N95 respirators

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if masks and respirators are worn consistently and correctly, they are effective at reducing transmission of SARS-CoV-1, the virus that causes COVID-19. The CDC recommends that you wear the most protective mask or respirator you can, that fits well and that you will wear consistently.

An N95 respirator has better filtration, and if worn properly provides a higher level of protection against COVID-19, including emerging variants, than do cloth or procedural masks. An N95 respirator will be less effective if it fits poorly or if you wear it improperly or take it off frequently.

How to properly put on and fit check an N95 respirator

Verify that the respirator fits snugly over your nose, mouth, and chin. Check for gaps by cupping your hands around the outside edges of the mask. Gaps can occur if the mask is too large or if gaps are created by facial hair. Make sure no air is flowing from the area near your eyes or from the sides of the mask.

For visual guidance and more information on using an N95 respirator, refer to the CDC's page on N95 respirators.

Use and storage

  • Do not alter an N95 respirator.
  • Do not wear an N95 respirator that has valves, vents, or other openings.
  • Keep track of your respirator so that you do not mistakenly use someone else’s (many look alike).
  • Store your N95 respirator in a clean and dry environment (for example, a clean paper bag).
  • N95 respirators are disposable and should be discarded (not washed) when they are dirty, damaged, or difficult to breathe through.
  • Do not wear an N95 respirator if it is hard to breathe while wearing or if dizziness or other distress occurs.


  • N95 respirators do not protect the wearer from exposure to gases and chemical vapors.
  • This information applies only to voluntary use of N95 respirators worn for general protection against COVID-19. It does not apply when use of an N95 respirator is required or when worn in other exposure situations.

Contact Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S)

Contact EH&S at (775) 327-5040 for more information about the use of N95 respirators.