Getting the Most Out of Masks

It's important to know what masks are protecting you and others from COVID-19. It’s even more important to wear one to stop the spread of the virus (Photo by Caitlyn-Rae Arendse).

One of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is by simply wearing a mask. Some masks, however, are more efficient than others at mitigating the pervasiveness of the virus.  

Types of Masks

Disposable Surgical Masks 

Surgical masks are three times more efficient at blocking out viruses than regular homemade masks, and they often come in bulk, allowing for easy disposal after a long day of blocking out COVID-19 germs.

These masks, and other disposable masks, are good for those who experience mascne, acne developed by constant face mask wear, because they prevent the buildup of facial bacteria within the mask after each wear. With their built-in nose wires, surgical masks also help people who wear glasses combat fogginess.

Cloth Masks 

Cloth masks are both efficient and easy on acne prone skin because they don’t contain harsh products that other masks contain, including certain plastics that trap and hold in bacteria. 

Cloth masks do not have built-in filters. Filters are an important piece to masks because they provide a protective barrier that filters out the bacteria and germs in the breath that spreads between the mouth, the mask and people. There are filters that can be bought or created and easily installed

Homemade Masks

Although homemade masks aren’t as effective as surgical masks, they still can combat COVID-19. These masks, however, must be made properly. One-layer cotton masks, for example, have been shown to be one of the least effective ways to stop the virus. 

Many homemade masks are just one or two layers of material, which is why they are typically not as effective. However, according to a recent paper published by researchers in the United Kingdom, homemade masks with three layers, also known as “hybrid” masks, are the most effective kind of homemade masks. Hybrid masks are the best kinds of homemade masks because hybrid is the name of a high grade cotton that creates one of the best kinds of filtration of germs and bacteria.

Scarves and Cotton T-Shirt Masks

Oftentimes people cannot purchase or create their own effective masks, so they wrap scarves and cotton shirts around their faces to go out in public.  

While one-layer cotton masks are not very effective, according to the Journal of Hospital Infection study, T-shirts and scarves reduce infection risk by roughly 44 percent.

Do Masks Affect Oxygen Levels ?

Although masks can be uncomfortable to wear, according to the World Health Organization, they do not cause oxygen deficiency or an influx in the amount of carbon dioxide taken in, which can lead to carbon dioxide intoxication. 

Wearing a mask too tightly or wearing it on the wrong side could, however, cause difficulty breathing. Researching a mask before purchasing it helps to ensure optimal safety. Make sure to do research before buying a mask to ensure optimal safety. The most effective masks are the ones that reduce the most respiratory droplets.

How to Measure Face Mask Effectiveness

Blowing Through the Mask

A popular, low-cost test to measure if a mask is reducing respiratory droplets is lighting a match or holding a hand in front of the face mask prior to blowing through the mask in order to see if the flame extinguishes.

This method of testing masks saves both time and money.

Homemade Laser Test Experiment 

The “homemade laser test experiment” is a test that only needs seven items to test the effectiveness of a mask. These items include a room, a laser, a sheet of some sort to go in front of the laser, a mirror, a cardboard box, a camera and a participant. 

The laser and the sheet are used so that the laser is turned into more of a sheet of light instead of a sharp beam. This sheet of light is shined into the box so the respiratory droplets will be easily caught on camera. The participant in the test must talk into the box either using a mask, no mask, or a certain type of mask. When the experiment is over, the footage from the camera will be able to show which form of protection was more efficient at stopping respiratory droplets. This is an inexpensive way to test the effectiveness of a face mask by showing the amount of respiratory droplets that escape an individual’s mouth with each breath.

About Aura Ware 24 Articles
Aura is a junior from Memphis, Tenn. She is a double major in Psychology and English. She is a passionate staff writer and our Features Editor.

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