The most effective face mask to protect against COVID-19

The scientific test

In the fight against COVID-19, which type of face mask offers the most protection?

Scientists at Duke University in North Carolina put 14 different types of masks and face coverings to the test and the results are listed below.

Participants in the study wore one of the coverings before speaking into the direction of a laser beam inside a black box.

Droplets from the person’s breath would then scatter light as they moved through the laser beam. This process was recorded using a mobile phone camera.

The authors of the study said a “simple computer algorithm” was used to count the drops in the video.

And the winning face mask is…

The least effective face-covering in the study was a neck fleece which was found to actually increase the risk of infection by having a “droplet transmission fraction” of 110%.

The most effective face-covering in the study was a fitted N95 mask without valves, available from hygiene2go, which had a droplet transmission fraction of 0.1%.

A surgical mask, like those worn by frontline health professionals, performed second best, while a cotton-polypropylene-cotton mask came in third.

About half of all infections come from people that don’t even know they have the Coronavirus, and face masks prevent the spread of droplets when people talk, sneeze or cough, so it is recommended to wear one that is effective.

The league table of the 14 face masks tested

1. N95 mask, no exhalation valve, fitted (No. 14 in the image below)
2. Surgical mask (No. 1)
3. Cotton-polypropylene-cotton mask (No. 5)
4. Two-layer polypropylene apron mask (No. 4)
5. Two-layer cotton, pleated style mask (No. 13)
6. Two-layer cotton, pleated style mask (No. 7)
7. N95 mask with exhalation valve (No. 2)
8. Two-layer cotton, Olston style mask (No. 8)
9. One-layer Maxima AT mask (No. 6)
10. One-layer cotton, pleated style mask (No. 10)
11. Two-layer cotton, pleated style mask (No. 9)
12. Knitted mask (No. 3)
13. Bandana (No. 12)
14. Gaiter type neck fleece (No. 11)

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