Disposable Respirators (including N95)

Respirators filter the air you breathe to help protect you from microorganisms including bacteria and many viruses. In healthcare settings, the most common type is a surgical N95 respirator.

On this page:
Which respirator should I use?
Use of N95 respirators

When should an N95 respirator be changed?

Which respirator should I use?

  • Surgical N95 respirators
    Surgical N95 respirators give you the protection of both an N95 respirator and a surgical or procedure mask.
  • Industrial or non-medical respirators
    Most N95 respirators available at your local hardware store or pharmacy have been certified by NIOSH to filter the air you breathe. However, they do not have the additional protection of a surgical mask.

  • FDA Masks and N95 Respirators
    Includes definition of surgical masks, and guidance on choosing between surgical masks and surgical N95 respirators. Non-MDH link

Use of N95 respirators

When should an N95 respirator be changed?

  • N95 respirators are disposable and cannot be cleaned.

  • If an N95 is used in the care of a patient on Contact Precautions, in addition to Standard Precautions (e.g., SARS, smallpox), it must be disposed of after each use.

  • N95s can be reused if used in the care of a tuberculosis patient
    • check before putting on each time and replace if facepiece or head straps show any signs of damage or deterioration
    • replace if facepiece is visibly dirty, splashed on, or becomes difficult to breathe through.
    • replace in accordance with your agency’s infection control protocols.


  • Cleaning and Disinfecting: N-95
    Portion of the Respiratory Protection Template related to cleaning and disinfecting of N95- disposable respirators.

  • Inspecting, Maintenance and Repairs: N95
    Portion of the Respiratory Protection Template related to inspecting, maintenance and repair of N95- disposable respirators.

 

Updated Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at 12:07PM