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The Different Types of Face Masks & Their Effectiveness

Now, a year into the “new normal”, there has been a tremendous response to the steady rollout of national vaccination programs, indicating public willingness to protect both themselves and others against the ongoing threat of Covid-19.

That being said, we shouldn’t abandon our previous diligence in observing SOPs even post-vaccination, particularly the implementations of physical distancing and covering your mouth and nose by wearing masks in public.

By far the easiest measure in preventing the spread of Covid-19, face masks protect both their wearers and the general public, acting as a barrier to keep respiratory droplets from being transmitted. This is especially important in small spaces or public transportation.

We’ve seen many different mask methods, ranging from bandit-style cloth face coverings to surgical masks doubled up with face shields. While understanding the differences between all these face masks is vital, the saturation of information in the market makes it an intimidating task.

As such, we’ve put together a list of the most commonly used face masks to help you better understand how and where to use them, as well as their individual benefits.

Types of Face Masks

Cloth Face Masks

With the recent encouragement to double mask, cloth face masks have inevitably risen in popularity. To double mask effectively, the centers for disease control, or the CDC, recommends using cloth masks as the topmost layer.

This method has proven to be extraordinarily effective, reducing the rate of transmission by up to a staggering 96.5%.

However, there are still stringent requirements to ensure optimal protection. As a rule, cloth masks should comprise multiple layers of washable, breathable fabric and a nose wire to be tightened without leaving any gaps on the sides of your face. An easy way to see if your cloth mask meets these requirements is by checking if it blocks out light when held up to a bright light source.

Avoid cloth masks that don’t block out the light when employing the test above, as well as those with exhalation valves or vents, as it still allows easy particle entry and exit.

Disposable Surgical Face Masks

By far the most common face masks, disposable surgical face masks are both easy to get and use. Made out of a mixture of nonwoven polypropylene (NWPP) spunbond materials and melt-blown nonwoven materials, they allow for good protection and better breathability.

Unlike regular disposable masks, surgical face masks like NOVID’s have a higher defence against bacterial and particle transmissions, ranking up to 98% in their bacterial and particle filtration efficiency. These are further categorised into 3-ply face masks and 4-ply face masks, with the numbers indicating the layers found in each mask.

The 3-ply disposable surgical face masks constitute three main layers: a hydrophilic spunbond NWPP inner layer, a middle nonwoven melt-blown layer, and a final hydrophobic spunbond NWPP layer. 3-ply surgical masks can be safely used for everyday errands, work, and more.

The 4-ply disposable surgical face masks, made of the same materials, come with an additional splash resistant layer to protect against blood and other bodily fluids. If you’re caring for sick family members or are close to individuals who feel ill, these will better minimise the risk of infections.

N95 Face Masks

With a distinct shape fitted to your face, N95 face masks, also known as N95 disposable respirator masks, are known to filter out up to 95% of tiny airborne particles – explaining the ‘95’ at the back of the N95 name.

What truly distinguishes disposable respirator masks from the others is their exceptional resistance to both solid and liquid particulates, which is why they’re a mainstay of the manufacturing and labour industries.

Consisting of five layers for maximum protection performance, they are made from a similar combination of NWPP and melt-blown nonwoven materials as their surgical mask counterparts. They are then further reinforced with an extra layer made of thermal bond nonwoven material for improved tensile strength and structural stability.

Because of its heavy-duty functions, these 5-ply disposable respirator masks are generally used by medical professionals or those caring for patients.

Best Mask Practices For Better Protection

We hope this post has helped you identify and pick the perfect face mask to best fit your lifestyle. For extra protection, don’t forget to pair your mask choices with good hygiene practices and basic mask etiquette, such as:

  • Properly disposing of single-use masks by tying them up and throwing them into a bin,

  • Ensuring children aged two years and above are masked to keep them and the people around them safe.

If you’re still browsing the market for effective face masks, you can try out NOVID's range of FDA registered, top-quality products, which come sterilised and individually wrapped for optimum hygiene. Whether you’re on the hunt for 3-ply or 4-ply disposable surgical face masks, 5-ply disposable N95 respirator masks, or even face masks specially fitted for your children’s faces, NOVID's selection guarantees optimum wearer comfort and protection.

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