What are the different kinds of face masks, and how well do they work?

In early April, the CDC recommended that all Americans cover their faces when they venture out in public, either with store-bought masks or homemade coverings fashioned from cloth.

Pointing to new studies, the organization said that people who are asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic can still transmit the virus, and masks ‘can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.’

As the month progresses, more and more cities and states are implementing new guidelines, making it mandatory for people to cover their mouths and noses while in grocery stores, banks, public transit, and other public areas.

In his daily press briefing on Wednesday, New York Governor Cuomo issued an executive order that all New Yorkers must wear masks or face coverings in public whenever staying six feet apart isn’t possible.

A week ago, Governor Murphy of New Jersey signed his own executive order, order ing all customers and employees in grocery stores to wear face masks.

Similar rules have been rolled out across California, in Maryland and Illinois, and in other cities and counties across the country. 

With masks becoming a way of life for so many around the US, the different options on the market can see overwhelming. Here, DailyMail.com breaks down what you need to know about the types available and their relative effectiveness: 

Cover up: In early April, the CDC recommended that all Americans cover their faces — and now masks and coverings are being made mandatory in places like New York (pictured)

Cover up: In early April, the CDC recommended that all Americans cover their faces — and now masks and coverings are being made mandatory in places like New York (pictured)

Cover up: In early April, the CDC recommended that all Americans cover their faces — and now masks and coverings are being made mandatory in places like New York (pictured)

The N95 face mask is medical-grade — but the CDC does not recommend these for the general public, calling them 'critical supplies' that should be reserved for medical personnel

The N95 face mask is medical-grade — but the CDC does not recommend these for the general public, calling them 'critical supplies' that should be reserved for medical personnel

The N95 face mask is medical-grade — but the CDC does not recommend these for the general public, calling them ‘critical supplies’ that should be reserved for medical personnel

Though they typically sell for about $1 each, they can now only be found from sellers in China for hugely marked-up prices — like $49.99 for a pack of two

Though they typically sell for about $1 each, they can now only be found from sellers in China for hugely marked-up prices — like $49.99 for a pack of two

Though they typically sell for about $1 each, they can now only be found from sellers in China for hugely marked-up prices — like $49.99 for a pack of two 

N95 respirators 

The N95 face mask is backed by the World Health Organization as suitable for medical use. They’re also regulated by the CDC, OSHA, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

But what does the N95 mean? 

The ‘N’ stands for ‘Not resistant to oil,’ because the mask only protects against particles, not fluids. The ’95’ means it filters out 95 per cent of airborne particles.

Because these masks offer so much protection, they’re used by doctors and nurses in hospitals who are caring for sick patients.

But due to shortages, the CDC does not recommend these for the general public, calling them ‘critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders.’

With even medical professionals struggling to get their hands on enough N95 masks — and being forced to re-wear them, which can diminish their efficacy — few members of the American public will have these for themselves.

They usually sell for about $1 each, with stores like Home Depot selling packs of ten for $10.69 and packs of 20 for $14.99.

But N95 masks are sold out from nearly all stores and websites, with availability limited to international sellers, mostly in China.

Those are being sold at marked-up prices, like $49.99 for just two on Amazon. 

These disposable surgical masks offer some protection to users against respiratory diseases

These disposable surgical masks offer some protection to users against respiratory diseases

These disposable surgical masks offer some protection to users against respiratory diseases

Disposable surgical masks 

 

The best known type of medical face mask, known as a surgical mask, is proving to be the most popular during the pandemic.

Doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers are now instructed to wear these types of masks as a minimum at all times when working near confirmed or suspected coronavirus patients.

They are considered effective enough for most staff outside of intensive care, or for those who are not inserting or removing breathing equipment.

Although they don’t have built-in air filters, the masks can stop droplets of liquid, which are how the majority of the COVID-19 viruses are spread.

These masks are disposable and are not intended to be used more than once.

When worn properly — with the nose clip bent to fit snugly to the nose — they form an effective barrier against some particles. However, because of the loose fit — and the fact that the material gapes at the sides — they can not protect against all germs.

These masks can, however, still be found online, and are also labeled as isolation masks, dental masks, or medical procedure masks.

CVS sells packs for 50 for $12.49, and Walmart sells packs of 20 for $2.97. Amazon also has several options ranging in price, though most delivery estimates are for May. 

