R95 vs N95 Face Masks: Which is More Protective?

r95 vs n95

R95 vs N95 Face Masks: Which is More Protective?

Like many people nowadays, you might be also confused about which mask or respirator to buy. You may have heard terms like N95 and R95 but are unsure what the differences are.

You may be wondering:

  • Which types of masks protect against COVID-19?
  • Is an R95 or N95 face mask better?
  • What other kinds of masks are there?
    THE SHORT ANSWER:

    Face masks come in a variety of forms and types and which one you should choose depends on what the intended purpose is. In this article, we’ll break down the exact differences to help make your decision easier.

Let’s dive right in and answer those questions, shall we?

What Types of Face Masks Are There?

Before we understand the difference between and , it’s important to understand the difference between a surgical mask and a respirator.

1) Surgical Masks

Surgical masks are used for protection from hazards like splashes of large droplets like body fluids or blood.

Surgical masks can’t prevent inhalation of small airborne particles that can’t be seen with the naked eye. A regular surgical mask won’t protect you fully from the coronavirus.

2) Respirators

Respirators, on the other hand, reduce exposure to inhaling droplets of infectious contaminants. Respirators are approved by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health).

Both R95 and N95 masks are respirator masks and each is certified by NIOSH.

R95 vs N95 Face Masks: The Main Difference

Respirators are classified by NIOSH into the following three categories depending on how resistant the filtration is to degradation by oils and particles.

Respirators are classified into the following categories:

  • N – Series (N95, N99, and N100). Respirators that belong to the N-Series protect against liquid and solid particulates. They are not resistant to oil-based particles. They are recommended only for us in workplaces free of oil aerosols.
  • R – Series (R95). The R-Series respirators are fairly oil-resistant. They are certified for up to 8 hours of usage.
  • P – Series (P95 and P100). They are more strongly resistant to particulates that contain oil. P-Series respirator masks have 40 hours or 30 days of service life.

However, both R95 masks and N95 masks are designated to filter the same percentage of particles as N95 masks.

ClassificationOil Resistance LevelFiltering Capabilities (>0.3 Micron Particles)
N95Not oil resistantFilters at least 95% of airborne particles
N99Not oil resistantFilters at least 99% of airborne particles
N100Not oil resistantFilters at least 99.97% of airborne particles
R95Oil resistantFilters at least 95% of airborne particles
P95Oil proofFilters at least 95% of airborne particles
P100Oil proofFilters at least 99.97% of airborne particles
    THE MAIN DIFFERENCE:

    An R95 mask is oil-resistant, which is not relevant in the case of coronavirus. R95 respirators are quite a bit more expensive then N95 masks but provide the same level of protection against COVID-19.

Want to find out more about the difference between N95 and P95 masks? ➡️ Read this article

What are N95 Masks?

N95 masks are labeled by the FDA as “single-use”, disposable devices. They can’t be reused or shared.

Some models have exhalation valves that make breathing much easier. The borders of the N95 mask are designed to make a seal around the nose and mouth. The N95 mask doesn’t eliminate the risk of illness, but the filtration capacity surpasses that of surgical face masks.

They are said to remove 95% of airborne particles that are at least 0.3 microns in diameter.

How can I tell if my mask is N95 or better? ➡️ This article explains

Why We Should All Wear Masks During COVID-19

why-we-should-all-wear-masks
Wondering how to buy face masks for COVID-19? ➡️ Here’s a detailed walkthrough

Frequently Asked Questions About Masks

  • What are oil particles? When pesticides or some solvents are sprayed, oil particles are released into the air. These oil particles are the types of oil-based particles that R95 and P95 masks protect against.
  • Should I use an N95 or R95 mask for coronavirus? N95 masks will do just fine. They are a cheaper option and it’s easier to find them.

Wrap-Up: R95 vs N95 Face Masks

So what’s the conclusion on R95 vs N95 face masks? The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to stay at home and avoid being exposed to the virus.

People with chronic respiratory, cardiac or other conditions should check with their health provider first.

Please note that as the situation with coronavirus continues to escalate, the formal advice might change. Meanwhile, pay attention to instructions given by your government or medical professionals.

For detailed information, see these websites:

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1 thought on “R95 vs N95 Face Masks: Which is More Protective?”

  1. You’ve misunderstood the meaning of NIOSH’s oil resistance categories for N, R, and P classifications. You stated that “R-Series respirators protect against hazards that possibly contain oil” and that P-series respirators “provide strong protection against particulates that contain oil.” That is not correct. NIOSH said they are “resistant to oil” – not that they provide protection from oil. They do not protect from oil or volatile compounds in oil. The N, R, and P designations mean they are resistant to degradation by moisture, not that they protect against oil exposure. It is a relative measure of how well the filter material will stand up against moisture and aerosols – it is NOT an indication of its filtration efficiency against oil.

    From the NIOSH Guide to the Selection and Use of Particulate Respirators (DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 96-101)
    “The degradation categories (N-, R-, and P-series) will be determined by using either sodium chloride (NaCl) or dioctyl phthalate (DOP) as the test aerosol. NaCl is only slightly degrading to filter efficiency, whereas DOP is very degrading. Respirators tested with NaCl (i.e., N-series filters) are not resistant to efficiency degradation by oils and should be used only in workplaces free of oil aerosols. Filters passing DOP oil tests (i.e., R- and P-series filters) are resistant to efficiency degradation” (https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/96-101/default.html)

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