This is the sixth blog in a series on Stay Safe During The Pandemic.
What are the 5 best ways to test your mask? Do you know? What are the most important things, the top tips, to look for to choose a good face mask? What are the important things to do to properly fit and wear a face mask? How many layers should a face mask have?
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Sept. 25, 2020 by Deborah Esplin
Top 5 Ways to Test Your Mask
1. The Candle Test
This test looks at whether you can make the flame of a candle move or even go out. It is not a completely reliable test for aspects of mask efficiency. With this test, you can see if your mask is stopping or slowing down the flow of air, but it is not as reliable for. judging how well the mask will stop coronavirus particles.
A COVID-19 virus is up to 140 nanometres in size, and 10,000 of the virus can fit on the head of a pin. That is a small particle. It is small enough to pass between the holes in the mask, however, if the airflow is reduced, then the movement of viral particles through the mask will also be reduced.
You will need a lit candle and your mask. Put on the mask and make sure that it fits tightly over the nose and cheekbones and is positioned under the chin. get about 6 inches or 15 cm away from the flame. Take a deep breath in and blow out as hard and fast as you can. See if the flame moves. If the flame moves, you can stop. This means that your mask is somewhat effective at reducing airflow but not to an ideal point.
If the flame did not move, get 3 inches or 8 cm away from the flame and blow again. If the flame did not move then you have a mask that is effective at cutting airflow.
2.a. Water Permeability Test on the Outside of the Mask
This test is for disposable masks and masks that are supposed to have a water-resistant coating on the outside. This is to make it harder for moist air, that could contain COVID-19 particles to pass through the outer layer of the mask.
You will need a glass of water and an eyedropper.
Take the mask and drop a couple of drops of water on the outside of the mask. The water should bead and not soak in. If the water soaks in then you do not have a good mask (with the exception of cloth masks that do not have a water-resistant coating. This test does not apply.)
2.b. Water Permeability Test on the Inside of the Mask
The inside layer of the mask, which touches the skin, is supposed to be water absorbent. This way the moisture in your breath will be absorbed by the material and less of the moisture will pass through the mask to the world outside.
Take the mask and drop two drops on the inside. You should see the water being absorbed and not beading.
3. The Light Test
This test is to see how tight the weave is in the materials used to make the mask and to see how much light passes through the mask. Good masks will have a tight weave, which means smaller holes, and less light will come through all the layers.
You will need a flashlight or a strong light source. Take the mask and put it over the flashlight with the outside of the mask visible. Can you see the holes between the weave? If so, you do not have a mask with a tight weave.
Turn the mask over and put it against the light with the inside out and see if you can see holes between the weave.
Was the mask reducing the strength of the light or was the light passing through as strong as if the mask was not there? If the mask does not cut the quantity of light coming through a little, then that is not good. It means the weave is too loose.
4. Layer Count And Thickness Test
Ideally, a mask should have 3 layers. Disposable masks are made of three layers: the outer layer made of non-woven, water-resistant material, the middle layer which is a melt-blown plastic and it has a tight structure to capture particles, and the inner layer which is water absorbent and should be comfortable against the skin.
For the disposable masks, the middle layer should be fairly thick and you should not be able to see holes in the material or see through the material
For a fabric mask, it is also recommended that the mask have three layers or two layers and a pocket for a filter. Many health care professionals prefer 100% cotton but some masks are also made with a polyester/cotton blend. However, the mask is more comfortable if the layer next to the skin is our cotton.
For fabric masks, the fabric should be woven, not knitted, and it should be thick and have a tight weave. However, a very thick fabric can make it harder to breathe and make the mask hotter. It is a compromise between comfort and protection. That is why several layers are recommended.
5. The Burning Test
This test only applies to disposable masks. Cut the mask in half and take a match to the cut edge. Does it melt or burn slightly or does it catch on fire and burn with a flame?
Disposable masks are supposed to be somewhat fire-resistant and should rather melt instead of burning with a bit flame like a piece of paper. The more your mask burns, the less fire-resistant it is.
Here are two YouTube videos where I researched some of these tests:
5 Top Tips to Choose a Face Mask
A. The tightness of the weave is very important. Get a facemask with a tight weave that does not stretch. If you can see the individual fibers and spaces in between the fabric is not thick enough or tight enough. Fabric with a thread count of at least 180 is recommended.
B. Do not get a mask made of stretchable material. As the material stretches the spaces between the fibers open up and the holes get larger. Therefore, the mask becomes less effective at reducing airflow and potential virus contamination of other people.
C. The mask should be multi-layer. Three or four layers is recommended or two layers with a filter in the pocket.
D. If you have a filter pocket, put a filter in the pocket. Face mask filters, pre-cut to fit most masks, are available on Amazon. If you do not have filters that come with your mask, you can take two kleenexes and fold them in half to make 4 layers and use that as a filter, or as a last resort, you can use a paper towel folded in half and cut to shape.
E. You need to have a snug fit of the mask. It should not be loose over the nose or cheekbones and it should not keep sliding down your face and off your nose. The better the fit, the more effective the mask is.
If you have problems with the fit and snugness of your mask you can cut a section of pantyhose and wear it over your mask. This may look and sound strange, but it will help hold the mask in place and tight against your face.
You can also buy double-stick skin tape that is made to tape cloth to skin. Here are two options of tape:
Some of the top reviewed and popular masks on Amazon are presented below.
EnerPlex Premium 3-Ply Face Mask, 3Pack This mask comes in three colours and four sizes and includes a sizing chart. The reviews are very good. The mask goes high up the nose so it is less likely to cause the fogging of glasses.
Safe+Mate with Back Strap & Filter Pocket, 3 Pack. This mask has ear loops and a strap around the back for increased comfort. There is a filter pocket and you can purchase filters separately for the pocket.
Euroca Face Masks with Filter Pocket, 2 Pack & 4 Filters. This mask is made of cotton and has adjustable nose clips and ear loops. It has very high reviews for comfort and fit for all sizes of faces. The mask is reusable and comes with filters for the pocket.
Check out the companion video here:
Check out the other posts on this topic of How To Stay Safe During The Pandemic.
Check out posts on other topics here: Blog Table of Contents.
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