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4 Hacks And Tips To Make Your Face Mask More Protective

With new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus spreading in the U.S., and transmission levels still very high in many places, some public health experts recommend that Americans upgrade from the basic cloth masks that many have been wearing during the pandemic.

Ideally, we would all be wearing medical-grade N95 respirators – so-called because they block out at least 95% of particles when worn correctly. But even now, N95s remain in short supply for consumers, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still says they should be reserved for health care workers.

Luckily, there are other ways to seriously boost the protection your face mask offers. Here's how.

Make Your Face Mask More Protective

1. Wear two masks

Start with a surgical mask closest to your face,  and then add a cloth one on top. You want a surgical mask made out of a nonwoven material called polypropylene, because that material holds an electrostatic charge that allows it to trap particles.

The downside of surgical masks is that many of them fit loosely — and a mask's ability to filter out particles depends partly on how well it seals to your face. By layering a cloth mask on top, you can achieve a tighter fit while also adding an extra layer of filtration.

But don't keep piling on masks,  just one additional mask is plenty. If your masks become too hard to breathe through, air will leak in and out through the sides instead.

Even if you start out with two masks that are each only around 50% effective at blocking out particles, when you layer one on top of the other, you can end up with a combination that is 75% effective or more.

Double-masking is especially important for people in specific circumstances: adults who work in crowded indoor environments and medically vulnerable people who are going into indoor spaces in areas with high transmission.

2. Add a filter

If doubling up just isn't your thing, you can achieve a similar boost in filtration efficiency by wearing a two-layer mask with a pocket for a filter. The outer layers should be made of a tight-weave fabric.

Suggests using a surgical mask in the filter pocket. (You can cut the surgical mask to fit the pocket if need be.) She says HEPA filters cut out from the filters used in portable air cleaners work very well (here's her how-to video); a PM2.5 carbon filter should also do the trick, as long as it is flexible.

And for a homemade option, research has found that two facial tissues, folded over to form a four-layer filter, can also do a decent job of boosting a mask's protection. But please, don't reach for a coffee filter.

3. Choose a better cloth mask

When it comes to cloth masks, look for a fabric with a tight weave. Multiple studies have shown that 100% cotton is a good bet (think dress-shirt cotton or quilter's cotton rather than a t-shirt).

Natural fibers in cotton tend to have more three-dimensional structure than synthetic fibers, which are smoother. And that 3D structure can create more roadblocks that can stop an incoming particle. That said, filtration tests have shown that some masks made of other fabrics, like an engineered knit, can be highly effective.

Also look for three layers in your mask: Studies have shown that a three-layer mask made from tightly woven fabric work well.

4. Make your mask fit tighter

To maximize your mask's effectiveness, make sure that it fits snugly over your mouth and nostrils, up to your nose bridge and that you don't see any gaps. And please, don't let your nose hang over your mask – that defeats the purpose!

A mask's filtration efficiency varies depending on how well it conforms to your face, Researchers found that the surgical masks they tested blocked out just 38.5% of small particles on average when worn normally. But filtration efficiency jumped when they tried various hacks to make the mask seal better.

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Disposable Medical Face Mask

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Disposable N95 Mask Material: 5 ply Non-woven fabric Color: w

Disposable N95 Face Mask

Disposable N95 Face Mask

Disposable KN95 Face Mask Material: Needle punched cotton+Mel

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