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Understanding the difference between cloth mask, surgical mask & N95 mask

by Paul Petersen

Earlier, surgical masks and respirators were sported almost exclusively by workers whose work required them. But during the coronavirus pandemic, several kinds of defensive face covering became an increasingly common sight in public areas. These masks raises a question: what is the difference between N95 masks vs. respirators vs. cloth masks vs. dust masks vs. surgical masks? 

  • Cloth Masks

People recommended that people wear cloth face coverings in public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, irrespective of whether they have a fever or other COVID-19 symptoms. There is proof that COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms. Wearing cloth masks assists slowing the spread of the virus, which is chiefly spread from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when we sneeze, cough or talk. Paul Edalat suggests cloth face coverings in stores and other places where social distancing is hard to maintain, particularly in areas where there is noteworthy community-based transmission.

  1. While cloth masks can assist prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases, they are not regarded personal protective equipment (PPE).
  2. Cloth masks are meant to be reused and cleaned, while disposable N95 respirators and surgical masks are not.  
  3. Cloth masks are simple to make at home and are available readily in the market. On the other hand, N95 respirators and surgical masks cannot be made at home and are considered critical supplies.
  • N95 Respirators

N95 respirators are typically disposable and are commonly referred to as filtering facepiece respirators. Filtering facepiece N95 respirators provide more protection against airborne particles than cloth face covers or surgical masks, as they are meant to be tight-fitting and can sift both small and large particles, including aerosols. N95 are tight-fitting. Usually, wearers should pass a fit test to verify a correct seal before using one.

Experts like Paul Edalat says that if possible, it is always suggested to replace N95 or KN95 face masks.

Proper decontamination and disinfection of N95 or KN95 face masks is complicated business. You need to inactivate the virus without compromising the fit and filtration of the mask.

  • Surgical Masks

Also known as medical masks, these masks are wobbly-fitting, disposable masks for the mouth and nose. They are meant to be worn by healthcare workers. They are fluid defiant and guard the wearer against large droplets, sprays, and splashes. They also capture the wearer’s respiratory droplets, assisting to guard patients against contagion.