This pandemic has hit us harder than we could have expected, with over half a million deaths in the United States alone. And yet, as hard as the pandemic hits, human ingenuity, bravery, and resolve have kept us going.
When COVID-19 first started, we faced a shortage of masks and other PPE, requiring us to improvise our own face coverings. We have been using everything from bandanas to hand-sewn masks to keep ourselves, and those around us safe. However, the mask shortage has ended and we can now purchase some of the best, most protective masks available.
KN95 respirators, cloth masks, and 3Ply face masks are some of the most discussed face coverings available. But, articles about mask effectiveness are scattered at best. How do we know what type of PPE mask is most effective?
In this article, we’ll be discussing the different types of masks and their effectiveness. So if you find yourself wondering, “What kind of PPE mask should I wear?” read on.
When and Why to Wear a Mask
The CDC and WHO recommend wearing facemasks anytime you are outdoors or indoors with people who don’t live with you. They also mention the importance of wearing masks on public transportation.
Masks are effective for stopping the spread of COVID-19 because they can protect both the wearer and the people around the wearer. Because COVID-19 can spread without symptoms, some people are unaware they’re carrying the infection. For this reason, it’s important to wear a mask even when feeling healthy.
No mask offers full protection, so masks are not a replacement for proper safety protocol. But, when combined with social distancing, frequent handwashing, and avoiding crowds, they can help slow the spread.
Types of Masks and Effectiveness
There’s a wide range of masks available, and consequently a wide range of effectiveness ratings. We’ll cover the different types of masks as well as their effectiveness in both personal protection and the protection of others.
Most of us used a fabric facial covering when COVID-19 popped up. They’re easy to find or make and can be very comfortable. But how effective are they really?
Of course, due to the varied nature of cloth masks, effectiveness is not universal. The most important factors are the use of a fabric with a tight weave and multiple layers of fabric.
A tight weave of 100% cotton is the best kind of cloth mask. Cotton has a 3D structure, while synthetic fibers have a smoother, more open structure. The cotton structure helps trap and block particles.
It’s also important to wear masks with multiple layers. One mask can filter out about 35% of small particles. Adding a second layer can increase efficiency by another 35%.
Cloth masks also require more maintenance than disposable masks. It’s recommended that they’re washed every day with soap or detergent in hot water. Cloth masks must also be completely dry before use, as the wet fabric can promote microorganism growth.
3Ply Face Masks
Surgical masks, commercially available as 3Ply or 3pl masks, are looser facial coverings that can filter out about 60% of smaller inhaled particles on average. Effectiveness can vary, some masks block only 30% of particles while others block up to 80%.
These masks are intended to stop droplets, sprays, and spatters. Because of the gaps on the side, some smaller particles can get through.
To combat this issue, it’s best to wear two masks. Wearing a disposable mask on top of a cloth mask or vice versa is a great way to combine the comfort of a cloth mask and the protection of a 3Ply mask.
Surgical masks and 3Ply masks are not intended to be worn more than once. The masks should be disposed of after every use. For this reason, it’s best to purchase them in bulk to make sure a supply is always on hand.
N95 and KN95 respirators are some of the most effective masks available. The multiple layers of polypropylene fibers use static electricity to trap particles and droplets. These masks can block over 95% of both incoming and outgoing particles.
Most masks protect others from particles produced by the wearer. They have fewer benefits for protecting the wearer from incoming particles. In contrast, the KN95 and N95 offer the best protection for both the wearer and surrounding people.
The N95 masks are made to pass US standards, while the KN95 masks are made to pass Chinese specifications. Both block particles with 95% effectiveness. However, there’s still a shortage of N95 masks, so they should be reserved for healthcare providers.
KN95 masks are still available for purchase because there’s no ongoing shortage. However, there are still counterfeits on the market. Counterfeit masks don’t meet certification standards and are ineffective at filtering.
In order for a mask to be certified, it should be FDA certified. Furthermore, it should have a CE mark, ensuring it’s been certified in Europe. When it comes to which mask works best for COVID prevention, a mask with both of these certifications is the most effective.
Safety Made Easy
We all wish COVID-19 would go as quickly as it came. But it’s still here, and we have to keep fighting.
At Octofund Group, we have shifted our focus to work on COVID-19 aid. These efforts allow us to provide our clients with COVID-19 protection ranging from KN95 masks to hand sanitizer.
If you’re interested in getting some of the most effective COVID-19 PPE on the market, take a look at our selection and reach out if you have any questions.