Face Masks Compared: Disposable vs Surgical vs KN95


At the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, many cities and municipalities instituted mask requirements and social distancing policies intended to help reduce the spread of the virus.

It is not only wise to wear a face mask when you’re in public or visiting a private business, but it’s mandatory in many places.

There are numerous options, so we’ve put together a comparison of three common mask types to help you choose which mask is best for you and your family.

face mask

On This Page:

KN95 Masks

Disposable Masks 

Surgical Masks

How the Masks Compare

Frequently Asked Questions

KN95 Masks

KN95 masks aren’t actually considered masks – they are called filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) or disposable respirators – but they are commonly grouped in with face masks due to their similarity in form and function.

To achieve KN95 designation, KN95 respirators must filter at least 95% of airborne particulate matter. For maximum effectiveness, KN95s must be fitted properly to the face to form a secure seal preventing airflow around the edges.

Disposable Masks

Disposable masks are typically made of loose-fitting polypropylene material and easily attach to the wearer’s ears with elastic loops for easy, quick application.

The main benefit of disposable masks is their ability to reduce the volume and spread distance of exhaled respiratory particles.

Due to their loose fit, filtration of inhaled air is limited; social distancing should still be maintained as an added preventative measure.

Surgical Masks

Surgical masks are a type of disposable mask featuring a loose-fitting piece of polypropylene material designed to prevent the wearer’s mouth and nose from coming into direct contact with droplets and sprays that may contain viruses or bacteria.

Surgical masks look very similar to regular disposable face masks, but they offer the added benefit of fluid resistance.

Like disposable masks, surgical masks offer limited particulate filtration, but they help limit the spread of saliva and other respiratory secretions when exhaling.

How the Masks Compare


Disposable masks, surgical masks, and KN95 masks are all made of nonwoven fabric manufactured using a technique called melt-woven extrusion.

The different types of masks also offer multiple layers of protection; all iHealth masks feature three layers designed with comfort and breathability in mind.

Attachment Method

Different masks offer different methods of attachment to keep them attached to the wearer’s face. The most common attachment methods are elastic ear loops, ties, or elastic bands that must be pulled down over the wearer’s head.

iHealth’s disposable masks all feature elastic ear loops for convenience and ease of use.


Face masks may fit either loosely or tightly.

Tight-fitting masks, such as our Livocare KN95, are designed to fit closely to the face to form a seal that actually filters up to 95% of airborne particles.

Standard disposable masks and surgical masks fit loosely and are less effective as a method of filtering out inhaled air than KN95s.

However, these masks do help limit the spread of respiratory droplets and can offer a minor reduction of inhaled particulate matter.

Fluid Resistance

Fluid resistance is a measure of the ability of a mask’s materials to minimize penetration of fluids.

Regular single-use disposable masks are not designed to offer fluid resistance. However, surgical masks are fluid resistant.

KN95 respirators also offer fluid resistance, but accumulation of too much fluid can limit breathability.


Another consideration when purchasing face masks is the cost per mask.

Non-surgical disposable masks are the most cost-effective option. They offer the lowest degree of protection, but they offer the greatest value per mask and include 50 masks per box.

Disposable surgical masks are more of a mid-range option with increased effectiveness thanks to their fluid-resistant construction. These cost more than standard disposable masks, but less than KN95 respirators. Surgical masks are also shipped with 50 per box.

KN95 disposable respirators are the most effective of the three, but they cost the most per mask.

Choosing the right mask is a personal decision – you need to factor in how much you are able to budget, how many members of your family will need them, and about how many times on an average week you will need to wear a mask.

Whatever option you decide to go with, iHealth offers an affordable selection of masks to keep you from running out.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Mask Enough to Keep Me from Getting Sick?

Face masks are essential, but they’re only one part of a multipronged strategy when it comes to keeping you healthy (and from spreading contagious diseases to others). However, Arizona recently saw a 75% drop in COVID-19 cases after widespread mask requirements were instituted.

Aside from wearing a mask, keeping “social distance” (not standing too close to others) of at least 6 feet can also help reduce the spread of viral transmission.

And one of the most basic techniques you can employ to minimize your risk for catching or spreading sickness? Washing your hands thoroughly – and frequently - with hot water and soap for at least one minute.

You should also avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, mouth, and nose. These are some of your most vulnerable points of entry for viruses.

Regularly monitoring your temperature is another tactic that can help you detect the onset of a fever so you can preemptively quarantine before going out in public and passing the illness on to others.

iHealth’s best-selling PT3 non-contact infrared forehead thermometer is a safe, easy, and affordable way to measure your temperature instantly. And be sure to check out our newest PT2L model to find which thermometer is the right one for you and your family.

How Do I Properly Wear and Dispose of a Face Mask?

To prevent contaminating your mask before wearing it, you’ll want to make sure you wash your hands. Apply the mask by pulling the ear loops around each of your ears.

Adjust the mask and nosepiece to find a comfortable fit. If you’re putting on a KN95, make sure it makes contact with your face around its edges to form a seal. Beards and facial hair greatly reduce the effectiveness of KN95 respirators.

When you’re ready to remove your mask, don’t touch the cloth part covering your face – this will transfer anything the mask has filtered out onto your hands. Remove it by holding onto the ear loops and immediately discard in a trash can.

Wash your hands again, thoroughly, after you’ve thrown it away. For a more detailed explanation and infographic, read our blog post about wearing and disposing of a face mask to learn more.

Can I Purchase Masks in Bulk for My Organization?

Yes, iHealth accepts bulk orders for enterprises. You can place your order on our website via our Enterprise Purchase page.

October 27, 2020 | Categories: masks | Comments Off