Cloth Masks vs. Surgical Masks vs. N95 Masks
Researched by our Public Health Educator Sameerah Wahab.
The CDC currently recommends that everyone wear some kind of face mask when venturing outside. While they aren't specifically recommending one type of mask over another, the difference between wearing a cloth bandana versus a surgical or N95 mask is significant.
Certified face masks are hard to come by right now, so many people are making do with what they have and tieing bandanas to their faces or making homemade cloth masks. While these homemade solutions are technically better than nothing and may provide some protection against large respiratory droplets, they, unfortunately, do almost nothing in terms of air filtration (which is what will protect you from an aerosolized virus).
Here's a quick comparison of the rate of air filtration offered by cloth, surgical, and N95 masks.
- No Face Mask = 0% air filtration
- Cloth Bandana = 1-2% air filtration
- Surgical Mask = ~30% air filtration
- N95 Mask = 95% filtration
As you can see, cloth masks are not effective at providing air filtration. The best thing you can do to protect yourself and those around you is to practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently, and wear certified disposable face masks.