Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Helpful information about masks—what to buy, what's a scam and how to safely reuse 'em

I had a long chat the other day with a man who owns a medical supply company, my idea of a good time these days. My friend Michael, who runs a nursing home, connected me with him. This guy has been selling masks long before they became trendy. We bought some KN95's from him, which are the same as N95's but they're made in China (here's a good overview on masks from the FDA).

I wanted to be sure we got KN95's from a company approved by the FDA for sale to the U.S. We mostly  wear fabric masks when we are outside. But Dave has had to travel for work, including getting on planes and going inside offices, so we needed some on hand. 

In general, be careful where you buy your masks from. We got ripped off by a site named Duvely back in March, when I was in pandemic panic mode. I bought masks billed as "medical protection masks/Coronavirus filter masks" and failed to read the full description on the site:

The above has since been taken down; I grabbed a screenshot after I realized we'd been duped. What we received were masks described on the packaging as a "fashion dust mask." Note the full description, especially the part where it says it will prevent smog, dust, sand, haze and other contaminants from "inhaling the human body." Ha ha ha. The joke was on me.

Did I mention I paid $17 a pop?! (See: "pandemic panic.") There is a special place in hell for companies that rip off people trying to protect themselves from Covid-19. I tried to return the masks, but they needed to be mailed back to Peru—and the shipping cost was $149.25. I ended up reporting Duvely to my credit card company. As we chatted, the rep told me about entire states getting scammed by people selling bad masks.

The guy I was talking with at the medical supply company also noted that there are a ton of counterfeits out there. As he said, "Buy a KN95 from a gas station and there's a good chance it's a counterfeit. Same goes for any that are super-cheap, like one or two bucks. They're just not available at that price." We paid $3.25 each for ours.

I asked him for some tips about caring for KN95's and other masks. He recommended removing them from the ear loops, not from the front part, to keep them free of dirt and natural oil on fingertips, and to keep the filter intact if there is one. He also advised tossing the KN95 after every four non-medical uses, as sweat and respiration could make the filter start to decompose. I put a little pen mark by the ear loop every time one of us wearS one, to keep track. 

A few other key pointers:

• Wash your hands before putting on the mask. Perhaps you are already obsessively washing your hands or making your kids do so? 
• If you put on a KN95, hold your hand over your nose, exhale and you feel your breath, tighten the nose clip.
• Do not microwave KN95's or spritz them with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide as it can make the filter decompose.
• Do not ask me where all your family's masks have gone. I can't find ours, either. Maybe they're with the missing socks? 


  1. Ellen....
    I can see a smile in Max’s eyes!! :)
    Peace and Love, Mary Lou

  2. If you can get one an Elipse P100 mask can actually be a cheaper alternative to the KN95 masks in the long run since it lasts for years and the filters only need replacing every 6 months. We had one pre pandemic and I was able to get a few more for our household and a nurse friend. We have a lot of high risk people here so always wear one in inside places.

    1. Thanks, Jamie. I just looked these up, they seem great but are hard to come by right now. I'll keep an eye out for them.


Thanks for sharing!

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