Masks and face coverings are a new way of life. So if you’re going to be wearing a protective face covering, it’s important to choose the most effective face mask. But with so many mask options available on the market, how do you know which ones are high quality?
One way to decide is to conduct a mask test. This article will guide you on how to test a mask as well as some common features to look for in masks and face coverings.
Ways to Test Your Face Mask’s Effectiveness
Without access to sophisticated lab testing, the candle test is an easy way to test the effectiveness of a mask. The user puts on the mask or face covering, lights a candle, then tries to blow out the candle while wearing the mask.
This test can be performed using different types of face coverings to determine which type offers the best protection. The type that makes it the most difficult to blow out, or at least redirect the flame, could be considered the most effective protection from the virus as it means it is effectively stopping your breath from spreading (and potentially affecting those around you).
Light or Sun Test
According to Dr. Scott Segal, the easiest way to test the effectiveness of a mask is to simply hold it up to the sun or another bright light source. The goal is to see if light is visible through the cloth fibers. The less light that can be seen, the better job the mask is doing to block unwanted particles.
With the first test, results can vary based on how strong the user blows or exhales toward the candle. Results in both tests will be affected by the type of face covering, and especially by the number of layers in the mask. According to WHO guidelines, masks with at least three layers are the most effective, so you’ll likely see them perform better on these tests than your single-layer DIY mask or bandana.
Common Features to Look For in Most Effective Masks
There are many features to look for when determining the effectiveness of masks and coverings; this includes evaluating the various designs and paying attention to how they fit. Check the fit of masks that are tied versus those that have ear loops, or wire to improve nose fittings, for example. An important feature to look for is the incorporation of a valve to make exhaling easier; any holes, gaps, or vents can allow the user’s droplets to be released through those portals.
Cloth Masks and Other Face Coverings
Cloth masks and face coverings such as neck gaiters, scarves, bandanas, and face shields trap saliva and droplets from the users’ talking, coughing, or sneezing. Because they are easy to make, effectiveness can widely vary. Their protective ability depends on how they are worn and maintained and if they are washed or reused.
The most effective cloth face masks will feature the following:
- Three layers of material with an absorbent fabric (e.g. cotton) as the inner layer, non-woven fabric (e.g. polypropylene) in the middle, and non-absorbent fabric (e.g. polyester) as the outer layer
- A nose piece to allow it to adjust to your face shape
- Adjustable ear loops or straps to keep the mask from slipping off of your face
- A comfortable design that encourages you to wear it all day
In addition to how they are constructed, effective face masks should at least have these combined characteristics:
- Fluid resistance and the potential to block the transmission of virus (droplets, sprays, etc.)
- Air leakage (related to the way that the mask fits)
- Proper wear and disposal
- Efficient filtration of unwanted particles and bacteria using technology like nano-silver
To evaluate effectiveness, it’s important to check the mask or face covering to see if it’s damaged, wet, or soiled. Effectiveness is tied to discarding and replacing masks as needed as well as hand washing.
Regardless of what type of mask you wear, you want to ensure superior protection. Testing the effectiveness of masks and face coverings will help to determine whether you get the protection you need.
We are dedicated to providing the highest quality reusable cloth masks at Boomer Naturals. Our masks are sourced from some of the top manufacturers in Vietnam, and comply with all of the guidelines for effectiveness outlined above. Additionally, they are some of the only masks to feature nano-silver particles throughout all three layers, offering significant antimicrobial and antibacterial protection for greater peace of mind.