Reviewed by Dr. kotb and his team
There are a lot of options. Which can be confusing because many of the various options are for specific healthcare or industrial situations, yet aren’t clearly labeled or explained for everyday consumers.
We prefer masks that have some rigidity or heft to them. Although, there are some high quality collapsible models that seem to hold up well, plus they’re easier to store in a glove box or bug out bag.
We really like disposables with exhalation valves, which let your exhaled breath leave the mask through a one-way valve. A mask is worthless if you fidget with it or remove it because it got hot and sticky after 20 minutes. These valves can lower the temperature inside the mask by 15 degrees!
Among the various N/R/P 95/99/100 types, it makes sense to either do N95 for the cheapest and easiest to breathe, or P100s for the best protection. No real point using R99s, etc.
The two main brands are 3M and Honeywell. Both have been providing professional industrial and medical protective equipment for a long time, and we trust their work over lesser-known brands.
We lean a little towards 3M because their product information and ecommerce organization is a lot clearer for consumers. The Honeywell products are not easy to buy individually.
However, some reviews say the Honeywells are a better fit than 3M. We like the idea of the softer material around the edge of the Honeywells that’s intended to create more of a gel-like seal, but haven’t yet tested if it makes a fit difference.
Buy one or two at first to see if you like the fit. If you try one brand and don’t like the sizing, seal, or comfort, switch to the other brand.
3M 8293 P100 Disposable Particulate Respirator
Based on our research, the top disposable particulate mask is the 3M 8293 P100 at $12 a piece. It has an exhalation valve, adjustable straps, and a five year shelf-life (compared to three years on other options). We chose the 8293 over the 8233 because it works against oil-based aerosols and over the 8271 because of stronger protection against smoke, arsenic, etc. Official spec sheet.
The Honeywell substitute is the P1130 P100 Saf-T-Fit at $11 each. Official page. Honeywell uses colored nose clips for sizes. Red is small, green is M/L, blue is XL.
Among P95 models, we like the 3M 8576 P95 Acid Gas at $40 for a box of 10. Besides normal P95 particulate protection, this mask helps with “nuisance levels” of gases like sulfur dioxide, hydrogen fluoride, chlorine, and bleach. That means it’s not good enough to be government approved for hazardous jobs, but it does make a difference. There’s a different model for Organic Vapors, but since you have to chose one or the other, Acid Gas makes more sense for prepping. Official spec sheet.
Good middle ground:
3M 8576 P95 Respirator
Cheapest acceptable option:
3M 8210V N95 Respirator
The cheapest (yet still acceptable) N95 mask is the 3M 8210V N95 at $14 for a box of 10. Official spec sheet. The “V” is for valve, so this cheap mask still includes an exhalation valve. If you’d rather spend $3 to get a more rigid mask, the step up is the 3M 8511 N95 at $17 for 10.
If you really want a foldable mask that’s easier to store (and don’t mind the sacrifice in protection), the 3M 9211 N95 is the way to go at $20 per 10.
Reviewed by Dr. kotb and his team
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