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Not All Masks Are Equal: Melt-Blown Masks vs. Cloth Masks

With the COVID-19 pandemic still ever present and prominent in the United States, people need to learn the best way to protect themselves as stores and events start to slowly open up throughout the country. 

Americans are itching to get outside, but that can prove to still be extremely detrimental to themselves and their families if they aren’t careful about the way they protect themselves. 

We’ve all heard it already: 

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often!
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other people when in public- the farther away, the better!
  • Wear a mask when you go outside to protect yourself as well as the others around you! 

Since I know all of those things, what’s the problem? 

Even if you’re correctly doing the first two points in that list, the problem is that people glaze over that last point. Most Americans are unaware of the type of masks that are actually effective against protecting oneself from the virus. When you go out to the store, you’ve likely seen a majority of individuals wearing bandanas, pulling their t-shirts above their nose to cover themselves, as well as a plethora of cloth masks that were sewn at home. You might have heard that anything is better than nothing and put on a variety of cloth masks and clothing pieces yourself when you’ve gone out. But it is a dangerous assumption that cloth masks are able to protect yourself when you’re out in public.   

What does the MN Department of Health say about cloth masks?

The Minnesota Department of Health has said that wearing hand-sewn cloth masks “May reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus by the wearer, but they are not proven to protect health care staff or patients.” They have also said that these masks are not to be used by people who are sick! These masks are not FDA-regulated and do not protect the individual wearing the mask. 

What are the limitations of cloth masks?

These cloth masks are regarded as “alternative masks” and have many limitations. 

  • They are not regulated by the FDA or the CDC and do not protect the wearer from COVID-19
  • Breathing into cloth masks builds up moisture, thus making it harder to wear as time goes on
  • These masks need to be washed and sanitized very regularly
  • You must avoid touching the mask while wearing it
  • These should be used as a last resort option if do not have access to any better options

If you can’t wear cloth masks, what type of masks should you be wearing? 

The National Center for Biotechnology Information conducted a study on the Microbial Filtration Efficiency of Surgical Face Masks and concluded that “the result was obtained that the disposable mask made of glass fiber mat combined with non-woven fabric proved to be the highest in performance with a B.F.E. of 98.1-99.4%. It is useful both in preventing hospital infection and in general clinical practice. The B.F.E. of the conventional cotton cloth masks is not only lower but variable over a wide range of 43.1-93.6%.” 

Melt-blown masks are high quality masks that are meant to protect both the general public as well as the wearer. 

It’s true that cloth masks provide some level of protection for other people around you, but if you’re looking to protect yourself from contracting the virus as well, it is necessary that you not only abide by all of the other tips that the CDC has relayed, but also that you know what the right type of mask to wear is. 

What are Melt-blown masks? 

Melt blown masks are the same filter material used in N95 and KN95 medical masks.  This is the layer that actually filters small particles.  Coronaviruses, and all other viruses, are very small, and cloth or fabric masks offer little filtration.

Conclusion

If your job requires you to come back now that stores and businesses are slowly beginning to open up again, or you’re the president of an organization that needs to ensure the safety of your employees, or even if you’re just an individual that needs to get out to get groceries, melt-blown masks are the best type of mask to ensure that not only the others around you, but that you yourself are safe. Cloth masks are the least effective type of mask when it comes to protecting the spread of the virus, so if able, wear melt-blown masks to ensure the safety of yourself, your family, and the people around you.

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