While we are very familiar with seeing cloth face masks and surgical masks in hospital settings and out in public, N95 respirators differ in a few very key ways. N95 respirators are fitted to the wearer’s face, creating a very tight seal to prevent contamination. Other face masks are loose fitting, providing a barrier for larger droplets but still allowing for small droplets to sneak in.
An N95 also uses a filter to sift out at least 95% of particles with a most penetrating particle size (MPPS) 0.3 microns. Other masks do not offer the same protection from small particles.
The combination of a proper seal and the filter makes the N95 a powerful tool in preventing the spread of illness. While cloth face masks and surgical masks have their time and place, as well as being more accessible for widespread use, N95 respirators offer true protection for those in regular exposure to hazardous particles, such as infectious diseases, gasses, and vapors.