None of the links are affiliate and these companies don’t know we exist. No amazon links because they have no quality control and sell fakes.
I recently went to a couple of conferences where there were several gentlemen with larger faces who complained about not having masks that they felt comfortable in. All of them were wearing ill-fitting KN-95 with ear loops.
With my well-fitting KF-94s, I often forget I’m wearing a mask because they’re breathable and comfortable, and with some adjustment I can keep my glasses from getting fogged up. Comfortable and breathable masks make it so much easier to keep a mask on.
As a reminder:
N-95 are the US gold standard of masks with the loops that go around the head. If you don’t want something on your ears, that’s what you should go with. These tend to be made for larger faces because they were originally intended for construction workers who are mostly male.
KN-95 are usually in clamshell form and have loops that go around your ears. They’re generally made in China and there are a lot of fake masks out there.
KF-94 is the South Korean standard. These tend to have higher quality control because the Korean government gives large fines to companies that don’t meet their standard. They are usually over the ears and in boat shape, which I find to be more breathable than the clamshell mask.
DH’s go-to mask is the Airwasher LG black KF94 . He used to use the BOTN large (green packaging), but they changed how they do the nose wire so we don’t like them as much. This is just a good breathable large mask with ear loops.
When we’re flying or he’s going to the doctor’s office or otherwise needs an N95, his preferred N95 is the 3M VFlex N95. This is the most goofy looking of the 3M N95 lineup, but it is also extremely breathable and pretty comfortable. He‘s also fine with the standard 3M N95 and the Honeywell N95, but the VFlex is so incredibly breathable that we bought a box of 50 and never use the others anymore. (We’ve also had some problems with the head straps on the Honeywell breaking off.)
If you want to learn more about mask quality, this guy who goes by @masknerd on social media is really great: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1eE2BERAvRzs28kG87ft3a27FS9-gHvdC has his excel files from testing.
January 30, 2023 at 7:47 am
Yeah, masknerd is great. A key thing to remember is that FIT is often more of an issue than filtration: if lots of air goes around the top and bottom then it hardly matters how well the material filters air passing through it.
The mask I’m currently using is the “3M Filtering Barrier Face Covering,” formerly called “Advanced Filtering Face Mask.”
This mask has earloops but each mask also comes with a clip to connect the loops behind the head for a tighter fit and directions that emphasis using the clip. Most of the time I use the clip, but occasionally for quick errands (< 15 minutes in a retail or office location) I'll just use the earloops.
I first saw the 3M AFFM at a Target store right after getting an email message saying my latest order of Korean KF94 masks would be delayed. I hadn't heard of this particular 3M product before so as I was standing in that Target store wearing a KF94 I Googled it. It's a massive public policy failure that somebody like me has to Google a safety-related product in a retail store… Anyway I use and like them. No fogging of glasses. Probably among the better masks you can easily find at bricks and mortar stores in the US right now.
It's made at a 3M plant in Singapore where it has long been sold in Asia as a KN95; when the new US "ASTM F3502-21" standard was established, 3M began selling these labeled according to that standard in the USA because KN95 has no legal status here. Here's a list at the CDC of masks meeting the "ASTM F3502-21" standard:
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT THE ABOVE LIST: the ASTM spec has multiple levels of quality and only the models that are specificity described as "Workplace Performance Plus" in the rightmost column of the table are products that I would use in a pandemic.
It's interesting looking at the "Workplace Performance Plus" products there. One of them is a box of surgical procedure type masks plus a reusable elastomeric fitter that presses the edges down; once you have the fitter then you just have to replace the masks.
January 30, 2023 at 7:57 am
PS: I tend to lose the little clips so when I throw away a mask because it’s feeling less comfortable I keep the clip. I’ve got a little collection of clips in a cup holder in my car.
January 30, 2023 at 8:17 am
Thanks for the info!
February 5, 2023 at 9:20 pm
DH is entirely right about the LG Airwasher K94. I tried a few and now wear this exclusively–great for teaching & everything else.