N95 proper fit and use guide

Estimated reading time: 2 min

N95 Basics

  • N95s are designed to be disposed of after every use. However, during the pandemic, experts have developed strategies to reuse N95s due to supply shortages.
  • If you have difficulty breathing at any time while wearing an N95 or you  feel lightheaded or dizzy when wearing an N95, immediately stop using the N95.
  • Always wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before you touch the N95.
  • After putting on an N95, it is critical that you confirm it is properly adjusted to fit your face by doing a seal check. Those steps are outlined below.
  • Facial hair, jewelry and long hair can interfere with the seal and function. If you need or want to wear an N95 often, consider shaving off all facial hair and tie up long hair to help ensure a safe and proper fit.
In this guide, you’ll find step-by-step instructions for how to put on an N95, ensure it is sealed, remove it, and store it for re-use.

Step-by-step: How to put on an N95

Step One

Wash or sanitize your hands.

Hold the respirator with one hand with the nose piece at your fingertips, letting the straps hang down loosely.

Step Two

Using only the hand holding the N95 (do not touch it with your other hand), position it on your face so the bottom is under your chin and the nose piece is over the bridge of your nose.

Step Three

While holding the N95 in position, take the following steps:

  1. Using your free hand, pull the top strap over your head and place it at the crown of your head.
  2. Then, pull the bottom strap over your head and place it at the base of your neck, just below your ears.

Step Four

Using both hands, mold the nose piece to the shape of your nose by pushing inward with your fingertips.

Do not pinch the nose piece with one hand; this often results in an inadequate fit.

Ensuring an N95 is properly sealed

Check the seal of your N95 every time you put it on. N95s are only effective if they are properly sealed.

  1. Without pushing inward, place both hands over the front of the N95 and exhale gently.
  2. You should feel a slight build-up of pressure inside the N95. You should not feel air leaks around the edges.
  3. If you feel air, adjust the N95 straps and placement on your face and check the seal again until you no longer feel air leaking from the edges.

Removing an N95

  1. Do not touch the front of the N95 when removing it. The front holds particulates that have been filtered from the air before it is breathed in. Touching the front of the N95 can contaminate your hands, spreading the particulates, including the COVID virus.
  2. Dispose of the N95 or place it in a paper bag for later use.
  3. Wash or sanitize your hands.

N95 tips and important information

  • An N95 should always cover the nostrils and the chin.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth when taking off or putting on an N95.
  • Perform an N95 seal-check every time you put in on or off. The effectiveness or an N95 relies on how well it seals to the user’s face.
  • To ensure it is effective, inspect the N95 for damage, and make sure the straps are securely attached. 
  • If you touch the front of the N95 while wearing it, immediately wash or sanitize your hands.
  • People with certain heart or pulmonary function issues or who experience difficulty breathing, dizziness, or irritation when wearing an N95 are encouraged to discontinue use and wear a surgical mask or other style of mask.
  • N95s do NOT protect you from vapors or gases.

Storing and reusing an N95

  • Do not wash your N95 or put it in the oven or microwave to try to sterilize it.
  • Store your N95 in a breathable container. A paper bag is ideal.  
  • If you have more than one N95, rotate between them so that they can dry out between uses.
  • Don’t use your N95 indefinitely. Replace your N95 if it becomes wet, dirty, damaged, or the straps become loose.
  • Dispose of an N95 by throwing it in the trash

See additional tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

*All images courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.