By now, most of us have tried out various types of masks to protect ourselves and others from coronavirus. But new research shows that a few simple upgrades in fabric, filters and fit are likely to provide even more protection and improved comfort.
Recent findings by one of the world’s leading aerosol scientists confirmed current research: You don’t need a gold-standard N95 medical mask to stay safe from coronavirus. The right cloth mask, properly fitted, does a good job of filtering viral particles of the size most likely to cause infection.
Linsey Marr, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech led the research, which tested 11 different mask materials. Dr. Marr and her colleagues found that small improvements to your mask can go a long way toward improving how well the mask protects you and others from potential infectious particles.
- Three+ layers is the gold standard
- Flexible material + nose wire create a better fit
Stiff material creates gaps. Look for a mask made of tightly woven flexible material that contours to your face. Masks with wire that can be molded around the nose also fit better by closing gaps where air can escape out and seep in.
- Ties are better than ear loops
Masks that tie around your head fit better and can be more comfortable. Ear loop masks can leave bigger gaps around your face and cause ears to become sore with longer use
- A well-fitted mask protects the wearer
Dr. Marr and her colleagues tested cloth masks for how well they protected others (outward protection) as well as the wearer (inward protection). Masks stop incoming germs at nearly the same rate in most cases. Masks that did a poor job protecting the wearer were those made of stiffer materials and those worn loosely and with gaps around the edges.
- Face shields should only be used with a mask
Face shields alone offer little to no protection. Although the clear plastic shield is impermeable, air seeps out and comes in around the edges of the shield; however, a face shield combined with a mask offers added protection, particularly for the eyes.