The most effective masks for preventing Covid 19 are the N95 masks. As you may have read, they may be hard to find and there are reports of counterfeiting. I saw this guide from the New York Times that had helpful advice on obtaining the real thing. If you can’t get an N95, I would suggest a surgical mask covered with a cloth mask.
How we picked
All our picks are either FDA-cleared to block at least 95% of 0.1-micron particles or lab-tested to confirm similar filtration.
Good fit and feel
Faces differ, but these masks can be knotted and stretched to stay put on a range of sizes while providing ample breathing room.
We’ve vetted the sellers and manufacturers to ensure that you’re getting the genuine article.
We zeroed in on options that cost less than most other masks providing the same level of filtration.
This odd-looking, oddly comfortable N95 is a NIOSH-approved respirator meant for nonmedical use. Its headbands are soft yet help form a tight seal, and its long nose-bridge wire reduces glasses fogging.
Despite its weird duckbill shape, the Kimberly-Clark N95 Pouch Respirator is the real deal. Its malleable material and soft headbands form a good seal for most faces, and this mask’s generous cut allows more air to filter in for easier breathing.
The WellBefore WB-N-200 N95 Respirator Mask feels more heavy duty than the typical disposable bifold respirator. Its adjustable headbands help prevent gaps, but they aren’t so snug as to be uncomfortable. Plus, this respirator tents high and wide off the face, so there’s more room to breathe. However, it costs more than twice as much as our other respirator picks.
The Powecom KN95 design comes in both ear-loop and headband versions, so you have a greater chance of finding something that feels right. Its rounded (instead of flat) fasteners are easier than most to knot, should you need to adjust the fit. Both versions also come in black.
Also great for layering, this featherweight surgical mask features notably soft ear loops and foldable edges. It’s costlier than most disposable pleated masks but frequently goes on sale.
The strikingly soft ear loops on the DemeTech DemeMask Surgical Mask are gentle on the ears. The mask is also FDA-cleared, meeting ASTM Level 3 standards, which means it blocks 98% of particles as small as 0.1 micron in diameter (when worn with a good seal; you may need to knot the ear loops and pleat the mask to achieve this). Besides the typical box of 50, the masks are available in small batches of 10, in both regular and small sizes, and with ties instead of loops.
The most affordable FDA-authorized disposable mask we’ve seen isn’t particularly soft, but it is sturdy, and it has generous ear loops.
Surgical masks with proof of high-filtration efficiency typically don’t cost less than $10 for a box of 50 (before tax and shipping), so we were elated to find this box of Medline ASTM Level 1 masks, which are capable of blocking at least 95% of 0.1-micron particles (when worn with a good seal). The ear loops are slightly wider than most we’ve seen, so they easily fit on larger faces or knot and fold (video) for a more secure fit on smaller faces.