little more drama in your look, go for one of these top-rated, multi-color variety packs with both black and pastels, or even a bundle with galaxy-print and tie-dye styles.
Bona Fide Masks
Bona Fide Masks is a fourth-generation, family owned and operated US military manufacturer and a solid Amazon alternative. Legit! Their masks are also on sale right now, just for you.
With its simple, well-designed masks, Evolvetogether has been a celeb fave since the beginning of the pandemic. And in addition to simple, comfortable everyday masks, the brand also makes KN95 masks. Most are currently sold out, but there’s still a hot pink option.
If you’re looking for quality home goods and personal care items, you can’t go wrong with Public Goods. The brand slings everything from vitamins and pet products to beauty supplies, wine, and—of course—dope KN95 face masks that are reasonably priced, comfortable, and plain, so they go with every piece of clothing you have shoved into your tiny apartment closet.
Tired of the same muted mask colors you see on most KN95s? No sweat—Vida is a company that makes sweet accessories, apparel, and personal protective equipment that are stylish without sacrificing quality and protection. Plus, they come in a wide range of colors that you can tailor to whatever you’re wearing.
Stay safe out there, hotties.
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.