Coronavirus: Types of Masks and How Effective They Are

Medical Mask

Demand for face masks has soared in recent weeks after the CDCs recommendation that everyone wear a cloth mask when you head out of the house to walk outside or in public settings like the pharmacy or grocery store. These masks are thought to be most effective for people who unknowingly have the virus to help reduce the spread, but can also protect you from droplets that may be in the air. 

Please note, it's not recommended that children under 2 wear a mask, people who have trouble breathing, or people who are unable to remove their own mask, as it could be suffocating.

Watch: How to Properly Wear a Face Mask

Here is a breakdown of different types of masks and how effective they are: 

N95
N95 with Filter

N95 Masks

N95 masks are the most effective and should be reserved for healthcare and frontline workers. The number 95 means that it can block 95 percent of tiny particles, and are designed for single use. The mask uses a nose piece that helps you mold it to your face. Please note, If you have facial hair the mask will be less effective. Some N95s have exhalation valves on the front, which are often used for construction projects and make it easier for a person to breathe, however, this type of N95 should not be used in hospitals or operating rooms.

Medical Mask

Medical Masks

Regular medical masks filter 60 to 80 percent of small particles when worn properly. They are made out layers of fabric that have pleats to help it fit to your face. These are also designed for single use. 

Homemade mask

Homemade Masks 

Depending on how a mask is made and what it's made from, a homemade mask can be as effective as a medical mask, but any face covering is better than nothing at all. When making or buying a homemade mask, you want one with high thread-count fabric thick enough to block particles, but also breathable. Ideally, it has at least two layers of material, comes up over your nose and below your chin and has secure straps.

When considering your homemade mask, the CDC recommends

  • It should fit snuggly on the sides of your face
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops
  • Include multiple layers of fabric 
  • Allows for breathing without restriction 
  • Be able to be laundered and machine-dried without changing shape or damage. 

Check out CDC recommendations on the proper way to wash your mask in the laundry. Here are also CDC guidelines on how to make your own mask. 

Looking to buy a mask? Check out these retailers with masks in stock.