Post #1004: On N95 masks and razor blades

Posted on February 11, 2021

Masks for sale to the public, 2/11/2021 NY Times Article

Today’s NY Times has an article on small U.S. N95 mask manufacturing startups that are now failing.  The reporting is muddled, at best.  The good part is that they list several small U.S. manufacturers, many of which appear ready and able to sell NIOSH-certified N95s directly to consumers.

What do I mean by muddled reporting?  Read this paragraph and see if it makes sense to you:

“There’s a huge shortage of N95 masks in hospitals,  Hospitals are desperate to find suppliers of N95 masks.  New U.S. N95 manufacturing startups are going out of business because there are so many N95 masks available that hospitals won’t buy from them.”

If that made sense to you, then you’ll enjoy reading the NY Times article.

But I found the main benefit to be the names of the mask manufacturers, and the comments describing how easy it was to order NIOSH-certified N95s from them.  So my take on it is, if hospitals don’t want those, fine, I’d be happy to wear one.

So let me take that NY Times article as an excuse to list out a few N95s that you can buy right now.  Excellent odds that they are genuine NIOSH-certified as to filtration.  And they are available for normal retail sale.

From the NY Times article:

DemetechFlat-fold or cup-style, $4 each for a box of 20 ($80 total).  By eye, these have an unusual shape, in that they cover the underside of the jaw all the way back to the Adam’s apple.  Not sure if that’s a plus or a minus.  They list them both as in-stock.



Prestige Ameritech:   The only offering I could find $3 each for a case of 300 duckbill respirators ($900 total).






Protective Health Gear.  Only offer to the public was $4 each for a box of 50 flat-fold respirators ($200 total).



United States Mask:  Sole offer is $2.25 each for box of 20 flat-fold respirators ($45 total).  Currently sold out, but new stock expected soon.




NIOSH-approved N95 for sale on

Separately, the last time I was cruising Amazon, I found a handful of offers for what appear to be legitimate NIOSH-certified N95s, shipped and sold by Amazon.  So let me finish this off by listing those here.  But be warned that the Amazon N95 market is changing to fast these days that this may well be out-of-date even as I write it.

I need to note what a change this is, from just a month ago.  The informal embargo on sale of N95s to citizens is well and truly breaking up.  Now is a fine time to upgrade your mask to N95.

These are all sold directly by Amazon, claim to be NIOSH-certified, and for the most part are from manufacturers or retailers that I recognize as being legit.

Flat-fold style, $3.40 each, box of 10, total of $34

Flat-fold style, Makrite, $2.06 each, box of 80, total of $80.

Duckbill-style, Halyard, FDA approved for medical use, $2.36 each, box of 35, $80.

Cup-style, Makrite, $2.55 each box of 20, total of $50.

Duckbill-style, Kimberly-Clark, $1.16 each bag of 50, $60.

What does this have to do with razor blades?


Samplers.  This is a market crying out for mask sampler packs So you can find one that you like, without having to commit to buy hundreds of dollars’ worth of masks.

You’ll note that the main drawback to most of these offers of masks for sale is that you have to buy a more-than-lifetime supply of them.  Or, at least, a more-than-pandemic-worth’s-supply.  At the rate that I wear them out, I’d guess that 20 quality N95s would last me easily two years.  And I sure hope this pandemic is over by then.

So you don’t need all those masks.  And what if you buy a box, and you don’t like them? And wouldn’t you like to try several, to see which one you like best?

Weirdly, there’s a similar situation in the market for old-fashioned double-edge razor blades.   There are dozens of well-established blade manufacturers.  All the blades look more-or-less alike.  All the blades do more-or-less the same thing.  Almost all are manufactured by companies you’ve never heard of.

But each brand of blade is slightly different.  And it’s a question of finding a blade that you like.  Japanese Feather blades are dangerously sharp (“aggressive”).  Personna blades (alas, no longer US-made) were moderately sharp and more durable (more shaves per blade).  Russian blades have a reputation for durability.  And so on.

In this very mature, highly competitive market, entrepreneurs solved the blade-choice problem by offering “sample packs”.  Individuals who are new to the whole safety-razor “wet shaving” experience can buy a few blades, from many different manufacturers, for a reasonable price.  Try them out.  And then go on to buy the one(s) that they like best.

Seems like there ought to be a similar opportunity for N95 masks.  Get one mask each, from half-a-dozen major brands, for $5 per mask.  And if you like one in particular, you’ll know what to order next.

Barring that, you just have to take a flyer on something that looks about right for you.  Given what’s at stake, seems like a little money wasted on N95 masks might not be such a bad thing.