Coronavirus: buying a compliant N95 mask at the right price
Due to the shortage of N95 masks in pharmacies and all stores in general, there is no choice but to turn to online shopping. But between the non-compliant masks and the prices that are constantly changing, it is sometimes difficult to find one’s way around. We’ll help you to see things more clearly, and to protect yourself with N95 masks that are both effective and within the market price range.
Where to buy N95 masks?
The N95 masks from the e-commerce giants
Although this has been the case from the beginning, we no longer recommend the products from one of the best-known e-commerce sites. And with good reason: this site has banned sellers on its platform from selling N95 protective and surgical masks due to price abuses. So that the site in question can concentrate its efforts on products deemed to be a priority for its users, such as food. Nevertheless, some sellers still manage to slip through the network, but with delivery times much longer than usual (at least 1 to 2 months in general).
Most of the used e-commerce sites follow the same trend of banning the sale of masks, being also affected by much longer than usual delivery times.
What are the alternatives for buying online?
We therefore recommend you the products of the Banggood e-commerce platform, which is very serious although less known (even if it’s a reference in other countries), and Aliexpress, that we no longer present. Users are satisfied with them and the delivery times offered are acceptable and above all respected, which is really difficult to accomplish in these times when logistics are disrupted worldwide.
Buying N95 masks at the best price
Here are some N95 masks (i.e. FFP2 / KN95 according to foreign standards) that meet our selection criteria described below (see “how to recognize a suspicious N95 mask” section). They are also the ones we found at the lowest price and with the best delivery times at the moment:
|10 N95 masks||$15.99|
($1.59 a mask)
3 to 8 days
Shipped from USA
|USA and CanadaView this offer|
and 1180 customer reviewsUK & Ireland | Australia | Other countries
|5 N95 masks||$15.99|
($3.18 a mask)
3 to 8 days
Shipped from USA
|USA and CanadaView this offer|
and 904 customer reviewsUK & Ireland | Australia | Other countries
What is the price of an N95 mask?
If we talk about market prices, i.e. the current prices which, due to the pandemic and the demand for N95 masks far exceeding the supply, have risen sharply, a real N95 mask can cost $3.25 on average. And 3M masks, in general, are way more expensive given their “high-end” reputation (which is justified by its quality).
We have followed several hundred batches of masks online and scrutinized them since the beginning of this pandemic; from this, we could notice these products are constantly being replaced by other equivalent offers due to stock shortages. Getting to the conclusion that: the most suitable batches we’ve found range from $2.70 to $3.80 per N95 mask.
Buying in bulk to reduce the cost of the mask
In any case, these N95 mask went from being sold by unit and at an accessible price to being sold in bulks. However, this is not necessarily a problem when we already know that a mask of this type has a lifespan of only 8 hours and must absolutely be thrown away once worn, even if it has been worn for less than 8 hours.
Given the price variation of N95 masks, it is wrong to think that the larger the batch, the cheaper the mask. If this degressivity is a constant in the trade, this is definitely not the case in this period of shortage. We sometimes find, for example, that a mask is cheaper per piece in a batch of 10 masks than a batch of 20.
How to avoid buying a non-compliant N95 mask?
Here are some tips on how you could identify and avoid buying an N95 mask that is likely to be non-compliant. This is also what we base our product recommendations on.
Absence of filtration level on the mask
The filtration level (N95, N95 or KN95) must be marked on the mask. This is very important. If you can determine the presence of one of these terms by looking at the photos of the product, even by zooming in on them, and just don’t rely solely on the title or description, chances are of acquiring a product that is N95-certified.
Mixing the filtration levels
A little reminder about mask certification standards first. N95 is the level of protection of masks defined by the European standard. This level corresponds in the American standard to the N95 or KN95 level. In the same way, the FFP3 level corresponds to the N99 or KN99 standard. The N95 level of protection is the one recommended for coronavirus prevention. The FFP1 level of protection is equivalent to a surgical mask.
Logically, a mask meets one and only one standard. So, if you see the terms FFP3, N99 or KN99, and in the same title or product description the terms N95, N95 or KN95, keep moving because this mask is a fraud. And of course, do the same if the term FFP1 is present at the same time as the terms mentioned above.
The trap for reusable cloth masks
Also avoid by all means if you see a reusable cloth mask (using rectangular “activated carbon” filters with “PM2.5” written on them, as we show in the image). Moreover, masks using these filters often look like N95 (or N95 / KN95) but they are not.
This is because this type of mask only filters PM2.5, which is the technical term for… dust.
Of course, this is only valid for reusable masks using this type of filter, since seeing the term PM2.5 associated with the terms N95, N95 or KN95 on a disposable mask is not suspicious at all; the latter filter viruses and also dust (which is much larger particles). It may therefore seem normal that the seller advertises the anti-dust function of your antivirus mask.
Images of different models
A classic one: the first photo of the product will show you a mask with a nice “KN95” engraved on it, while the following photos show an all-white mask, or even another model. To help you see if it’s the same model in all of them, refer to the stitching of the mask, which is often different from one mask to another.
There is no reason for several mask models to appear in the photograph sequence offered with the product. It can only be suspicious, and this is a perfect clue that could alert you to the N95 mask’s compliance.