The COVID-19 virus originated in China’s Hubei province as early as November 17, 2019. The Chinese Communist Party could have stopped the virus in its tracks. Instead, it silenced and punished doctors who tried to warn others between November and December 2019. On December 31, 2019 it reassured the world that “the disease is preventable and controllable”, all the while not permitting international observers in to verify. But by January 21, 2020, they acknowledged the risk of human-to-human transmission. Domestic travel was locked down by January 23, but international travel continued as normal–in fact, greatly elevated due to the Chinese New Year holiday. Cases started breaking out in Bangkok, Tokyo, Singapore, Seoul, Hong Kong, and Seattle. By January 31, there were COVID outbreaks in over 30 cities.
There’s been a lot of controversy lately about the origins of COVID-19. Did it escape from a lab after a “gain of function” test gone horribly wrong? Was the Chinese military involved? We may never know the answers to those questions, but we know one thing for sure. If the federal and local governments of China had a better record of universal human rights and freedom of speech, rather than going out of their way to save face and control every bit of news with propaganda and suppression of thought, perhaps 200 million people would not have gotten COVID-19, and 4 million would not have died from it.
Why not buy face masks from China?
I’m not at the point yet where I’m going to accuse the CCP of intentionally spreading the coronavirus around the world. On the other hand, their action (and inaction) in the early days of the virus before it became a pandemic only reinforces how over 100 years their incompetence as a political party results in suffering of innocent people–first of their own people and now of the world.
There are few industries that demonstrate better than face masks how vulnerable the United States is to supply chain monopolization. Prior to the pandemic, China already manufactured half of the world’s masks. When the pandemic hit, there was evidence that China was hoarding their mask supply, was using all of their factory output for themselves, and furthermore purchased most of the inventory of masks from other countries. At the same time, hospitals in the United States and around the world were being overrun by COVID patients, and resorting to improvisation to try to make up for a lack of PPE–in some cases trying to make their own masks, face shields, and gowns using garbage bags and scraps of cloth. Tragically, more than 3,600 front-line workers contracted and died from COVID, when adequate PPE may have protected them better.
It’s easy to blame China for this, but the fault really belongs to all of us who let China take over so much of the manufacturing. As consumers, we just kept demanding lower and lower prices, regardless of the consequences or the intangible costs.
America being America, as the demand outshot the supply in 2020 entrepreneurs stepped up. The New York Times reported that two dozen companies were started by entrepreneurs to produce masks and other PPE in the United States.
And yet, as mask usage starts to drop, many of them are facing with laying off workers and shutting down production because they simply can’t compete with China dumping its products into the marketplace and once again monopolizing the supply chain.
Amazon, you’re not helping
What’s worse, if I search Amazon for “n95 mask made in USA”, and sort by “average customer review” I get this page.
Of the 12 top results for “n95 mask made in USA”, ALL 12 were made in China. There was one listing that said “proudly made in the US”, but users reported that that too was made in China. Another company with tons of reviews said their name was “PlastCare USA. Made for dentists by dentists,” but they too were importing cheap product from China. Sleazy. And beware: there are some companies that really do manufacture in the US, but are owned by China (Ecoguard is one example).
If something smells rotten to you, it’s because it is (and I’m not just talking about the dangerous materials that China companies are using). China-based manufacturers used the same kinds of tricks I mentioned here to get to the top of Amazon listings, but taking it to an absurd level. Face masks manufactured in China have tens of thousands of reviews and ratings, while made in the USA models have a few hundred at best.
Most consumers aren’t going to take the time to research every individual product as I did. They’re just going to take Amazon at its word that the products it shows in its search results are really the best. That’s why it’s up to us to be educated consumers. If Amazon’s own search can’t yield accurate results for “made in the USA”, what chance does a made in USA product have in the marketplace?
So my advice? Buy from these non-China brands AND leave a positive review. You’ll get a quality product and you’ll be doing your part to counter the mindless zombies among your fellow neighbors who don’t get it.
What’s the difference between N95, KN95, and surgical masks?
You’d think after a year of us all wearing masks we’d all be experts at this. Here’s my attempt to explain.
