Is NIOSH N100 Better than N95?

Is the N100 better than the N95? Before we can answer that question, we need to understand the difference.

What is the difference between N100 and N95?
Both N95 and N100 are NIOSH certified. The main difference is the filtration efficiency.

N95 masks can filter out 95% of particulate matter. For things like rough construction dust and debris, this is fine. Likewise, it’s good for short-term use, but longer-term use still leaves more exposure to potentially dangerous particulate matter.

N100 respirators filter 99.97% of particulate matter. Some tiny trace amounts may still slip through, but it’s not enough to be harmful without sustained exposure for long periods.

Thus, the “weakest” respirator that still receives a classification is N95, which filters 95% of non-oil particulates. The strongest is P100, which filters 99.97% of oil and non-oil particulate.

What Kind of Mask Should You Choose?

For choosing what mask or respirator you should choose, you need to consider several factors.

Are there applicable regulations that specify what you should use? Always listen to any applicable rules or regulations. For example, if you’re wearing a mask as part of your job, and your job is cutting stone for marble countertops, you need to be wearing a solid particulate respirator.

What is the purpose of wearing a mask or respirator? Different purposes have different ideal masks or respirators to pick from. For daily usage, an N95 or KN95 mask can meet your needs.

As mentioned above, if you’re using breathing protection in an occupational situation, you want to listen to whatever guidelines OSHA puts forward. For uses like, say, home handiwork, you may want a respirator, but in many cases, a simple dust mask will work just as well. If you’re tearing down a wall and ripping out old insulation, a simple dust mask or an N95 respirator will be plenty. It’s a short-term project, it doesn’t kick up huge, lingering clouds of particulate, and it isn’t working with anything oil-based.

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