As more evidence emerges revealing the effectiveness and importance of face masks in slowing the spread of COVID-19, mask mandates are becoming more popular in states across the country. Regardless of whether your state is requiring masks or not, it’s a good idea to enforce mask usage in your workplace or school. Before you commit to purchasing your bulk order, it’s important to note that not all masks are created equal.
Depending on where you’re working and what kind of social interaction you’re exposed to, different levels of protection are necessary. It’s important to do the research beforehand, especially when buying face coverings in bulk.
But what’s the best type of face mask to buy?
We’ve broken down some of the options available to you below.
Disposable surgical masks
Before the pandemic, blue disposable masks were most commonly used by surgeons. These surgical masks are now being used by the general public as well, and are increasing in availability.
The main purpose of this type of mask is to protect the user from spreading disease by blocking the vast majority of large particle droplets expelled from the wearer when they speak, sneeze, or cough.
Research shows the effectiveness of disposable masks in blocking very small particles (like COVID-19) varies. Studies have shown that some of these masks can block 30% of small particles, while others can block up to 80%. This puts them at the bottom of the scale on the “best type of face mask” list. While these masks offer a decent amount of protection, it’s important to remember that they should not be used as a replacement for social distancing. It’s still in your best interest, and the interest of those around you, to remain at least 6 feet apart from others if possible.
Unfortunately, disposable masks are not meant to be worn more than once, and should be properly disposed of after leaving public areas. These masks also come with an expiration date, which means they’re not always the best candidate for buying in bulk.
N95 masks are filtering facepiece respirators (FFR) that can block at least 95% of small airborne particles, making them the best type of face mask for health care workers. You may hear these masks being referred to as disposable respirators or dust masks. These masks are constructed to form a tight seal around the user’s nose and mouth, and are ideal for protecting both the user and others in close contact. At this time, non-reusable N95 masks are being reserved for healthcare workers.
One of the main reasons these masks are so effective is that they contain several fine layers of polypropylene, and use static electricity to trap both outgoing and incoming particles. If you’re able to get your hands on one of these masks, be wary of the fact that many fake ones are circulating the market.
The difference between KN95 masks and N95 masks is the location in which the mask is certified. KN95 masks are regulated by the Chinese government, while N95 masks are regulated by the CDC and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). KN95 masks differ slightly from N95 masks in terms of mask construction, but both filter approximately 95% of particles and create an airtight seal around the face. Due to the shortage of PPE in the United States, the CDC has authorized the use of KN95 masks as substitutes for N95 respirators.
Unfortunately, with the amount of counterfeits flooding the market, finding these masks is like playing Russian roulette. Some of these counterfeits actually work, but others, described by experts as “catastrophically bad,” just fall apart. Before purchasing any KN95 respirators, make sure to research indicators of counterfeit or low-quality masks. You can also check out the FDA’s list of Authorized, Imported, Non-NIOSH Approved Respirators Manufactured in China, and the CDC’s list of NIOSH-Approved Particulate Filtering Facepiece Respirators.
Cloth face masks
With little to no access to KN95s or N95s, and the inconvenience of non-reusable and expired surgical masks, cloth face masks are the best type of face mask available for most Americans (outside of health care workers and first responders. Cloth face coverings should be worn by the general public (further specifications and exceptions detailed here) in public settings, and they are most essential in times when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
When shopping for a reusable cloth face mask, there are many factors to look out for. Experts advise the public to focus on fabric, breathability, and fit when shopping for cloth face masks. The following factors will determine just how effective your masks will be:
The tightness of the weave of your cloth mask will determine how efficient the mask is at blocking particles. You can check this by holding your mask up to a light. If you can see the individual fibers, this is a red flag.
Researchers have claimed that the higher the cotton content, the better. This is due to the fact that cotton’s natural fibers have a three-dimensional structure that can help block incoming particles, whereas synthetic fibers are smoother and allow particles to enter and exit with ease.
Multiple studies have proven that cloth masks with more than one layer are more effective. The problem with this is that more layers = more difficulty breathing. The harder it is to breathe, the more likely you are to take it off. Quality Face Wear’s cloth face masks consist of two layers and an antimicrobial coating for your safety and breathability.
One of the biggest factors in a mask’s efficiency is its shape. Wearing a mask that doesn’t fit your face defeats the entire purpose, allowing for particles to freely flow in and out. Bulk purchases of “one size fits all” masks often result in ill-fitting coverings for some that slide down the wearers’ faces. A truly “one size fits all” mask has adjustable ear loops, so that it can be tightened to properly fit the wearer. Our snug, form-fitting, adjustable masks are carefully designed to fit all face types, leaving no gaps for COVID-19 particles to escape.
If you’re buying masks in bulk for your employees, students, or customers (and you’re not working in healthcare), reusable, cloth face masks are your best option. Place your bulk order with Quality Face Wear and receive it in as little as 2 – 3 weeks for blank masks and 3 – 4 weeks for logo imprints (with free shipping). Let’s keep the curve flattened.