Not all face masks are created equal

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Loosely woven cloth products provide the least protection, layered finely woven products offer more protection, well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection, and well-fitting NIOSH-approved respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection.

Masks and Respirators – CDC

Types of Masks and Respirators

Updated Jan. 28, 2022

Summary of Recent Changes

  • Added information to present similar content for masks and respirators
  • Clarified that people can choose respirators such as N95s and KN95s, including removing concerns related to supply shortages for N95s
  • Clarified that “surgical N95s” are a specific type of respirator that should be reserved for healthcare settings
  • Clarified that some types of masks and respirators provide more protection to the wearer than others

View Previous Updates

Key Messages:

  • Masking is a critical public health tool for preventing spread of COVID-19, and it is important to remember that any mask is better than no mask.
  • To protect yourself and others from COVID-19, CDC continues to recommend that you wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently.
  • Masks and respirators are effective at reducing transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, when worn consistently and correctly.
  • Some masks and respirators offer higher levels of protection than others, and some may be harder to tolerate or wear consistently than others. It is most important to wear a well-fitting mask or respirator correctly that is comfortable for you and that provides good protection.
  • While all masks and respirators provide some level of protection, properly fitting respirators provide the highest level of protection. Wearing a highly protective mask or respirator may be most important for certain higher risk situations, or by some people at increased risk for severe disease.
  • CDC’s mask recommendations provide information that people can use to improve how well their masks protect them.

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Types of Masks and Respirators

Masks are made to contain droplets and particles you breathe, cough, or sneeze out. If they fit closely to the face, they can also provide you some protection from particles spread by others, including the virus that causes COVID-19.

Respirators are made to protect you by filtering the air and fitting closely on the face to filter out particles, including the virus that causes COVID-19. They can also contain droplets and particles you breathe, cough, or sneeze out so you do not spread them to others.

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Masks

When choosing a mask, look at how well it fits. Gaps can let air with respiratory droplets leak in and out around the edges of the mask. Gaps can be caused by choosing the wrong size or type of mask and when a mask is worn with facial hair.

It is important to check that it fits snugly over your nose, mouth, and chin.

  • Check for gaps by cupping your hands around the outside edges of the mask.
  • Make sure no air is flowing from the area near your eyes or from the sides of the mask.
  • If the mask has a good fit, you will feel warm air come through the front of the mask and may be able to see the mask material move in and out with each breath.

Cloth Masks can be made from a variety of fabrics and many types of cloth masks are available.

Wear cloth masks with

  • A proper fit over your nose, mouth, and chin to prevent leaks
  • Multiple layers of tightly woven, breathable fabric
  • Nose wire
  • Fabric that blocks light when held up to bright light source

Do NOT wear cloth masks with

  • Gaps around the sides of the face or nose
  • Exhalation valves, vents, or other openings (see example)
  • Single-layer fabric or those made of thin fabric that don’t block light
  • Wet or dirty material

Disposable procedure masks are widely available. They are sometimes referred to as surgical masks or medical procedure masks.

Wear procedure masks with

  • A proper fit over your nose, mouth, and chin to prevent leaks
  • Multiple layers of non-woven material
  • A nose wire

Do NOT wear procedure masks with

  • Gaps around the sides of the face or nose (see example)
  • Wet or dirty material

Ways to have better fit and extra protection with cloth and disposable masks

  • Wear two masks (disposable mask underneath AND cloth mask on top)
  • Combine either a cloth mask or disposable mask with a fitter or brace
  • Knot and tuck ear loops of a 3-ply mask where they join the edge of the mask
  • Use masks that attach behind the neck and head with either elastic bands or ties (instead of ear loops)
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https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/types-of-masks.html

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