Face Masks 101

During these challenging times, it is absolutely critical that we incorporate wearing face coverings as part of protecting ourselves and others from Covid.  Along with physical distancing and hand sanitizing, the CDC has recommended that we all wear masks.

It is critical to note that wearing a mask should not give wearers the confidence to ignore social distancing.  It is part of the solution but not the complete solution.

There are many masks and facial covering solutions.  They all provide various levels of protection.  This guide is meant to give you a general understanding of the protection each mask provides, as well as best practices.

To begin with, it important to understand the various methods by which the coronavirus is transmitted between humans.  This graphic illustrates how breathing, coughing, sneezing, and touching ones eyes our mouth can cause the virus to transfer from one person to another.

 

 

In the sections below, we are going to talk about the various types of face masks as well as another option, face shields.

  • Reusable Cloth Masks

  • 3-ply Disposable Masks

  • KN95 Masks (N95 alternative)

 

Reusable Cloth Face Masks

Cloth masks protect others from your respiratory droplets, such as coughs or sneezes, but will not protect you from the droplets of others.  It can help reduce the chance of infecting others if you’re sick, and will not fully protect you from contracting the virus from someone else.  The reason for this is that cloth masks are generally made with woven fabrics.  Because of this construction, extremely bacteria sized particles can pass through the material in either direction.  While these masks have other benefits including cost and the ability to be reused, it is important to understand that they provide basic protection only.

Here are key factors to consider when purchasing a cloth face mask:

  • Look for masks that have multiple layers (preferably 3), made from fabrics that are easy to wash and tightly woven, with a high yarn count. Bonus points if the fabric has an antimicrobial or water repellent finish, especially for the outer layer. It is also helpful if the mask has a pocket for a disposable filter.

  • Ensure the mask has ear loops or ties allowing it to fit your face properly with no gaps or openings on the side.

  • Look for a mask with a material that allows you to breathe comfortably.

  • The mask must be large enough to completely cover the nose and mouth without gaping.  Any gaps or openings is a place for bacteria and virus to enter.

  • The mask should be durable to allow you to frequently wash and dry it without losing its shape.

 

3-Ply Disposable Masks (also known as Level 1 or Surgical Masks)

These masks are generally the ones you see at the doctors office.  They are FDA-regulated masks that are considered to provide advanced protection compared to cloth masks.  They are fluid resistant and provide the wearer protection against large droplets, splashes, or sprays of other hazardous fluids.  They come in three levels (1, 2, 3).  Level 1 is suggested for day-to-day consumer use, while Level 2 and 3 are used primarily in medical settings.  Our products, model KF-01 (adult)and KF-01K (children) are Level 1 masks.

 

The biggest difference is that these masks are constructed with three layers, with the outer layers made of non-woven fabrics, which makes it much more difficult for small particles such as bacteria and viruses to pass through.  As such, these masks protect the wearer by creating a barrier to the virus or body fluid that may contain the virus.  These masks also have an adjustable nose piece to allow for a better fit on your face.

 

Here are key factors to consider when purchasing a 3-ply disposable face mask:

  • These masks are disposable.  Do not try to wash them or reuse.  It is best to replace them after using them for several hours or if they get dirty or torn.

  • It is important that the mask fit snuggly against your face while covering mouth and nose.  After putting the mask on your face, press the nose piece around the edges of your nose to ensure a proper fit.

  • Make sure to pay attention to the edges to prevent leakage from the sides.  Any opening is an entry point for particles!

  • For children, use an appropriate mask designed for kids.  As proper fit is important, do not use an adult size mask with children.  We offer a kids version of the 3-ply mask, model KF-01K.  Further in this article you will find a fitting guide to help determine what size is best for you.

 

KN95 Masks

 

KN95 masks provide superior coverage to both cloth and 3-ply disposable masks.  These masks are FDA-regulated masks that have to undergo significant laboratory testing in terms of being able to filter out particles, resist fluids, and achieve proper fit.  They normally have a 4 or 5 layer construction, including a high quality filtering layer designed to block particles from entering or exiting the mouth of the wearer.  These masks are tested to a standard where they must reject 95% of small particles coming in or out of the mask.

Below is a diagram of the construction of our Adult KN95 product:

 

These masks provide advanced protection and are used especially in situations where social distancing cannot be achieved as well as in situations where those around may be contagious with the virus.  Given the multi-layer design, this mask protects both the wearer and those around them.

There have been a lot of news and confusion regarding KN95 and N95 masks online, which we will attempt to clarify here:

KN95 products adhere to standards developed in China by the Chinese Health Ministry.  These products were originally manufactured for the China market.  The FDA has approved importing these masks to the United States, as the standards are very similar to the American N95 standards.  In other words, they offer very similar protection to the N95 products made by 3M and other companies.  The biggest difference is that KN95 products are regulated by China's version of the FDA, while N95 is regulated by the US FDA.

There have been many reports about fake KN95 masks entering the country with inferior performance.  This is absolutely true, and as a result, the FDA and CDC have collaborated to do real life testing on many KN95 brands in the market.  That report can be found here.  Our KN95 product (model KF-95) by the manufacturer "Dongguan Aoxing" was also tested by the CDC with outstanding results.  As a result, our product is used by a variety of customers including healthcare, schools, large corporations, and consumers.

Here are key factors to consider when purchasing a KN95 mask:

  • Select a mask with filtration results exceeding 95%.  Use the CDC website as a guide to select the right manufacturer and model.

  • These masks are considered disposable.  Do not try to wash them or reuse.  Given their construction, they can last longer than a disposable 3-ply.  It is best to replace them after using them for a day or if they get dirty or torn. 

  • It is important that the mask fit snuggly against your face while covering mouth and nose.  After putting the mask on your face, press the nose piece around the edges of your nose to ensure a proper fit. 

  • Make sure the edges of the mask fit properly around your chin.  A properly fitted mask should hug your face with no openings on the sides.

  • For children, use an appropriate KN95 mask designed for kids.  As proper fit is important, do not use an adult size mask with children.  We offer a kids version of the KN95 mask, model KE-60.  

 

It's all about the fit!

Even if you use an face mask with advanced filtering, the protection provided is only as good as how it fits your face.  Any gap or opening that allows particles or droplets to pass through to your mouth and nose reduces your protection.  Putting an adult sized mask on a child will result in poor fit and should be avoided at all costs.  For consumers, it is not clear as to what size to buy for children.  As a result, we have created a general sizing guide below:

 

We hope this guide has provided you with the information to make an informed purchase for your face mask.  We would like to reinterate that it is critical to remember that wearing a mask should not give wearers the confidence to ignore social distancing.  It is part of the solution but not the complete solution.  One must also practice social distancing and washing/sanitizing of the hands.

Our company, On the Go Masks has focused its efforts to provide protective masks, including 3-ply disposable and KN95 masks.  We have products for both adults and children.  If you have any questions, please send us an email to:  support@otgmasks.com.

Please stay safe and stay covered.  By working together and protecting one another, we can overcome this pandemic and move towards the reopening of schools, houses of worship, businesses, and enter back to our normal lives and routines.

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