What’s the Best Type of Mask?
In a feature for Elemental, Robert Roy Britt details everything people should know about wearing and caring for face masks. Including answers to questions like, do I really need a mask outdoors? and what’s the best type of mask? The latter answer is below:
“The main thing is that people find a mask that they will wear,” [David Aronoff, MD, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine] says. So find a size, fit, and design that suits you. But also pick one…that effectively blocks respiratory droplets from passing through when you breathe, talk, cough, or sneeze.
Think of a mask as slices of swiss cheese that virus-laden respiratory droplets find sticky. One slice of cheese will allow a lot of respiratory droplets to pass right through some holes but potentially slam into the second layer. The larger the holes, the more pass-through.
Likewise, two layers of cloth in a mask is better than one, [Linsey Marr, PhD, a scientist at Virginia Tech] says, and tightly woven fabric is better than a loose weave. A third layer of cloth does not add significant additional protection, her lab has found. A separate study, published in the journal ACS Nano, found that mixing materials, such as a layer of cotton and a layer of silk, can work better than two layers of the same material.
Some masks come with two layers and an interior pocket for a disposable filter. Note that these filters don’t always stay put, as I found with a $20 Outdoor Research mask, and the idea is you’ll need to buy replacement filters, which adds a disposable element that will impact your time, effort, and cost — as well as the environment.
Read more below.