Think of a mask as a screen door for your nose and mouth. Your screen door probably does a decent job of keeping out big insects like bees, flies, mosquitoes and wasps. With smaller insects like gnats, most of them probably can’t get in, but occasionally one will make its way through. The principle is the same for viruses, only on a much smaller scale. The COVID-19 virus itself is around 0.1-0.3 microns, so even with the best of these masks they’re not foolproof.
Let’s extend the analogy a bit. Let’s say you have leaf blower on one side of the screen door and a vacuum cleaner on the other side. How will will your screen door protect you? Maybe a little bit, but even the best screen door will let critters through. That’s why the debate of “do masks work” is idiocy. Those who claim they absolutely work or they absolutely don’t work are both misguided. They’re just a tool to use among many others to stop transmission. And as with all tools, you need to learn how they work and how they don’t work.
N95: The “95” in the name N95 refers to the fact that 95% of aerosol particulates of 0.3 microns are filtered out. N95 masks are certified by the CDC or NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health). Prior to the pandemic, they were mostly used to protect workers on construction sites from dust particles, and to a lesser extent by medical professionals during specific procedures. They’re designed to fit snugly around your nose and mouth, held on by a tight elastic around your head. The contain multiple layers to prevent moisture from entering the mask, support the mask, and keep droplets within the mask confined.
If case you’re wondering, the “N” technically stands for “Not resistant to oil”, a reference to its main use in industrial settings (R95 masks are partially resistant to oil, P95 masks are completely oil-proof).
KN95: KN95 masks, like N95 masks, are designed to filter out 95% of particles around 0.3 microns. The main difference is that they’re not regulated (well, they’re regulated by the Chinese government, and you know how much that’s worth). The Emergency Care Research Institute tested KN95 masks from China and found that 60-70% of them don’t filter 95% of particles as they’re supposed to. But that doesn’t mean they’re not effective at all, which is why in the middle of the pandemic the FDA authorized them for emergency use (an authorization that’s since been rescinded). You can identify these by the fold down the middle and the use of ear loops. You may also see FFP2 masks, which is the European standard or the KF94, which is the Korean standard, both of which filter 94% of particules.
Surgical Masks: During the pandemic this is the mask most of us wore, and yet surgical masks were never intended to be used to protect against airborne particles and were never considered by the CDC to provide respiratory protection. While they may offer a modicum of protection against big droplets from others (, they’re mainly designed to protect others from you. Of course that’s not necessarily a bad thing during a pandemic of a virus with asymptomatic transmission, but you also don’t want to get a false sense of security by wearing these. Studies show that typically these will filter out about 60-80% of particles around 0.3 microns.
Best Face Masks Not Made in China – Quick Ranking
|1||BNX N95 Masks||View on Amazon|
|2||3M N95 Masks||View on Amazon|
|3||Moldex N95 Masks||View on Amazon|
|4||Kimberly-Clark N95 Pouch Respirator||View on Amazon|
|5||DemeMASK N95 Surgical Respirator||View on Amazon|
|6||Aegle N95 Mask||View on Amazon|
|7||Patriot N95 Mask||View on Amazon|
|8||ProGear N95 Mask||View on ProGear Health|
|9||Amerishield Premium PPE Surgical Mask||View on Amazon|
|10||PHG Protective Health Gear N95 Mask||View on Amazon|
|11||The USA Face Mask Company N95||View on The USA Face Mask Company|
|12||Honeywell DF300 N95 Flatfold Disposable Respirator||View on Amazon|
|13||MODACARE Surgical Face Mark||View on Amazon|
|14||Yi-Ting Surgical Mask||View on Amazon|
|15||Ceemly Surgical Mask||View on Amazon|
Best Face Masks made in the USA
1. BNX N95
BNX isn’t shy about broadcasting to the world that its masks are made in the USA. It has a big bold “made in USA” stamp on its boxes of N95 masks.
I hadn’t heard of “BNX Converting” or its parent company “AccuMed Biotech” before, so I was suspicious (there are tons of China companies that put American flags on their products to dupe unsuspecting customers). But I can see that AccuMed Biotech was incorporated in Houston, TX in 2015, and BNX’s site looks pretty convincing.
What really convinced me? Scroll down to the reviews. On both products you’ll see a one-star review from a legitimate (if misinformed) user that’s been voted up so that it appears on top, a common trick of Amazon hucksters.
