What are the differences between various types of masks?

Posted by Sally Henderson on

There are lots of different types of masks available, and with the current global coronavirus pandemic (now named as SARS-CoV-2) and many new unknowns it can be difficult to understand new terminologies, numerous recommendations coming from all angles and the science behind them, let alone find a reliable source explaining them.

Firstly, there is a difference between masks and respirators, both of which we sell. The word 'masks' has typically become the catch-all for both models, however masks are designed to protect outgoing particles (breathing out), while respirators are designed to protect outgoing and  incoming particles (breathing in and out), if they do not include a valve. There are also respirators that have valves, for example, dust respiratory masks used in the construction industry, which cannot protect the outgoing particles.

These 2 main models fall under 3 different categories subject to different regulations:  

 1. 'Community' non-medical face mask Non-medical face masks (or ‘community’ masks) include various forms of self-made or commercial masks or face covers made of cloth, other textiles or other materials such as paper. They are not standardised and are not intended for use in healthcare settings or by healthcare professionals. These do not require certification.
2. Medical mask

A medical face mask (also known as surgical or procedure mask) is a medical device covering the mouth, nose and chin ensuring a barrier that limits the transition of an infective agent between the hospital staff and the patient. They are used by healthcare workers to prevent large respiratory droplets and splashes from reaching the mouth and the nose of the wearer and help reduce and/or control at the source the spread of large respiratory droplets from the person wearing the face mask. Medical masks comply with requirements defined in European Standard EN 14683:2014.

3. Respirator

A respirator or filtering face piece (FFP), is designed to protect the wearer from exposure to airborne contaminants (e.g. from inhaling infectious agents associated with inhaling small and large particle droplets) and is classified as personal protective equipment (PPE). Respirators are mainly used by healthcare workers to protect themselves, especially during aerosol-generating procedures. Valved respirators are not appropriate for use as a means of source control since they do not prevent the release of exhaled respiratory particles from the wearer into the environment. Respirators comply with requirements defined in European Standard EN 149:2001+A1:2009.

 

You may have seen the names (that look like codes) N95; KN95; FFP2; FFP3; KF94; P2 and DS about, amongst others. These are the names of masks manufactured in different parts of the world. To summarise for busy readers, the difference between all of these types mentioned above is very little: they are near equivalents of each other (as stated by mask manufacturer 3M). They are rated to capture at least  94-95% of tiny particles (0.3 micron sized particles).

This table below gives a quick overview of common models:

 Type of Mask Country / Continent Standard Filtration Performance (%)
N95 United States of America (USA) NIOSH-42CFR84 ≤ 95%
KN95 China  GB2626-2006 ≤ 95%
FFP2 Europe  EN 149-2001 ≤ 94%
FFP3 Europe EN 149-2001 ≤ 99%
KF94 / KMOEL Korea KMOEL - 2017-64 ≤ 94%
P2 Australia / New Zealand  AS/NZA 1716:2012 ≤ 94%
DS Japan  JMHLW-Notification 214, 2018 ≤ 95%

 

Masks and PPE UK has different types of face masks available. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) advises:

  1. Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing
  2. Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water

If you'd like to know how to best use your mask, click here to view the WHO's instructions.

Visit our various masks and respirators for sale here.


Types of Masks

Non-Medical Face Mask (shown in below image)

  • Made from a synthetic, non-woven polypropylene fabric that has been repeatedly folded or pleated in order to increase the amount of filtration layers to catch bacteria and particles
  • Generally a 3-ply (three layer) design, with 2 sheets of non-woven fabric with a 'melt-blown' layer in the middle - the melt-blown middle layer is the filtrating layer
  • This type of mask does not have a valve, and is fitted by looping the elastic bands over your ears and ensuring your nose, mouth and jawline are covered.
  • This variety does not need to meet NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) filtration standards, meaning that there will be gaps between your skin and the mask's edge, and the level of successful filtration can vary.

                   Example of a melt-blown face mask


KN95 Respiratory Face Mask 
(shown in below image)

  • The name "KN95" indicates that this type of respirator adheres to Chinese health standards, and is considered a very near equivalent of the US standard "N95" mask
  • This type of mask does not have a valve
  • Typically, the KN95 mask is rated to capture up to 95% of tiny particles (0.3 micron particles)
  • It is fitted by looping the elastic bands over your ears and ensuring your nose, mouth and jawline are tightly covered. This is important: make sure they fit tight to your face.

KN95 mask

N95 Respiratory Face Mask (shown in below image)

  • The name "N95" indicates that this type of respirator adheres to US and NIOSH health standards
  • This type of mask does not have a valve
  • Typically, the N95 mask is rated to capture up to 95% of tiny particles (0.3 micron particles)
  • It is fitted by looping the elastic bands over your ears and ensuring your nose, mouth and jawline are tightly covered. This is important: make sure they fit tight to your face.

N95 Face mask


FFP2
Respiratory Face Mask (shown in below image)

  • The name "FFP2" indicates that this type of respirator adheres to European (EU) health standards
  • This type of mask does not have a valve.
  • Typically, the FFP2 mask is rated to capture up to 94% of tiny particles (0.3 micron particles)
  • It is fitted by looping the elastic bands over your ears and ensuring your nose, mouth and jawline are tightly covered. This is important: make sure they fit tight to your face.
                        

 

FFP3 Respiratory Face Mask (shown in below image)

  • The name "FFP3" indicates that this type of respirator adheres to European (EU) health standards
  • This type of mask does have a valve.
  • Typically, the FFP3 mask is rated to capture up to 99% of tiny particles (0.3 micron particles)
  • It is fitted by looping the elastic bands over your ears and ensuring your nose, mouth and jawline are tightly covered. This is important: make sure they fit tight to your face.

                                

If you have any queries about which type of mask is right for you and your colleagues/customers, or you would like to know more about further models, please do not hesitate to ask us on info@masksandppe.co.uk.


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