Properly Wearing Your N95 Mask

N95s are one of the most effective masks that you can wear. They are tight-fitting masks that filter out 95% of particles in the air. However, these masks are only effective in protecting you if they are worn and fitted properly. The key is achieving an adequate seal. That is why taking the time to educate yourself on the proper way to put on an N95 is important. Below are some tips and steps that you can follow to properly put on your mask.

Tips Before Putting on Your N95:

Remember, your N95 mask cannot be decontaminated or reused.

  • Tie back your hair.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Do not wear makeup and remove any facial hair (beards, stubble, mustaches, or sideburns), as this compromises the mask.

How to Properly Put on Your Mask:

  • Cup the outside of your mask with your hand and bring it to your face.
  • The mask should sit center of the bridge of your nose - keep in mind that most masks seal best when they are high on the bridge of the nose.
  • Continuing to cup the mask, use your free hand to bring the top strap over your head and place it just above your ears.
  • Next take the bottom strap over your head and place it just below your ears.
  • Without touching your face, use your first two fingers on each hand to gently mold the metal bar around the bridge of your nose.
  • DO NOT pinch the metal bar, as this causes peaks and makes an improper seal.

 Performing a Seal Check:

  • Place your hand above the mask without touching your face and blow out forcefully.
  • Repeat with your hands below the mask as well.
  • If you do not feel air escaping around the borders of the mask when you breathe out, your mask is sealed properly.
  • Note - when you breathe out, your mask should bulge out and when you breathe in quickly, the mask should slightly collapse, indicating a seal. 

If Your Mask is Not Passing the Seal Check:

  • If you felt air escaping during your seal check, try moving the mask up or down on your face and perform the seal check again.
  • If adjusting your mask did not work, try criss-crossing the straps behind your head to make them tighter (wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before).
  • To criss-cross - slightly lower the top strap and then raise the lower strap to cross it over the upper strap (the straps will be crossed right above your ears).
  • Perform another seal check.
  • If you are still having difficulty, ask a friend or family member to help.

Avoiding Counterfeit Respirators:

When looking to get your N95s, the CDC urges you to be on the lookout for counterfeit respirators. These products are being falsely marketed and sold as being NIOSH-approved and may not have the appropriate respiratory protection. The CDC actively updates a list of counterfeit respirators on their website. See here. In addition, they provide a list of signs to look for when determining if your respirator is counterfeit. 

Signs that a Respirator may be Counterfeit: