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How to choose the best mask and what to be aware of?
With everything that has happened in the last few months, everybody is worried for the safety of themselves and for everyone close to them. The easiest way to do this is, of course, take as many steps as possible to stay clear of the coronavirus. In order to do that, we have started being more careful during our daily outings. Washing hands more carefully and often, as well as wearing masks in public places.
Wearing a protective mask greatly lowers the risk of contamination from the coronavirus, and so it has therefore become an important item to have, and sometimes even a fashion accessory.
More and more types are now emerging, from disposable to fabric masks. Among them, polyester, cotton, microfibre… What is the difference between them all and which one is the best face mask? We are going to answer this question in this article so stay tuned!
Surgical grade N95 respirators
Used in the health sector, they have become the talk of the year. However, there are certain things to know about them:
- They provide the greatest level of protection
Approved for medical purposes, they provide the best level of protection and are consequently the most in-demand.
- Their supply is often very limited
Since quality is higher, they have become scarce and supply is limited. They are often reserved for healthcare workers, thus difficult to come by.
- Their price is considerably higher
Because of the offer and demand law, what is in limited quantity, will be at a higher price. Surgical grade N95 respirators are no exception and their price can be more than 10 times the cost of cloth masks.
Costly, difficult to access, contributing to landfill waste and uncomfortable for long periods of time, they also have their short-comings. So, if you are not restricted to the health industry, a lot of other options have proved to be reliable and having a positive impact.
If you only plan a limited use, disposable face masks come in handy. What makes them so popular? Here are disposable masks main features:
- They are cheap and light
Self-explanatory, their breathable material is easy to produce, to use and to breathe through. Especially convenient during summer!
- They protect you for up to 2 hours of use
Their 3 layers enable a good level of protection. They are anti-dust (Particulate matter (PM2.5)), which refers to particles in the air that cause pollution.
- They are a good option for short-term purposes
Not the most long-term solution, nor the most ecological as they are (of course) not reusable. They need to be disposed of after each use in a closed-bin.
Fabric masks should not be intended for medical use but they are the best compromise when looking for a good level of protection without breaking the bank. But what should you look for when getting your own? The following are the common rules that should be followed when buying your cloth mask:
- The material should block at least 90% of virus particles
A single layer would not protect you sufficiently – whatever you’re breathing out will easily pass through a one-layer material. A series of layers of fabric gives more spaces for virus particles to stick instead of getting into your air flow. Studies show that 90% and more of virus particles are prevented from passing through when the mask presents more than one layer. Yet, too many layers might make it hard to breathe.
- Look for OEKO TEX Standard 100 certification
You will use your mask often and maybe even for longer periods of time. It is therefore important that it is comfortable. You should look for ones that can stretch to better fit your face. Ideally, they should also present the OEKO TEX Standard 100 certification, the world’s best-known labels for textiles tested for harmful substances.
- The cloth should be breathable
How well you can breathe through a material is as important as how well it stops the spread of disease. If it’s too hard to breathe, it can be dangerous for people who have respiratory problems, who might end up choosing not to wear one in the end. So what are the best face mask materials?
Close-fitted masks offer the perfect balance between a good level of protection and comfort. They are a great option because of the following:
- They provide you with a better level of protection
A good fit is important so that you avoid fidgeting with it and be more likely to touch your face. That’s what we are trying to avoid. Close-fitted masks are therefore the best option for optimised protection. You want your protective mask to have as few openings as possible. If it fits loosely across your nose and mouth it will be sufficient against large droplets that come from a sick person’s mouth.
- They can be enhanced with air filters
A further level of safety can be provided by adding an air filter (N95 PM2.5) to Face masks with filter pockets.
- They are comfortable for long use
With the masks being so close to your face, make sure they present the proper certifications (like OEKO TEX Standard 100), to avoid irritated skin after prolonged use. The elastic fitting should be designed to combat current issues with common certified surgical masks: irritation behind the ears, being too loose, or too tight.
Microfibre masks are a popular choice of material for masks and with good reason as they provide:
- A cheap option
They are one of the cheapest options available without dropping any of the quality. Microfibre is easy to source and to produce and is consequently frequently used in the clothing industry.
- A durable fabric
Because cheap face masks don’t need to mean poor quality, this durable material means the mask survives even the most thorough of washing. An alternative to using the energy-costly washing machine can be to put it in boiling water for 30-60 seconds.
- A comfortable material topped with certification
Resembling the cloth used to clean glasses, they are very soft and pleasant to wear. Certified OEKO-TEX standard 100, you are sure to get the utmost comfort and safety out of your mask!
Cotton masks have entered the market as a reliable option to stay safe from the coronavirus. However, the following reasons make cotton masks a more expensive option for a mask:
- They offer a great level of protection
Cotton is recommended as an option for a cloth face mask. Preferably one with a high thread count – either 80% or above. It will do a better job of filtering out micro-organisms than those with lower thread counts.
- They can be difficult to source
However, due to the increase in demand, there has been a shortage of cotton making them difficult to source.
- They are not the most eco-friendly option
Cotton has a quite high carbon footprint because of how much water and energy it takes to make it.
Polyester masks are often used in public places, while shopping and traveling and remain a great choice to stay safe. Protecting from the coronavirus as much as other diseases, polyester masks are:
- The cheapest option
Polyester is quite inexpensive to produce and also very light. It is therefore the cheapest option on the market in terms of reusable masks.
- Washable at higher temperatures to better kill bacterias and viruses
Although they only offer a single layer of fabric, this textile-like material can be washed up to 90°C. With higher temperatures, viruses and bacterias have a greater chance of being killed. You should make sure to wash them after each use to remove all potential traces of the coronavirus.
How to Wear a Face Mask
Whatever you choose, proper handling of this protective accessory is essential. As your hands are a major vector of virus and germs, you should often wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. You should always grab it by the sides and never touch the inside of the material.
Make sure the fabric has no holes and secure it with ties behind your head or around your ears. It should cover both your nose and mouth, and fit under your chin. There should be no space between your face and the fabric. It should fit tight around your face but still feel comfortable. You should be able to breathe easily through it. Don’t wear one if it’s hard for you to breathe.