Until this year, most of us had never bought a face mask, but since the COVID-19 crisis it's become a must have item for pretty much every single living soul on our planet. These days you can find all kinds of masks at pretty much any price online, in supermarkets (and pretty much anywhere you look). Yet, it's important to know the difference in mask types and what to look out for when you want to buy a good mask.
Medical or non-medical masks
First of all there is the distinction between the masks medical workers wear and the masks the rest of us is supposed to wear. Medical masks usually have to attain to certain standards depending on their use. The masks we've all heard most about the past months are N95/FFP2/KN95 masks. These masks are worn by medical workers that come in close contact with people infected by the coronavirus. These masks filter out 95% of all virus particles and are considered completely safe against the coronavirus. The most common medical masks though are the light blue or white surgical masks that are mainly used to protect medical workers from inhaling small drops of saliva while in close contact with their patients. Yet those don't really give offer good protection against most viruses. This same type of mask also exists for normal civilians, yet usually those are not regulated or certified so you never really know what standard of protection they provide. The one thing all the above mentioned masks have in common is that they are single-use masks. You are not really supposed to wear them for longer than 4 hours and they should be safely thrown away after use. The fact those masks are also mostly made out of synthetic materials makes them extremely polluting and terrible for our planet if everyone would start wearing those all the time.
Fabric reusable and washable masks
The more sustainable and recommended option for most of us would be to wear a fabric face mask. But also here, not all fabric masks are equal. The most important consideration you need to make is how good you want it to work. A light cotton mask may look good but might not protect you very well. All it does is providing a buffer to prevent virus particles from spreading very far when sneezing or coughing. If you really want to protect yourself you need a mask that fits well (preferably with a nose-bridge you can adjust) and that has a filter. Many masks can be equipped with replaceable filters but those are just as bad for the environment as the normal single-use masks and should also be replaced each day to be safe. Therefore we advise people to get a fabric mask with built-in washable filter like the cuvcov face cover. This type of mask offers up to N95 grade protection (just like the best medical masks) and can be easily washed or disinfected with soap or disinfectant. They are not only the most sustainable but also the safest option for normal civilians.
CUVCOV face covers use our proprietary technology with a mix of in total 5 different layers of woven and non-woven fabrics. The mix of densities and static qualities make it possible to filter out up to 95% of all particles smaller than 0.3 micron. This is small enough to provide adequate protection against most viruses and bacteria and similar to the filter capacity of the best medical masks. Yet, be aware that cuvcov face covers are not considered medical masks and should also not be used in a medical context.
Valve or no valve
You may have noticed that some masks come with a valve, others don't. These valves are made to make breathing out a little easier and to reduce the build-up of humidity inside the mask when breathing out. This can be very handy when you use the face cover/mask all day long, but doesn't protect the people around you when you happen to be sick because the air you breathe out is not filtered anymore. Many governments ask people with a mask with a valve to actually tape the valve when using it in crowded areas so you also protect the people around you.
It's important to choose a mask that fits you well. A mask that is too big may be uncomfortable and a mask that is too small may not protect you well. Ideally a mask should seal the face, yet fabric masks are usually not providing the same tight seal as for instance a medical N95 mask, because comfort is also of importance with those masks. Especially people with strong facial features might have a hard time to really find a mask that seals perfectly, yet once again, try to get the right size (our size guide is in our FAQ) and only get masks with an adjustable nose bridge to make the mask fit better on your nose.