How Effective Are Face Masks?

Have you wondered how effective wearing a mask against respiratory infections? Do you know the difference between the standard medical mask and N95? Read on and find out.

2 Types of Respiratory Droplets

Respiratory droplets can be of various sizes and commonly classified as aerosols and droplets. Aerosols are made of droplets that are < 5 μm (micrometer) and droplets are greater than 5 μm, thus larger than aerosols. P.S. the unit, μm, is the same as a micron.

  1. Respiratory droplets/particles > 5μm are considered large droplets and settle to the ground due to gravity and do not travel more than 3-6 feet…hence, the importance of keeping 6 feet between you and the next person during the current pandemic.
  2. Aerosols, on the other hand, stay suspended in the air for a longer time due to their size (< 5μm) and play a key role in spreading respiratory infections. Their path of travel is unpredictable due to wind and other gusts. Wearing masks in public is important to protect you from others and others from you! Plus, you are showing respect to the people around you…it’s not all about you!

2 Types of Standard Medical Grade Masks

Medical/surgical Mask

Standard medical/surgical/procedure mask used in healthcare

The above picture is a standard medical mask used in healthcare, also known as a surgical mask. It is loose-fitting, has gaps around the mask depending on the fit, and is for one time uses.

  • Surgical masks are highly effective against large airborne droplets. Filter efficiency (%) = 76 +- 22
  • Filter efficiency (%) of surgical mask with no gaps = 76 +- 22 % Filter efficiency of surgical mask with gaps (usual) = 50 +- 7 %
  • BUT are less effective with small droplets/aerosols because aerosols travel farther than large droplets and are unpredictable in their path of travel. Droplets can be inhaled around the sides of the mask and where there are gaps around the perimeter of the masks.
  • A certified NIOSH surgical mask is usually made of three layers, including an outer hydrophobic non-woven layer, a middle melt-blown layer, and an inner soft absorbent non-woven layer. These three layers have their specific functions: the outer layer is intended to repel water, blood and body fluids; the middle melt-blown layer is the critical highlight of a surgical mask, it is designed as the filter to stop germs from entering or exiting the mask; and the inner layer is intended to absorb water, sweat and spit.
    • The middle layer consists of a melt-blown non-woven material that is breathable, waterproof, eco-friendly, antibacterial, anti-pull, and moth-proof.
  • A few downsides to surgical masks is they don’t offer full protection against airborne viruses because they don’t fully seal off the nose and mouth. And second, surgical masks are not reusable or washable.
  • Surgical masks must be approved by the FDA (U.S.Food and Drug Administration) to be considered medical.

N95

N95 used in healthcare (3M)
N95 used in construction/fabrication settings (3M)

N95 is known as a particulate respirator, which means it removes particles from the air that are breathed through it.

  • These respirators filter out at least 95% of very small (0.3 micron) particles and are capable of filtering out all types of particles, including bacteria and viruses.
  • N95 masks offer more protection but must be fit tested to each individual to create a complete seal around the nose and mouth. N95 masks is not suitable for children or people with facial hair.
  • Respirator masks fit tightly around the nose and mouth so any breathing, inhaling and exhaling of air are through the mask. It has the highest filtration efficiency, blocking 95 percent of particles of 0.3 microns or larger. An N95 mask protects medical workers who come into contact with high doses of infectious viruses while visiting and carrying out medical activities on patients. Most of us do not need that level of protection, so these masks should be reserved for health care workers only.
  • To be certified N95 respirators, they must be approved by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. NIOSH is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses.

Sources:

Benefits of Masks For Healthcare Workers

Our Masks For Healthcare Workers have 4 barriers of protection, added comfort, breathable, washable, and reusable.

picture of our reusable 100% cotton breathable adjustable 4 layer protection face masks for everyone in healthcare
Wear our breathable, reusable protective face mask alone, over a standard surgical mask and/or over an N95 mask.
reusable 100% cotton breathable adjustable 4 layer protection face masks for everyone in healthcare
100% cotton breathable, reusable protective face mask with optional HEPA filter insert.
N95 cover reusable 100% cotton breathable adjustable 4 layer protection face mask for everyone in healthcare
Depending on clinical situations, wear the Mask For Healthcare Workers alone, over a standard surgical mask and/or over an N95 mask.
washable reusable 100% cotton breathable adjustable 4 layer protection face masks for everyone in healthcare
How to wash your reusable 4 layer protection face mask.

Protection

Layer 1. 100% tight weave cotton fabric.
Layer 2. Fusible iron-on interfacing to add body to the mask and additional layer of protection.
Layer 3. Insertable non-woven filter (paper towel/facial tissue/HEPA filter). The filter must be removed and replaced after each use. The filter insert must cover the full width and length of the inside of the mask. A HEPA filter cut from a vacuum cleaner bag is another recommended non-woven layer. Both types of filters can be used simultaneously. Download the filter template to use in cutting your filter.
Layer 4. The waterproof fabric is 1 mil PUL (polyurethane laminate) with 75% polyester/25% polyurethane. Super soft, breathable, and flexible. The color of the waterproof fabric depends on availability. The side touching the face is soft polyester knit. The other side of the fabric is a breathable waterproof laminate. The fabric is 100% free of PFAS & PFOA and 100% eco-friendly. Read More

Fit & Comfort

Nose Clip. A metal nose clip is sandwiched between the 1st and 4th layers to achieve a tighter fit across the nose and cheekbones.
Elastic BandThe bottom of the mask has elastic so the entire jaw is enclosed within the mask. When wearing the mask, it is crucial to ensure the filter (3rd layer) and 4th layer are completely enclosed behind the elastic.
Ear Casings. The ear casings add an additional 1.0-2.0” each side providing additional coverage of the cheeks.
Elastic Loops. The elastic loops are adjustable to achieve a better individual fit and easily replaced.
Waterproof Fabric. The polyester side of the waterproof fabric touches your face and is super soft, breathable, and flexible.

Sustainability

Reusable. This mask is washable. The filter must be replaced after every use.
Shrink Resistant. Fabrics (cotton, cotton-poly blend, interfacing) are pre-shrunk prior to fabricating the face masks. The 1 mil PUL does not shrink and therefore not pre-washed. All completed face masks go through a second machine wash and dry cycle before sending to customers.

Quality Control

Quality Inspections: We inspect our face masks throughout the fabrication process with the last quality check performed during the final machine wash and dry cycle.

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Masks For Healthcare Workers protecting our Healthcare Heroes by developing a 4 layer protective mask, an improved version of the regular surgical mask in both fit and coverage!
100% cotton breathable, reusable, 4 layer protective face mask or N95 cover with optional HEPA filter insert.

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