Post #1023: Next N95 mask purchase

Posted on February 22, 2021

Currently, I’m wearing the Kimberly-Clark N95 duckbill, on sale at Amazon for $52 for a bag of 50.  This was my choice for an N95 mask purchase, for several reasons:

  • Solid evidence that these are genuine (read the Amazon comments).
  • Reputable US manufacturer (Kimberly-Clark)
  • Reputable seller (Amazon), available from other reputable vendors.
  • Industrial mask not suitable for hospital use (NIOSH-certified but not FDA-certified)
  • Cheap, at $1/mask.

When you add all that up, what that mostly means is that there’s not a lot of profit in trying to counterfeit these. 

I’m satisfied with them.  These fit me well and seem to give a good seal to my face.  (E.g., they pass the eyeglass-fogging test even in freezing cold weather.)  The only drawback is that they don’t last as long as (e.g.) the much thicker and more expensive 3M N95 masks.  Mine seem to last about two weeks before they get noticeably harder to breathe through (and so, start to fail the eyeglass-fogging test, among other things).  That’s a sign that the filter medium is nearing the end of its life, and the mask has to be discarded.

Between using them up and mailing them out, I’m down to my last half-dozen.  And I’ve given away more-or-less all of my old stock of N95s of other types.  So it’s time for another mask purchase.  I could have gone with another bag of these, but I decided to see what else I was willing to buy.  Because sometimes, until you actually put your money down, you really don’t know what you’re talking about.

I reviewed the masks mentioned in Post #1004.  The affordable ones that were featured by the NY Time are all either sold out, or with long waits.  (Which is good, right?)

All things considered, today’s N95 purchase was 10 of these foldable N95s, again from Amazon.  The reasoning was pretty much the same as for the Kimberly-Clark duckbill.  This is an odd industrial mask, from a reputable vendor, and there just didn’t seem to be any obvious profit in trying to counterfeit it.



Buying N95 masks remains something of a gamble, for two reasons.

One reason is the threat of counterfeit or misrepresented masks.  I prefer 3M N95s, but a) people frown on use of the ventilated ones, and b) the only sources for the un-ventilated ones (3M 8200) are places like Ebay, where I’m not quite sure who I’m buying from.  At this point, businesses can get these through normal industrial supply channels, but not consumers.

The big money is for mainstream (e.g., 3M) medically-certified N95 masks.  So that’s where the counterfeiters will focus.  (And there is no doubt that industrial-scale counterfeiting is going on.)

So for now, I’m sticking with economic reasoning as the prime driver of mask choice.   The obvious approach is to buy masks for industrial (not medical) use, from a reputable vendor.  I’m looking for a genuine industrial-use N95, maybe in some non-mainstream shape or style.  I’m deliberately avoiding masks that might be profitable to counterfeit or misrepresent.

The second reason is the issue of mask fit.  You never know, until you try it on, whether an N95 mask (“respirator”) will form a tight seal to the face.  I like 3Ms because I always get a good seal with 3M.  Some of the others I’ve bought have worked (like the Kimberly-Clark), other have not (hardware-store KN95s, and KOSHA-certified Korean KF94s).

I’ve just gambled $35 on a box of 10.  In a few days those will arrive, and I’ll see if that gamble has paid off.