The Most Popular Mask May Also Be the Least Effective, Study Finds

Lauren Gray
·3 min read

With thousands of brands, styles, materials, and modifications to select from, it's hard to know which particular masks do the best job of preventing droplets from spreading. That's exactly why a group of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill decided to put a range of masks to the test. For a study published by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine in December, they set out to find the most and least effective masks, and found that one of the most popular and prevalent styles is ranked at the bottom of the list for efficacy. Read on to find out how your mask ranks, and for more on dangerous mask designs, check out This Type of Face Mask Isn't Protecting You From COVID, WHO Warns.

The researchers tested many of the most popular styles including woven nylon masks, multi-layer cotton masks, surgical masks, and tied bandana-style masks. It turns out, many of us are still walking around in masks that block the least amount of particles. Keep reading to see how effective each mask proved to be, from most efficient to least efficient at filtration. And for more on masks, check out Wearing This Mask Could Be Worse Than No Mask at All, Study Says.

Read the original article on Best Life.

9

3M 9210 NIOSH-approved N95 respirator

Percentage of particles blocked: 98.4 percent

8

Surgical mask with ties

Medical face masks tp cover mouth and nose on blue background
Medical face masks tp cover mouth and nose on blue background

Percentage of particles blocked: 71.5 percent

And to know what the tell-tale signs of coronavirus are, check out If You Have These 2 Subtle Symptoms, There's a Good Chance You Have COVID.

7

Cotton bandana, folded "bandit" style

man wears bandana over nose and mouth
man wears bandana over nose and mouth

Percentage of particles blocked: 49 percent

6

2-layer woven nylon mask with ear loops

People in masks leaving a cafe together
People in masks leaving a cafe together

Percentage of particles blocked: 44.7 percent

And to find out which places to avoid during the pandemic, check out Almost All COVID Transmission Is Happening in These 5 Places, Doctor Says.

5

Single-layer woven polyester/nylon mask with ties

woman wearing coronavirus protection tying string ties to secure mask
woman wearing coronavirus protection tying string ties to secure mask

Percentage of particles blocked: 39.3 percent

4

Procedure mask with ear loops

Young woman wearing a face mask while travelling by tube to protect from coronavirus
Young woman wearing a face mask while travelling by tube to protect from coronavirus

Percentage of particles blocked: 38.5 percent

And for more symptoms to be on the lookout for, check out The Earliest Signs You Have COVID, According to Johns Hopkins.

3

Single-layer woven polyester gaiter

woman wearing a black gaiter.
woman wearing a black gaiter.

Percentage of particles blocked: 37.8 percent

2

Non-woven polypropylene mask with fixed ear loops

A protective surgical mask.
A protective surgical mask.

Percentage of particles blocked: 28.6 percent
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1

3-layer knit cotton mask

A young woman wearing a face mask in the back seat of a car
A young woman wearing a face mask in the back seat of a car

Percentage of particles blocked: 26.5 percent

Editor's Note: This article has been corrected to accurately state that the least effective masks are cotton knit masks, not cotton woven masks, due to an error in the study that has since been pointed out. "We erroneously referred to the material used in the 3-layer cotton mask tested in this study as 'woven.' It is, in fact, made with a knitted fabric," study author Phillip Clapp, PhD, of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill wrote in a comment on the study. "This is important because … cotton knit fabric is reported to be less efficient in filtering aerosols than cotton woven fabrics. We regret the error, and have requested that the article be corrected."

And for more on when we can stop wearing masks, check out Dr. Fauci Says This Is When We May Be Able to Stop Wearing Masks.