The best way to protect ourselves and our loved ones is through social distancing, the consistent use of proper face masks and good hand hygiene. This quick guide will help you select the face mask that works best for you and your circumstances to stay safe!
Types of face masks for Coronavirus/COVID-19 protection
Homemade Cotton Face Masks
This kind of mask offers a very low level of protection, but it helps remind you not to touch your face. As a reusable option, it is important to keep it clean and regularly wash your face mask in a 140–194 °F hot machine wash with laundry detergent. One more thing to remember: shape matters! Your mask protects you better when it fits your face perfectly.
N95 Respirator Mask
N95 respirators are face masks designed to create a tight seal around the nose and mouth. When worn correctly, they can block over 95% of small airborne particles. Some even have as much as a 99% bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE). Respirators are the best at protecting both the wearer and the people around them. N95s are made of layers of polypropylene fibers, which is what makes them so effective. The N95 is regulated by the CDC and NIOSH unless it is marketed for medical use, at which point the FDA will approve them as well. In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the FDA changed their guidelines with an emergency use authorization (EUA) to allow NIOSH approved respirators to be used in healthcare circumstances.
KN95 particulate masks are also rated to filter 95% of particles and are regulated by the Chinese government. The FDA also issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) authorizing the use of KN95s as a valid alternative to NIOSH approved face masks. Another difference between KN95s and N95s is that the KN95s often use ear loops rather than an over the top of the head and behind the neck two strap configuration like the N95.
3-Ply Disposable Masks
3-ply disposable masks are fluid resistant and provide the wearer protection against large droplets, splashes, or sprays of bodily or other hazardous fluids. They also protect others from the wearer’s respiratory emissions. They are more loose fitting than either N95 or KN95 face masks, so provide a less reliable level of protection from inhaling smaller airborne particles. When marketed for use in healthcare scenarios, as a surgical or medical 3-ply mask, they are regulated by the FDA and therefore provide better protection than a homemade mask.