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What are the Most Common Materials Used for Masks?

By June 3, 2020 No Comments

The CDC now recommends the use of a face covering whenever we go out in public, as data shows that this can greatly reduce the risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus to others.  In many parts of the country, a mask is absolutely required whenever we are in a public space, which means that a lot of people who have never used a mask in their life are now trying to choose one that will be as effective as possible.  Due to the vague guidelines regarding the masks that we wear, many people are unsure as to whether or not the one that they are using is actually protective or not.  After all, the term “face covering” is about as nonspecific as it gets, leaving citizens to their own devices when it comes to the type that they choose.

As you would imagine, some masks are more effective than others and with many brands of of KN95 masks for sale online it is good to know what materials are best for protective masks. Remember that the purpose of wearing a mask is to protect others rather than ourselves.  We now know that the droplets that are emitted when we cough or sneeze can potentially infect others, so of course, the most important thing when choosing a mask is choosing a material that is most likely to prevent the traveling of those droplets.

Today, we will break down the most popular mask options that are out there, and discuss the materials from which they are made, and how effective they are at preventing transmission.

Homemade Masks

Many people have opted for a homemade mask, because there are many items for which we have lying around our homes that can be used as face coverings, meaning that we don’t need to purchase a mask.  Most commonly, people use scarves and bandanas, but other choices include stockings, t-shirts and other apparel items.

Of course, all of these items are made of different materials, and so the effectiveness depends less on the type of apparel item used, and more the fabric that it’s made from.  The thinner and more porous the material, the less effective it is.  In other words, a pair of stockings is going to be largely ineffective, while the tightly woven knit of a bandana is more effective.  If you’re going the homemade route, choose an item that is as thick and nonporous as possible.

Disposable Masks

Disposable masks, also known as paper dust masks or surgical masks, are quickly becoming a go-to option because of how easy they are to put on, how widely available they are and how inexpensive they are.  These are made from a non-woven and often synthetic material such as plastic.  Because surgical masks are worn within the medical field, many believe that they are completely effective due to the materials from which they are made.  While the material itself is largely effective when it comes to preventing transmission, the way in which it is worn can counteract much of that effectiveness.  These masks are non-fitted, which means that there are decent gaps between the mask and the face.  So, while the material itself may be useful, particles can escape through these gaps easily.  Also, disposable masks come in a variety of grades, referring to the materials from which they are made, which means that they can vary in terms of effectiveness based on this as well.

KN95 Masks

KN95 masks are made from nonwoven polypropylene, and they are fitted.  The material, therefore, is extremely effective at preventing droplets from getting released into the air, and the fit of the mask prevents droplets from escaping through gaps.  It’s also important to note that because of the material, this type of mask may actually reduce the chance of becoming infected yourself. 

N95 Masks

Like KN95 masks, N95 masks are made from nonwoven polypropylene, but the grade of fabric is superior.  However, these masks are largely reserved for medical staff, which is why a KN95 is recommended instead.

At the End of the Day, Any Face Covering is Better Than No Covering

But you can clearly see that the material of mask that you choose largely determines how effective it is at reducing the risk of infecting others via the droplets that we emit into the air around us.  Use this guide to understand which materials are the most effective and choose your mask accordingly.


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