Face Mask types and their differences: Surgical, FFP1, FFP2, FFP3, and more

The pandemic which is raging on has made one thing very clear – we have to get used

to wearing the face-mask in the near term, at least till we get an effective vaccine. Lockdown is not a practical solution for the long term and we have to carry on with our daily schedule of work. So the only option remains that we have to wear face masks, whether we like it or not for any reason. This scenario means that it is now extremely important to understand the different types of face masks available in the market and which is most suitable for our needs.

Face masks and their effectiveness is subjected to great debate all over the globe. The use of face-masks has been encouraged by many countries and in some places, they have been made mandatory. In some countries, it is even difficult to find any type of mask, leave alone whether it is FFP2 or FFP3 or N95, KN95. On top of unscrupulous practices followed by many businesses have made it imperative that we must understand what we are buying and whether it will protect us and others or not and how.


FFP3 masks and more: features of different face masks on the market

There are many types of face masks available in the market which have been listed below.

  1. Fabric hygiene masks for non-medical use
  2. Surgical masks
  3. PPE masks (FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 masks)
  4. N95 and KN95 masks (similar to FFP2)
  5. Filtering masks


1.Fabric hygiene masks for non-medical use: washable and re-usable


Fabric hygiene face masks or dust protectors are washable and reusable and generally used for non-medical hygiene use. They are not certified by any authority, which effectively means anybody can prepare it with any kind of fabric. During the current times of the world wide pandemic, when there is a huge demand for face masks, many businesses have side-lined their core business and jumped in the bandwagon of making fabric face masks. It is , no doubt,  important to protect ourselves by wearing a fabric barrier that allows us to breathe easily while preventing the spread of contagious droplets. One must wear these face masks in a way to completely cover the nose and mouth and has to keep a safe distance of at least two meters from other people. These types of masks are compliant with the WHO recommended hygiene measures. The fabric face masks are low-cost version protective barriers that can battle against the spread of the virus.


2.Surgical masks: useful for protecting the people around you from possible infection


The most commonly used face mask is being used as a protective gear during the COVID-19 pandemic is the Surgical face masks. These masks are normally blue in color and are usually worn by doctors, nurses and dentists. The surgical masks have been designed to protect patients from potential contact with bacteria and viruses exhaled by the wearer. The surgical masks have a very high exhalation filtering efficiency of 95% due to which they are considered best in limiting the spread of saliva droplets expelled when the user talks, coughs or sneezes. These masks are also referred to as altruistic masks because although they can effectively filter the exhaled air, they have proven not so effective in filtering the air which is being inhaled.


Summarizing, the surgical masks are effective in preventing the spread of the virus, but it is ineffective in protecting the wearer. So, the wearer must ensure to keep a two meter gap between other users in a public place. One must ensure that surgical masks must completely and continuously cover the nose and mouth. The surgical face masks are designed for single use, which means that once they become wet, roughly after four hours of use, they must be disposed of.


3.FFP3 and FFP2 masks: personal protective equipment for fighting the coronavirus


FFP2 and the FFP3 face masks are worn by the Medicare professionals in the hospitals and other medical facilities. They are referred to as PPE gear (personal protective equipment). FFP is the acronym of Filtering Facepiece. The EN 149 standards document formulated in 2001 has set guidelines for the minimum performance criteria for structural stability, efficiency, biocompatibility and breathability. As the standards, the numbering scheme of FFP1, FPP2, FFP3 refers to the filtration efficiency of these masks. FFP standards, namely FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3, are used for protective respirator masks certified by the EU and FFP certified filters serve to protect against particulates such as dust particles, droplets, and aerosols.


FFP1 mask is the least filtering of these with a minimum aerosol filtration percentage of 80% and maximum internal leak rate of 22% It is usually used as a dust mask to protect one from dust from silica, iron ore, coal, aluminum, zinc and cement. It is not suitable for filtering bacteria or viruses. 


FFP2 mask is better than FFP1 in the sense that it comes with a minimum aerosol filtration percentage of 94 % and a maximum internal leak rate of 8%. These masks are prevalent in the foundries, glass industry, construction, pharmaceuticals and agriculture. It is very effective in filtering powdered chemicals suspended in the air. It also protects from respiratory viruses such as bird flu, COVID-19, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), as well as against the bacteria which cause pneumonic plague and tuberculosis. It is considered very similar to the N95 mask.


FFP3 masks are considered to be the best as it comes with a minimum aerosol filtration percentage of 99% and maximum internal leak rate of 2%. Although it gives protection against very fine particles like ceramic and asbestos, however, it is not effective against gases and, in particular, nitrogen oxide.


Studies have shown that valve less FFP2 and FFP3 are the most effective face masks for protection against the COVID-19. Masks with valves are not recommended as they expel the exhaled air with filtering.


No doubt, FFP3 gives the highest level of filtering, their main drawback is that they are uncomfortable when a user wears them for longer periods. Another drawback is that their lifespan is very much limited. FFP3 masks are designed to give protection for six hours after which it’s filtering efficiency is not guaranteed, so they have to be disposed of in a safe manner.


4.N95 and KN95 masks: similar to FFP2 masks, these offer a high level of protection to medical staff


The face masks with N95 and KN95 certifications are guaranteed to American (N95) and Chinese (KN95) guidelines separately. The standards for N95 and KN95 are very much similar but not identical to EU certifications of FFP2. In order to consider these masks to be compliant to FFP2, they must have a CE mark. The CE mark signifies that the filtering efficiency of the mask has been tested and certified as per the EU standards. Summarizing, if the N95 and KN95 masks carry the CE mark, it means that the efficiency of filtering the micro dust particles, bacteria and virus is equivalent to FFP2 masks.


5. Filtering masks: a high level of protection plus reusability


A filtering mask is a new kind of mask which has recently been released in the market.  It has been designed after taking comfort as one of the key factors without compromising on the protection. This mask combines the high filtration efficiency and comfort as the two primary factors and it’s manufacturing process uses advanced technology. It comprises a nanofiber filter that guarantees 90% filtering capacity of fine dust and harmful bacteria. Additionally, it is coupled with a reusability factor as it can be washed in a machine at 60 degrees.


It’s availability in attractive patterns and colors is the icing on the cake. In other words, the filtering mask comes with eye-captivating designs without compromising on the protection and can be used multiple times, making it cost-effective, thereby reducing the waste associated with a single time use face mask. 


6. Summer masks: lightweight and triple layer filtering fabric


With the arrival of hot and humid summer weather, traditional masks can be heavy and irritating to be worn. To avoid these you can choose masks with lighter filters in the market, made of multilayer fabric that can effectively protect you and ones around you from infection. Triple Layer Pro masks are available in the market made from a three-layer material that provides excellent lightness and breathability even during the summer months. These masks are not only lighter, but have adjustable elastic bands for superior fit and comfort. Moreover, these masks have a certified micro-particle filtering capacity of over 90%. The ability of nanofibers present in one of the three layers of these masks to block harmful micro particles makes these masks very effective.


The mask can be conveniently washed at home in a washing machine at a temp of 60 deg and reused several times. In addition, since antivirus masks have now become an essential face gear during the pandemic and hence are manufactured taking care of the aesthetics. There are more than 150 motifs and decorations that users can choose to apply to their Pro Triple Layer mask. Besides, users also have the option to customize it with their logo or a design of your choice The colorful, reusable, highly filterable solution helps individuals to protect themselves comfortably even in summer.

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