However, beware of buying AccuMed-branded products, which are made in China. Make sure the product listing and reviews clearly say Made in the USA.
2. 3M N95 Mask
3M N95 masks that are made in the USA are the cream of the crop when it comes to face masks. And yes, they’re made in the USA (3M has plants in China as well, but mainly to service customers in that market).
Don’t get too hung up on what the packaging says (Paint Sanding vs. Sanding and Fiberglass vs. Smoke, Dust, Grinding, Sanding, Sawing, Sweeping. As long as it says “N95” you know it’s the best quality you can buy and suitable for use in both construction or healthcare. The only thing to watch out for is counterfeiters and grey market–be sure to buy from Amazon.com, or to visit a brick and mortar Ace Hardware, Home Depot, or Lowes to read the box for yourself to make sure it’s made in the USA and not counterfeit or grey market (hint: avoid the 3M N95 masks with model 9010 or 9502+, which are made in China).
3. Moldex N95
For some reason when I heard the name “Moldex”, it put me in the mind of that Seinfield episode where Morgan Springs and Poland Creek want to merge to form “Moland Springs”. But I suppose in this case, since the product protects against mold spores, I’ll grow to like the name.
Moldex was in the PPE space well before COVID and they’ll be in well after. They don’t sell direct to consumers, they sell mostly to industrial safety equipment and supply shops. But you’ll often find these companies reselling on Amazon and a few SKUs sold by Amazon itself, including this N95 respirator.
Reviewers rave about how they appreciate these as an alternative to 3M for comfort and protection. Moldex says that their “core products” are made in the USA (which includes this one), but be sure to check the label or ask if you’re not sure.
If you read my write-up on how China companies manipulate Amazon reviews, you’ll read about how part of China companies’ strategy of dominating product categories is not just to create thousands of reviews for their own products, but to get armies of reviewers to upvote negative reviews on legitimate brands. If you look at the first few reviews on this product and the first few reviews of a typical “fake” China brand, you’ll see what I mean.
Kimberly-Clark is, of course, the company behind brands like Kleenex, Cottonelle, and Scott. Kimberly-Clark Professional is their subsidiary that focuses on the industrial markets. Normally this face mask is solely for non-medical use, as it lacks certain healthcare industry requirements like fluid protection. But based on the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization, these N95 masks were approved for medical use during the pandemic. It includes a large breathing chamber and soft but strong headbands. And of course, it’s NIOSH-approved. You just need to decide whether that extra breathing space is worth making you look like a duck.
DemeTECH is located in Miami, Florida. It’s actually a company best known for high quality and innovative medical devices such as surgical sutures and hernia mesh. But during the pandemic, they ramped up their production of NIOSH-approved N95 face masks. They also make surgical masks. All of their products are manufactured out of Florida, and they’ve also focused on making their masks using only the highest grade American made materials.
Theirs is a perfect example of how Amazon listings can be misleading. Consumers who like sheep trust Amazon search results and review manipulation end up buying lower quality made in China junk at prices that really aren’t a lot lower (and in some cases are HIGHER) than top quality American products like these.
Aegle was a company formed in Brookshire, Texas (just outside of Houston) in response to the PPE shortage in 2020. They are building one of the largest PPE manufacturing facilities in the United States and are preparing to produce millions of PPE products every year.
Their site does a nice job of explaining that they are in this for the long haul. Their new manufacturing facilities will have state-of-the-art automation and clean, efficient production that will be able to compete head-on with human-powered sweatshops in Asia.
They currently produce about 100,00 masks a day and they support six N95 mask lines. These foldable respirations are among their more popular models. I also like how they built in anti-counterfeit packaging, which means they’re aware of the very common practice that third party sellers from China have of hijacking popular product listings and producing knockoffs.
7. Patriot N95 Mask by ALG Health
[1-17-22 update: h/t to Tom for posting a comment reporting that the NIOSH has rescinded ALG Health’s N95 certifications, at ALG’s request. It appears that ALG will be re-applying for certification. I’ll still keep them on this list for now until I hear confirmation one way or another–fingers crossed that ALG can get its act together and get its certification back. In the meantime, if you’ve already purchase ALG masks you should contact them for instructions on whether you should continue to use them].
ALG Health is a company based in Bryan, Ohio, which was established in September 2020 specifically to address the pandemic. They have NIOSH-approved N95 respirators that are completely manufactured in Ohio. The maintain high standards in manufacturing and testing.
