Best Disposable Face Masks for Proper Double-Masking Fit

  • 2021-04-02
  • 1370

Why is this fit so important? New research published by the CDC suggests that a tight-fitting disposable medical mask (also sometimes referred to as surgical masks!) can dramatically reduce the spread of COVID-19 via airborne particles and infectious respiratory droplets. It also provides more protection: The study's lab results suggest that tight-fitting masks could lower transmission risks by up to 96% if all parties wore them. For medical masks in particular, though, data suggests a plain disposable option alone provided more protection over cloth-based sewn masks — and when knotted for a tight fit, efficacy in reducing spread increased an additional 25%.

What makes a good disposable mask?

To be clear, double-masking or a manipulated disposable medical mask isn't as protective against COVID-19 transmission as N95 respirators — but those are being reserved for healthcare personnel in clinical settings. If you're looking for a disposable face mask that's been tested and made to provide you similar protection as outlined in CDC-sponsored research, you'll need to look for labeling that shows it conforms to certain criteria, explains Lexie Sachs, Textiles Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute.

Those guidelines come from ASTM, a group of industry professionals that develop testing standards for a myriad of products (including face masks as a whole!). The criteria for disposable masks are outlined in ASTM F2100-20, a set of standards that guide manufacturers in their design, creating top-notch medical masks as it relates to construction and fit. Sachs explains that ASTM standards dictate a need for a filtration efficiency test as well as a test for protection against any fluids in a medical setting. Manufacturers submit disposable medical masks to labs that follow ASTM protocol for testing, and based on the results brands can use one of three levels of certification; levels one through three, indicating how rigorously it was tested (3 is the most protective!).

In addition, the standards focus on:

How well the mask can filter bacteria for the wearer

How well the mask can filter or trap sub-micron particles

How breathable they are, or examining differential pressure as you breathe

How resistant the mask is when it comes to liquid, or in this case, tests involving synthetic blood

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