There are lots of different masks on the market these days due to the increasing global demand created by the pandemic. Whether it is a cloth mask, a surgical style mask, or a full-on respirator, it is tough to know exactly what you are getting with each. One style might be more cost effective while another may have much higher filtration efficiencies. It is important to find the right mask that suites your everyday needs but also keeps you safe from harmful particles such as smoke, viruses, and bacteria. The following article seeks to provide information about the most common types of masks and the differences between them. It also highlights the release of the new Filti NF95 respirator.
When it comes to protecting yourself and others from the virus, something is better than nothing. If you do not have easy access to high quality facemasks, wearing substitutes such as bandanas, gaiters, and basic cloth masks can help mitigate the spread of the virus. Keep in mind that a bandana does not work as well as a surgical style mask or respirator because it leaves your face exposed from the bottom and most gaiters are too thin to provide adequate protection. The CDC recommends that these face coverings should have at least two layers of protection. Another style of mask you may have seen is when they come equipped with exhalation valves. A common misconception is that these masks are safer but, in reality, they can let harmful droplets
from your nose and mouth to escape into the air. The CDC does not recommend the use of these masks or face shields as “there is currently not enough evidence to support he effectiveness of face shields for source control.”
While these face coverings will not stop the majority of harmful particulates, they can help prevent the larger ones, as well as dust and other dangerous debris, from entering your airways.
Even though standard cloth masks are not proven to protect health care staff or patients, they can be improved for the general population using filter inserts. These inserts can be sewn, glued, or inserted into a pocket on the inside of the mask. A single layer of thin filter material may not seem like much, but it could mean the difference between a cotton mask that is 10.4% efficient and a reinforced mask that is 90% or even 95% efficient.
Mid-Level Protection with Surgical Masks
According to the Mayo Clinic, a surgical mask is a loose-fitting, disposable mask that is meant to be worn over the nose and mouth to prevent airborne droplets, splashes and sprays that may be carrying germs from infiltrating your body. These devices can also help filter out larger particles as well as prevent exposure to saliva and mucus that may be carrying harmful bacteria and viruses such as COVID-19. As one of the more popular face coverings, surgical masks provide more protection than most cloth masks and face shields. Even though they are not as efficient as most respirators, they can still provide quality protection when there is a shortage of N95 masks.
For many, consistently buying higher quality, disposable masks is too much of a strain on their monthly budget. In light of the pandemic, the CDC understands decontamination and reuse may be needed during times of shortage to ensure continued availability. If you choose to reuse the material, the CDC recommends following specific sanitation guidelines while continuing to handle your material with caution.
High Quality Respirators
One of the most reliable and efficient types of face coverings is the respirator. This kind of facemask is able to effectively protect the wearer from incoming particles. It also has the capability to protect others from droplets and particulates that may originate from the user. The most popular style of respirator is the N95. The “N” stands for “Not Oil Resistant.” Typically, there are three letter designations for these kinds of masks. The other two designations are “R” and “P.” These letters mean “Resistant to Oil” and “Oil Proof.” The “95” stands for 95% efficient at 0.3 microns. This means that the mask is effective at filtering 95% of airborne particles as long as they are larger than 0.3 microns in diameter. Along with N95 masks, there are also N99 and N100. Since it is virtually impossible to completely filter out all the harmful particles in the air, if a mask demonstrates an efficiency of 99.97% at 0.3 microns, it is rated as N100. For more information on mask ratings and particle size distinction, click here.
Changing the Game
Most N95 facemasks and respirators use electrically charged particles to attract and filter out unwanted, airborne particulates. This means that throughout the day, the material’s electrostatic charge will slowly become less effective, ultimately decreasing the overall filtration efficiency of the device. We here at Filti took a different approach when developing our newest product: the NF95 respirator.
Since the onset of the pandemic, mask and proper protective equipment (PPE) manufacturers have struggled to keep up with ever increasing global demand. Back in March, we were prepared to launch our washable Filti filter. Within two weeks, we made the decision to pause the washable filter launch and transitioned our lines to produce highly efficient face mask material that has an efficiency rating that is comparable to N95 or MERV 16. We wanted to make our material available to anyone and everyone, given the massive shortage of face masks and PPE. This new and improved face mask, made up of six different layers of protection, targets 95% filtration efficiency while utilizing mechanically efficient, patent pending nanofiber technology. We are currently in the process of obtaining a certification from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to classify our masks as official level 3, N95 respirators. It is our hope that production of these new respirators, as well as our surgical style masks, will help supply the global demand for high quality breathing apparatuses.
Thanks for reading!
At Filti we are passionate about helping people stay healthy and improving their indoor air quality. Not to mention, our filter products are designed to help keep you and your family safe by filtering out the bad particles in the air. Our nanofiber filters, with a MERV Rating of 16, can filter out up to 95% of bad particles in the air as small as 0.3 microns in diameter. Our mission is to make quality air filtration products available to all consumers and frontline workers. For more information about Filti, our products, and our mission, visit our website at filti.com or send us an email at [email protected] We look forward to hearing from you!