So, what makes a mask high-performing? New Zealand Health professionals state that a masks filtration efficiency depends on what material it is made from and how well it seals to your face. So, making sure there are no gaps under the chin or cheeks where the virus could sneak in is vital.
If you are in a healthcare setting you should always follow the New Zealand governments healthcare advice which includes wearing appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) – advice can be found here.
For everyday wear, here are 4 tips to boost your face mask protection:
- N95 and KN95 face masks
These are two types of respirator masks designed to be the ultimate level of protection. When worn correctly, N95 masks can block up to 95% of particles which is perfect for trying to keep covid away. They should be worn tightly around your face for optimum protection, however this may get a little uncomfortable if you are wearing it for a long time period. In this case, you can opt for KN95s which have special ear loops for higher comfort and similar levels of protection.
It is important to ensure that when purchasing one of these masks that they are approved respirators and have been tested for filtration efficiency, as there are many counterfeits in the market.
- Wear two masks
What better way to get more protection then to double up! Starting with a surgical mask and layering your cloth mask over top is a great way to add protection, plus you don’t have to compromise on looks.
Surgical masks are often loose fitting, which decreases their ability to filter out particles. Therefore, by adding your cloth masks on top you can achieve a tighter fit plus a bonus layer of filtration and protection. You should choose a surgical mask made from polypropylene material as this is a nonwoven material that holds electrostatic charge meaning it can trap particles.
Don’t go getting carried away with the layering though as this could make it hard for you to breathe. Two masks are the perfect amount!
- Ensure your masks is tight
You may have seen someone waking around with their nose hanging out of their mask and thought to yourself, they look rather silly. Well, you would be correct. Leaving your nose outside of your mask completely defeats the purpose of wearing one. In fact, to get the best protection, you need to ensure your mask fits as snug as possible over your mouth and nostrils, right up to your nose bridge and there should be no gaps on show.
The filtration efficiency of a mask depends on how well it fits to your face. Medical researchers tested wearing regular surgical masks normally and found that on average they only block out just 38.5% of small particles. But, they came up with a few tricks to increase filtration efficiency.
Firstly, tying the ear loops into a knot as close to the edges of the mask as possible, then tucking the side pleats in to minimize any gaps that appear boosted the surgical masks efficiency to 60% (shown in the photo above). Secondly, they tested using a hair clip to hold the ear loops tightly at the back of the head. This raised the masks filtration efficiency to almost 65%.
With just a few simple alterations when putting on your mask, you can achieve much higher protection results. You can easily test this at home by either wearing glasses or holding up a small mirror to the edge of your mask, if they fog up when you breathe then you know you have a leak!
- Choose a cloth mask wisely
If you prefer only wearing cloth masks then best make sure it is as protective as can be. Your cloth mask should have at least two layers, but three is even better. Try to find cloth masks made from tightly woven fabric. An easy way to test their protection levels is by holding them up to the light, and if they don’t let the light pass through then you know they are good to use.
You should stay clear from masks made from synthetic fibers as research suggests these have the least amount of protection.
However, at the end of the day you need to remember that no matter what mask you choose, the best mask is the one always worn consistently.