What is the difference between a face mask and a respirator?

February 27, 2020

What is the difference between a protective face mask and a N95 respirator

Face Mask vs Respirator


Type of

Protective Device

Surgical Masks 

Surgical face masks for protect others from infection

N95 Respirator

N95 respirators for protection from exposure to airborne particles and contaminants


To protect the people around you. Prevents large particles expelled by you from reaching the environment.

To protect yourself. Reduces your exposure to very small airborne particles or contaminants.





Bacterial filtration efficiency above 80%.

Fluid resistant. Protects against large droplets, splashes, or sprays of bodily or other hazardous fluids.

Minimum 95%* against particulate aerosols (of 0.3 micron in size). Protects against small particle aerosols and large droplets (only non-oil aerosols).


Medical personnel wear it to prevent the transmission of airborne organisms during surgery.

Designed to reduce the wearer’s exposure to airborne contaminants.

Steps to Wear

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  2. Put on the mask to cover your nose and mouth, then stretch it gently over your chin.
  3. Press the thin metal wire along the upper edge gently against the bridge of your nose so that the mask fits nicely on your face.
  4. Do not remove your mask when you cough or sneeze.
  5. Touch only straps to remove mask, dispose in plastic bag in waste bin.
  6. Wash hands after removing your mask.
  1. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  2. Select a fit tested respirator.
  3. Place the respirator over nose, mouth and chin.
  4. Fit flexible nose piece over nose bridge.
  5. Secure on head with ties and/or elastic and adjust to fit.
  6. Perform a fit check by inhaling and exhaling. During inhalation, the respirator should collapse. During exhalation, check for leakage around face. There should be a good fit.
  7. Touch only straps to remove and dispose in plastic bag in waste bin.
  8. Wash hands after removing your mask.

Fit test



Seal check


Yes. Required each time the respirator is put on.

How long can I wear it?

  • Discard after each use. 
  • Change if it becomes wet, soiled or damaged, or if you have difficulty breathing.
  • Limit talking to extend life.


  • Discard after each use.
  • Discard if it becomes damaged or deformed; no longer forms an effective seal to the face; becomes wet or visibly dirty; breathing becomes difficult; or if it becomes contaminated with blood, respiratory or nasal secretions, or other bodily fluids from patients.

Purchase tips

Has a manufacturing name on packaging.

Is not expired.

Is NIOSH certified.

Is not expired.