If you are wearing this type of face mask, it is not protecting you from COVID-19

The face mask has gone through much turmoil amid the global coronavirus pandemic. At the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, medical professionals told us we did not have to wear masks in public. Now medical professionals say that we can reduce the spread of the virus by wearing masks when we are around others.

While it’s not mandatory around the country, we all know that we definitely should wear a mask, but the topic of where to get one remained less clear. Should we make our own mask? Should we buy medical or construction masks? Should we buy one from one of the many companies now selling masks?

Thankfully, researchers have finally answered our questions about the non-medical face mask. A new study, done by researchers at Florida Atlantic University, compared different types of non-medical face masks to see which material provides the best protection.

“While there are a few prior studies on the effectiveness of medical-grade equipment, we don’t have a lot of information about the cloth-based coverings that are most accessible to us at present,” said lead researcher Siddhartha Verma. “Our hope is that the visualizations presented in the paper help convey the rationale behind the recommendations for social distancing and using face masks.”

The study, published last week in the scientific journal Physics of Fluids from AIP Publishing, used a mannequin to determine how well each different type of mask blocks droplets as they exit the mouth. The researchers also used a laser to detect droplets as the mannequin sneezed and coughed in order to map the path of the droplets.

The team studied four different kinds of face coverings: a bandanna, a cone-style mask used at pharmacies, a handkerchief, and a mask made from a t-shirt.

Which non-medical mask is most protective?

The study found that the t-shirt and handkerchief masks are more effective at reducing droplets than the bandanna face covering. The loosely folded face masks and bandanna face coverings are able to reduce the distance traveled by a droplet from a cough by 1/8 and 1/2, respectively, compared to an uncovered cough.

While these coverings are able to reduce the distance traveled, the study found that bandanna face coverings and other loose-fitting masks are less effective, allowing up to 50% of the droplets from the nose and mouth to pass through.

On the other hand, the more effective masks can reduce the number of droplets significantly. The study described the most effective masks as “well-fitted homemade masks with multiple layers of quilting fabric” in addition to “off-the-shelf cone style masks.”

The effectiveness of the face covering has to do with the type of fabric used.

“If you take a look at the fabric, the individual threads are relatively thick, and all of it is very tightly woven together,” Verma wrote. “That’s why it was able to stop the droplets from spreading out too far.”

Where can you get a protective mask?

  1. DIY face covering. You have probably had to make your own face mask at some point amid the coronavirus pandemic, but was it as effective as it could be?
    Two layers of high-quality, heavyweight quilter’s cotton with a thread count of 180 or more is the best you can do for a homemade face mask, according to researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Health. Researchers suggested creating a double-layer mask with a cotton outer layer and flannel inner layer.
  2. Buy a face mask online. From Etsy to Amazon,  there are tons of places you can buy a face mask online. But with these new guidelines, you want to be sure you are getting a face covering that will actually be effective at protecting you.
    Lapcos, a popular K-Beauty brand, has come out with a mask that will protect you from contracting coronavirus while it also protects your face from sun damage. The mask is 99.9% UV protective and reusable. The mask can be worn daily to help deter the spread of airborne germs.
  3. Buy a face mask in-store. Face masks are so popular now that you will most likely see them for sale in every store you go to –including the grocery store. When buying a mask, remember to look for one that is made from cotton with a thread count of 180 or more. A double-layered mask is even better.

Jennifer Fabiano is an SEO reporter at Ladders.