While listings for N95 masks have been popping up every now and then, they’re either sold out in minutes or highly price gauged — if you’re interested in tracking N95 masks, 20 masks for $100, check out this post. — Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives to N95 masks that’ll provide you with similar safety and save you money. Our top pick for alternatives to N95 masks are the Korean-made KF94 masks.
South Korea has been one of the countries that has done a strong job reducing the number of COVID-19 cases drastically over the last few months, without having to shut down the economy. While the reasons for this of course go beyond masks, masks still play a significant role, and the ones used there have great ratings all around.
In regard to filtration effectiveness, the N95 and KF94 are nearly identical, with just around 1% difference in filtration. The KF94 standards are more similar to the EU standards than US standards. According to Smartairfilters, this means that the KF94 masks test against a flow rate of 95 liters per minute. Additionally, the differences in standards require N95 masks to be somewhat easier to breathe out of, while the KF94s are required to test for CO2 clearance (in order to prevent CO2 from building up inside the mask).
The Clapiel models listed above will cost around $2 per mask. We’ve been using them, and they’re very comfortable around the face. It’s incredibly easy to breathe in, and doesn’t feel as restrictive as other masks. They’re genuine Korean-made, and everything on the packaging is written in Korean. There is also a Samsung logo on the back of it, so we’ve felt comfortable using them. The 10-pack for $20 is the best deal we’ve seen for these.
Regardless of what masks you end up choosing for yourselves, it’s important to remember that any covering is better than no covering. It’s already been shown masks not only protect the user, but also those around the user. Even plain surgical masks will make things safer for everybody. Please be responsible, and please stay safe.