It’s easy to believe that every face mask works as well as any other, but not all face masks are the same. Understanding which face masks are the best options can mean the difference between staying healthy or getting sick. A study from Duke University sought to find the truth about face masks’ effectiveness — whether one mask worked better than others to keep COVID-19 from passing through its barrier.
Researchers from the study tested and ranked 14 types of face masks, ranging from the medical-grade N95 respirator to homemade cloth masks. The study tested how well each type of face mask could prevent airborne droplets from passing through their material. Although you may not be surprised about which masks ranked as the best, you may be amazed at the difference in effectiveness between them all.
When it comes to the least effective face masks, it was typically the masks with one layer of material, a shapeless fit, or loose weave. The face masks on the bottom of the list were more likely to be comfortable and breathable but were not the best at keeping out virus particles. The best face masks were, of course, the ones that are specifically developed to be effective preventions against respiratory infections. How a mask fits and the number of layers is integral to how well a face mask works as a barrier to COVID-19.
11. Bad: Neck Gaiters
Typically for outdoor use, neck gaiters are worn by hiking enthusiasts, bike racers, and people trekking through extreme weather. Great for keeping the face and neck free from dust, dirt, or sun, neck gaiters don’t excel at keeping COVID-19 viruses away. Neck gaiters landed last on the list of 14 face masks because the textiles used to make gaiters broke large droplets into smaller droplets — making the likelihood of catching COVID-19 higher than other face coverings in the study. Most neck gaiters are made of just one fabric layer, which doesn’t ensure enough protection from virus particles.
10. Bad: Bandanas
Bandanas are a convenient way to cover your face and work a little better than a neck gaiter, but there are more effective options out there. Most bandanas aren’t large enough to double or triple the fabric layers, leaving the wearer with one layer as a barrier, which isn’t enough to keep most virus particles out. Bandanas also lack structure and a tight fit around the face, allowing air to flow out through the sides.