5 Factors When Choosing a Face Mask

5 Factors When Choosing a Face Mask

As face masks continue to help reduce the spread of coronavirus, the free market has run rampant with hot selling brands. From sports team logos to diamond studded designs, masks are almost becoming as chic as sunglasses, hats, and bags. 

Regardless, wearing masks is not something most people want to continue, however, if we do, it’s probably best to know the 5 factors when choosing a face mask.

Protection for Others and You

Although wearing a mask during the coronavirus outbreak helps protect others from your possible germs, there may also be a protective role against airborne pathogens as well.

According to the American Chemical Society (ACS) Nano Journal which published the study, ‘Effectiveness of Common Fabrics to Block Aqueous Aerosols of Virus-like Nanoparticles’ it was stated that,

“Layered systems of commonly available fabric materials can be used by the public and healthcare providers in face masks to reduce the risk of inhaling viruses with protection that is about equivalent to or better than the filtration and adsorption offered by 5-layer N95 respirators… Effective designs are noted with absorbent layers comprising terry cloth towel, quilting cotton, and flannel. Effective designs are noted with barrier layers comprising nonwoven polypropylene, polyester, and polyaramid.”

As PPE (personal protective equipment) is being saved for front line workers, there are many ways you can protect others as well as yourself by following these 5 factors when choosing a face mask.

The 5 Factors

These 5 factors should be considered before choosing a mask.

  • Don’t use folded bandanas

Essentially any mask is better than no mask. However, why give yourself and others minimal protection.

Alternative Daily reported that using a smoke machine, researchers expelled glycerin droplets and found double layered bandana material was the weakest in preventing even the largest droplets from absorbing and permeating the cloth. In addition, the lack of form fitting design that would normal include a tightening elastic around the ears, left gaps that also added to its compromise.

  • Look for a Tight Weave

The tighter the material the less small aerosol particles can squeeze through. Some of the best tightly woven materials are high thread count pillowcases or folded sheets as well as canvas or quilting fabric like tightly woven cotton. These materials are excellent for homemade masks. 

  • Don’t Use Masks with Valves

Some people who have access to construction safety equipment will use masks with special valves that protect against inhaling dust. The problem is that it puts everyone around them at risk. This is because the valve is designed to close when breathing in and open while breathing out. Avoid masks that have these valves.

  • Keep it Tight

If a mask does not fit snuggly around the nose, chin and cheeks it can easily become compromised. Droplets can make their way in and out of loose fitting masks creating much less protection in both directions. 

  • Avoid the Stretch

Materials made of elastic compounds will stretch over your face creating a good seal all around. The problem is that when any material stretches, more tiny holes open up allowing for exposure. Avoid masks that stretch unless there is a good filter weaved inside that can help close these gaps. Be careful with filters however as some foreign made designs include small amounts of fiberglass which could fray off and be inhaled which is dangerous to the lungs.

These 5 factors when choosing a face mask can make all the difference when it comes to protecting your health. Now, with flu season upon us you will want to be extra careful as the risk is much higher when combined with the threat of COVID-19 as well. Surgical (blue) masks are ok to use as well, however they are not designed to filter small particles but do create a barrier for larger ones. 

Overall, it is important to follow the 3W’s according to UC San Francisco infectious disease specialist Peter Chin-Hong, MD, 

  • Wearing a mask
  • Washing your hands
  • Watching your distance

Dr. Ching-Hong commented (as reported by UCSF),

“But of the three, the most important thing is wearing a mask, Compared to wearing a mask, cleaning your iPhone or wiping down your groceries are “just distractors.” There’s little evidence that fomites (contaminated surfaces) are a major source of transmission, whereas there is a lot of evidence of transmission through inhaled droplets,”