Counterfeit N95 and KN95 face masks: how to spot counterfeits?

This photo illustration depicts a shopper browsing a display of N95s in January 2022 at a Home Depot store in Orlando.

Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated masking tips in this season of COVID-19[female[feminine Omicron variant did he search for N95s and KN95s, then the first thing you should look for is the last thing anyone wants: fakes.

The CDC says that about 60% of the KN95s it evaluated in 2020 and 2021 were counterfeits: that is, the items did not have not work as they were supposed to. Fake N95s, meanwhile, are so prevalent that CDC has released a running list of counterfeit models.

So how do you shop safely? A good place to start is to know what we are talking about when we talk about N95 and KN95.

the N95 face mask, for example, is not just a mask. It’s a respirator that filters the air you breathe in (rather than just catching what you breathe out, like a regular mask). More so, N95 is an official designation awarded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. By definition, a properly fitted and worn NIOSH-certified N95 respirator filters 95% of air particles. (Surgical-grade N95s, according to the CDC, are an N95 subcategory and should be reserved for those who work in a healthcare or medical facility.)

As for KN95: It’s an international designation, and according to the CDC, filtration standards can vary. There are no KN95 in the market which has been officially classified by a US agency.

If you think the N95 is the gold standard for the average American consumer, then you’re right. But KN95s can also be useful, because, on the one hand, they are generally easier to find in stock than N95s, and, on the other hand, when fitted correctly, according to the CDC, they “seal tightly your face” – a quality you should look for in any mask or respirator. KN95 masks also tend to be cheaper than N95 masks.

Once you know what N95s and KN95s are, it should be easier to spot fakes. Do you remember the part about NIOSH certification, for example? If an N95 respirator doesn’t have the initials NIOSH on it – or, big red flag, if “NIOSH” is misspelled – then it’s not a real N95.

Here are some other warning signs, according to the CDC:

  • NIOSH markings on KN95s. This is a clear sign of a counterfeit because, as noted, NIOSH has not certified any KN95.

  • Respirators adorned with sequins or other “decorative fabrics”. Real N95s are all business.

  • From respirators that you wrap around your ears (surgical masks) instead of around your head, to true N95.

  • Respirators sold through websites that show the telltale signs of bad e-commerce actors, such as: pages filled with bogus text; incompatible logos or brand names; keyboard typos ; and corporate email addresses associated with free email account services.

You should also be on the lookout for children’s masks that claim to be N95. While N95 style masks for kids exist, masks for children are not evaluated by NIOSH and will not carry the N95 designation.

The CDC’s counterfeit respirator page is a great resource and has examples (and pictures!) of N95s and KN95s that the agency has reported. Here are two other CDC pages you might want to keep handy: a list of NIOSH-approved N95s; and additional guidance for respirator buyers.

When you’re up to speed and ready to shop, here’s a guide we’ve put together: an overview of some of the top N95 and KN95 respirators you can buy, order or check stock today.

Kimberly-Clark Professional N95 Pocket Respirator (50 Pack)

Kimberly-Clark PROFESSIONAL N95 Pocket Respirator


If you’re willing to buy 50 masks, these, from Kimberly-Clark, have a large breathing chamber for comfort and soft but strong headbands.

Kimberly-Clark Professional N95 Respirator (50-pack), $58

3M N95 8210 (pack of 20)

3M Personal Protective Equipment Particulate Respirator 8210


These 3M masks prevent fogging of eyewear and feature a foam cushion for maximum comfort on your nose.

3M N95 8210 (20-pack), $26

3M Aura N95 Respirator (10 Pack)

3M Aura 9205+ N95 Particulate Respirator

Home deposit

These 3M N95 disposable masks feature an adjustable nose clip, chin tab and a low-profile design that directs air away from the nose panel to reduce eyewear fogging.

3M Aura N95 Respirator (package), $21

HDX N95 Respirator Masks (10 Pack)


Home deposit

This 10-pack N95 is from Home Depot’s HDX house brand. These N95s have an adjustable nose clip and headband.

HDX N95 respirator masks (10-pack), $19

Happy Life Kids KF94 (pack of 20)

Happy Life Kids KF94


These four-layer masks are individually wrapped, made of eco-friendly material, and claim to meet Korean standard KF94 (94% filtration efficiency). Reviewers recommend this size for older kids.

Happy Life Kids KF94 (pack of 20), $33

Evolvetogether KN95 masks for children



Evolvetogether, a mask brand very popular with celebrities, offers a range of KN95 masks which includes KN95 masks for children. The masks are available in black, white, khaki and navy blue. There is also a special pink KN95 children’s mask that raises money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Evolvetogether KN95 kids mask (5-pack), $15

Powecom Respirator Mask for Children KN95-SM (Pack of 10)

Powecom KN95-SM breathing mask

Good Faith Masks

This breathable multi-layer KN95 mask for children can be purchased in packs of 10 (or more).

Powecom Kids KN95-SM Breathing Mask (10-Pack), $13

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