The big question, now that face mask wearing is easing up a bit, is whether US consumers will continue to support these American companies that came through when their country needed them, or will consumers go back to buying only the cheapest priced masks, which would just hand the whole thing back to China. Let’s hope there are some patriots that understand that even if you end up paying $2.50 for an N95 mask instead of $1.50, you are getting what you’re paying for in quality and in not subsidizing the government that made you need these in the first place.
8. ProGear N95 Mask by Prestige Ameritech
Prestige Ameritech is one of those companies that I hadn’t heard of before, mainly because I use Amazon when I start my research into products not made in China, and while you can find their products on Amazon, they’re usually marked up by a third party reseller. Happily, you can purchase their products directly at their own site.
I came across the company when I saw a video from China Unscripted interviewing its owner. 15 years ago they foresaw everything that was going to happen–that China would monopolize the manufacturing of face masks, that a pandemic would originate from that region, and that China would end up profiting off the world’s misfortune. And so they stubbornly continued to product their product in the USA.
Sadly, given what’s being said in this video, it may turn out that within a few months of my writing this, most of the “made in the USA” links on this page will go to broken links as China manufacturers dump their cheap, substandard product on the market and individuals and hospitals forget everything that happened in 2020 and go back to looking for the cheapest products, pricing American companies out of the equation–again. The difference is, if this happens again, will American citizens have completed its funding of the rise of the CCP to the dominant economic superpower in the world?
9. Amerishield Premium-PPE Surgical Mask
Amerishield is another one of those companies that came to be as a result of the dire need for PPE during the peak of the pandemic. And judging from its 73 reviews on Amazon compared to the manipulated 40,000+ reviews of its made-in-China counterparts, it needs a lot more attention.
The vast difference in reviews of some of these companies on Amazon is a perfect example of the perverse incentives that Amazon’s system sometimes creates. While American companies were busy filling the needs of first responders, hospitals, and critically ill patients with top quality products, China companies dumped their product on the masses of consumers, and consumers (with the best intentions) rewarded them by writing review after review. Sadly, now that the critical needs is over, this puts these American companies in a spot where they are so behind their China counterparts in marketing and awareness. It’s really up to those of us who realize it to educate our fellow consumers.
Amerishield is based in Pennshawken, NJ. As with many other American companies that stepped up during the pandemic they were (and still are) a successful company who was in an entirely different business—in this case a manufacturer of CDs and Vinyl records. But they answered the call and transformed their manufacturing facilities to supply masks to meet the needs of their fellow citizens.
Hopefully through people like you and me spreading the word, we can convince our fellow citizens that when you spend a little more “you get what you pay for”. Not just superior material and quality, but knowing that you’re stepping up to help your neighbors who stepped up to help you.
Protective Health Gear was another US company based in New Jersey that pivoted from their normal business (making point of purchase displays and luxury store fixtures) to making PPE during the pandemic. At the peak of the pandemic, not only did they sacrifice their own business to answer the need for producing face masks, they even donated thousands of them.
And like so many other non-China businesses, it’s practically impossible to find on Amazon.
According to their site, they’re all made in the US using globally sourced material. That’s a little step below products made in the US using materials sourced in the US, but still miles above masks produced in China under who knows what kind of conditions.
The USA Mask Company sells directly to consumers from their Web site. Here’s a link to their K95 mask, but they have KN95 and surgical masks too.
These folks are headquartered in Durham, North Carolina, with manufacturing and storage facilities in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There’s scant information on the Web about this company, and I after a bit of research I think I see why. If I’m not mistaken, this company is the brainchild of Greg Lindberg, a billionaire who was convicted of some fairly unsavory behavior back in 2020.
But one thing I love about America is that we’re a forgiving nation. If Lindberg is doing as he promised by producing all of his facemasks in the USA using ex-cons, then his company deserves our support. Let’s put it this way–would you rather your money go to help ex-cons who are trying to rebuild their shattered lives (as well as a disgraced executive trying to do the same), or would you rather it go to a government that is literally using prison convicts to build your masks.
I should say, that I’m piecing together information I know about this company bit by bit, so this may or may not be accurate. But if it is, let’s get behind them.
