Face masks: Everything you need to know

Your hub for buying and wearing face masks and deciding which is the best mask for you, as well as all the latest face mask news.

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Shop for masks – Which is the best face mask for me?

Mask typeReusableDisposableFilters air?Readily available?Average price

  • No
  • Yes
  • Yes
£1.80 per mask
Cloth mask

  • Yes
  • No
  • No
£7 per mask
Surgical mask

  • No
  • Yes
  • No
£0.80 per mask

How to wear a cloth face mask

Cloth face coverings should:

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops
  • Include multiple layers of fabric
  • Allow for breathing without restriction

How to fit your mask properly

When putting a mask on, a tight seal should be created against your nose and mouth. If you’re using a medical mask, follow the instructions provided with your mask for a correct fit. In all cases, test that a seal has been created by exhaling heavily. Air should not escape through any cracks. If a seal hasn’t been created, re-fit and test again.

How to remove your mask properly

First, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before putting on or removing your mask. When you’re ready to take it off, do not touch the front of the mask – it could be contaminated. Instead, remove it carefully using the ties or ear loops. Put the mask straight into the wash if it is re-usable, or discard it, before washing your hands again.

Popular mask certifications compared

Example Conforms to Minimum filter efficiency requirement Maximum total inward leakage requirement Maximum permitted inhalation resistance Maximum permitted exhalation resistance Stockists
N95 an n95 protective face mask USA: NIOSH (42 CFR 84) 95% N/A 3.43mbar at 85l/min 2.45mbar at 85l/min Stockists
FFP3 an ffp3 protective face mask EUROPE: EN 149:2001+A1:2009 99% 2% 1.0mbar at 30l/min
3.0mbar at 95l/min
3.0mbar at 160l/min Stockists
KN95 a KN95 protective face mask CHINA: GB2626 95% 8% 3.5mbar at 85l/min 2.5mbar at 85l/min Stockists
FFP2 an ffp2 protective face mask EUROPE: EN 149:2001+A1:2009 94% 8% 0.7mbar at 30l/min
2.4mbar at 95l/min
3.0mbar at 160l/min -
FFP1 an ffp1 protective face mask EUROPE: EN 149:2001+A1:2009 80% 22% 0.6mbar at 30l/min
2.1mbar at 95l/min
3.0mbar at 160l/min -
P2 a p2 protective face mask AUS/NZ: AS/NZ 1716:2012 94% 8% 0.7mbar at 30l/min
2.4mbar at 95l/min
1.2mbar at 85l/min -
DS2 a DS2 protective face mask JAPAN: JMHLWNotification 214, 2018 95% N/A 0.7mbar at 40l/min (with valve)
0.5mbar at 40l/min (no valve)
0.7mbar at 40l/min (with valve)
0.5mbar at 40l/min (no valve)
DL2 a DL2 protective face mask JAPAN: JMHLWNotification 214, 2018 95% N/A 0.7mbar at 40l/min (with valve)
0.5mbar at 40l/min (no valve)
0.7mbar at 40l/min (with valve)
0.5mbar at 40l/min (no valve)

Sources: Smart Air, 3M, Health and Safety Executive

How to make your own face mask

If you want to make your own face covering, guides like this one from the New York Times outline the steps that can have you wearing a cloth mask in an hour or two. If you have a small swatch of fabric about the size of a napkin, shoelaces, scissors, and a needle and thread, you can make a mask without additional supplies.

Guide to choosing a face mask

Dr. William Li, a bestselling author and president and co-founder of the Angiogenesis Foundation provided Finder with tips on selecting a face mask:

  • Get a mask made of at least 2 layers of fabric to prevent respiratory droplets from being passed through from either side.
  • Choose a mask that has a good fit for your face, covering your nose and mouth with as little air leak around the sides as possible. If there’s a bendable metal strip for the bridge of the nose, that can help create a better seal.
  • Make sure the mask can easily stay attached. Ear loops or ties are convenient features.
    “Find a mask that is comfortable,” Li says. “You need to be able to breathe reasonably comfortably while wearing it.”
  • “Surgical masks are now easier to find and a good option,” Li adds. “They have been effective in keeping infection rates low in hospitals.”

    What’s the difference between a surgical mask and an N95 mask?

    Face mask graphic

    Should I share a mask with my family?

    No. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t be sharing a mask with anyone. Even if it is your partner or child and you live in the same household, this is something you shouldn’t do. As the virus can spread so rapidly, extra measures need to be taken and good hygiene practices need to be adopted. Sharing a mask will reduce the effectiveness of this preventative measure.

    What are type 2 face masks?

    Type 2 face masks are medical face masks made up of a protective 3 ply material that prevents large particles from reaching the wearer. They are not effective when blood or bodily fluids are present, however. They are usually designed in a pleat style with ear loops or ties.

    More guides on Finder

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