Cycling masks can also provide people with a layer of protection from airborne particles

Cycling masks can also provide people with a layer of protection from airborne particles

Cycling masks can also provide people with a layer of protection from airborne particles

This mask is for sale for £11.99 on Amazon

This mask is for sale for £11.99 on Amazon

This mask is for sale for £11.99 on Amazon

Cycling masks

While cycling masks remain untested regarding coronavirus, they are intended to provide a layer of protection from airborne particles.

They are designed to stop cyclists breathing in pollution when they ride through areas with heavy traffic.

They contain an air filter for this purpose, but are not regulated to the same standard as medical face masks so provide varying levels of protection. 

These can greatly range in price, from just $7.20 for a Wolfbike Anti-Pollution City Cycling Mask on Amazon to $44 for a Vogmask design.

But like N95 and surgical masks, these are hard to come by, with sporting good stores that would normally carry them sold out.

Though some are still available for purchase — particularly from websites like Amazon, which allow for third-party sellers — estimated ship dates go as far out as June, with some brands admitted they don’t know when they’ll be able to fulfill orders. 

This valved gas mask is claimed to match up to the highest filtration standard

This valved gas mask is claimed to match up to the highest filtration standard

This valved gas mask is claimed to match up to the highest filtration standard

This rubber-sealed, military-looking mask is for sale for £29.87 on Amazon

This rubber-sealed, military-looking mask is for sale for £29.87 on Amazon

This rubber-sealed, military-looking mask is for sale for £29.87 on Amazon

Respirator gas mask 

Perhaps the most dramatic-looking option of all masks is the gas mask respirator.

These are generally used by people spraying paint or other chemicals that would be dangerous to inhale, or those who are working in hazardous environments.

The masks have built-in valves fitted with filters, which may be able to keep out droplets carrying the coronavirus.

RDDUSA, a military surplus site, has options from $69.90 to $184.70.

Amazon has various gas masks  for as low as $16.99, but it’s unclear how effective they are

Meanwhile, MIRA Safety is selling military-grade options, including one developed in cooperation with Czech Army specialists for $229.95. 

Cloth masks 

Many difference brands have begun producing fabric face masks (pictured: Alice _ Olivia's $10 option)

Many difference brands have begun producing fabric face masks (pictured: Alice _ Olivia's $10 option)

Many difference brands have begun producing fabric face masks (pictured: Alice _ Olivia’s $10 option)

Kenny Flowers has three-packs for $24 which will also ship later this month

Kenny Flowers has three-packs for $24 which will also ship later this month

Kenny Flowers has three-packs for $24 which will also ship later this month

Since the outbreak began and masks started flying off the shelves, several big brand, smaller brands, and brand-new brands have started making their own face masks out of fabric.

Designer Alice + Olivia is selling protective masks with her iconic ‘Staceface’ pattern for just $10, with pre-orders expected to ship at the end of the month. 

Kenny Flowers has three-packs for $24 which will also ship later this month, while Citizens of Humanity‘s $25 five-pack are estimated to ship the week of April 20.

Meanwhile, Birdwell Beach Britches is doing a ‘buy one, give on’ program from $19.95: For each mask purchased, the brand will donate one to CORE, a non-profit providing free drive-through testing for high-risk individuals. 

Dozens of others brands are making masks in a variety of styles, prints, and colors, while countless Etsy sellers are offering their own homemade versions.

Of course, these masks are not medial-grade, and may not be effective in close contact with someone carrying the virus — so other precautions like social distancing and limited trips outside should still be strictly ovserved.

And because these masks are reusable, they should be washed regularly.

Many people are opting to make masks at home, or are simply wrapping scarves or bandanas around their mouths and noses

Many people are opting to make masks at home, or are simply wrapping scarves or bandanas around their mouths and noses

Many people are opting to make masks at home, or are simply wrapping scarves or bandanas around their mouths and noses 

T-shirts, bandanas, and scarves 

Many people are opting to make masks at home using cloth or other materials.

Helpfully, the CDC has published a how-to guide for people to make their own out of t-shirts or bandanas.

These masks are unlikely to prevent someone from catching the virus, but they could stop them from spreading it.

Since people who are infected may not show symptoms, widespread use of masks of any kind can help slow down the spread.

While European researchers have suggested that these may not be effective — saying that up to 90 per cent of particles can make their way through the fabric — many officials are taking a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach.

To that end, the CDC has offered these guidelines for a homemade mask: They 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, and be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.

The CDC has a how-to guide on its website for how people can quickly and easily make face masks out of t-shirts and bandanas

The CDC has a how-to guide on its website for how people can quickly and easily make face masks out of t-shirts and bandanas

The CDC has a how-to guide on its website for how people can quickly and easily make face masks out of t-shirts and bandanas

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