Honeywell is of course a big name in filtration and safety equipment. I originally kept them off this list because many of their masks were made in China. But the Amazon product page for these DF300 N95 masks say that they’re made in Mexico. They also happen to be the #1 selling mask on Amazon as of this writing.
Reviews are pretty good. Users with glasses say they do a nice job of not fogging glasses up.
If you do buy them, be sure to check the box to make sure it’s not made in China. If you get one that is, be sure to return it to Amazon at their expense, and cite the fact that their product page says clearly that their country of origin in Mexico.
If you really want to tick off someone in the CCP, support Taiwan.
A lot of people who grew up in the US don’t know the difference between China and Taiwan. In short, they are enemies to each other. China had a civil war and in 1949, the Communist Party of China defeated the Nationalist Party of China who was in the way of them establishing their Marxist utopia. The Nationalists fled to Taiwan and proceeded to help that island nation turn into one of the world’s top economies, one which China is salivating over forcing a “reunification” with, which if the past is prologue would involve lots of murder, reeducation, torture, and forced labor. America’s military and willpower are the only things standing in the way, and the more we get addicted to our $0.50 Walmart socks, the more dire the future of Taiwan seems.
When the pandemic began, something a lot of Americans don’t realize is that Taiwan stepped up in a big way. When America faced shortages of PPE and China was hoarding them, Taiwan encouraged all of its citizens with friends and family in the US to send us masks. My wife is Taiwanese and her father sent us a giant box from this company, which we shared with our friends and neighbors. It wasn’t a lot, but during that time every bit helped to free up supply for those who needed it most. Now that the tables are turned and they need is, will we step up to help?
One of the bigger challenges is that companies in China have no moral compunction against counterfeit labeling, marking a product as made in Taiwan or even made in the US.
After extensive research, I found that this brand (Mocacare) and the following one are legit. But you need to be aware of the signs of counterfeiting and to use Amazon’s return policy to send back anything that reeks of being fake.
As with the brand above. Yi-Ting seems to be a rare Taiwanese brand that has managed to achieve some visibility on Amazon amid the sea of China dumpage.
According to their Web site, they’ve been in the business for years. Their founder had been a big name in in plastics but turned to “non-woven fabrics” as he realized the need for sustainability and protecting the environment. At a time when so many other Taiwanese companies were cozying up to their neighbors in China making them “offers they couldn’t refuse”, Yi-Ting remained committed to keeping manufacturing and raw material procurement all in Taiwan.
Ceemly is yet another story of a company with a rich history of manufacturing in the USA who stepped up by creating manufacturing facilities and operations to produce masks. They spawned out of CustomFab, a California-based company who manufactures bespoke goods. As with other companies we mentioned that pivoted to meet their country’s needs, they stepped up to make a better surgical mask.
While the pandemic was painful in many ways, one huge silver lining was that it showed that the American manufacturing sector is still very much alive and well, and in spite of the intense pressure to do otherwise, have maintained their focus on quality and pride of craftsmanship, the same things that were so prevalent in America decades ago.
Now, the ball is in our court, the American consumer. Do we pay a little bit more and get what we pay for—quality, comfort, safety, durability, peace of mind, and the knowledge that not one cent of our money is going to fund tyranny? Or do we choose the lowest price now and pay a much higher price later? The choice is ours. It always has been.
Finally, there this interesting entry. If you’ve struggled with tight straps hurting your head, fogged up glasses, and masks that slip, ReadiMask created this product that you literally stick to your face. It uses a hypoallergenic medical adhesive that forms a tight seal with no strap. The adhesive basically replaces the strap as far as making sure the mask is stuck to your face and will remain there.
ReadiMask has been producing these since 2015, well before the pandemic hit. They’re pricier than other masks, but if you’ve got money to spend, it’s the only game in town where you can get true N95 protection without dealing with rubber band or strings or masks that slip.
Other US-based manufacturers that stepped up during the PPE Shortage of 2020 include Shawmut Advanced Materials and their Protex N95 respirators, Live Free Masks, Gerson, and Advoque SafeGuard. They’re all made in the USA. I didn’t add them to the lists above because they seem more geared to volume business purchases than individual consumer purchases, but check them out if you do need to make a big purchase
Do you know of other face masks not made in China worthy of mention here? Let us know in the comments!