What Kind of Face Masks Are There and Which Do I Need?

Questions about face masks are becoming the new normal in the world of coronavirus. When are face masks mandatory? Do you need a filter? Are they reusable? All valid questions and hopefully, we can answer some of them here. Before you go out to buy your mask, take a look through our quick guide to find out which is the best for you.

Non-Medical Cloth Mask

  • For members of the public
  • For crowded spaces where distancing isn’t possible
  • Not to be worn for extended lengths of time

On one end of the scale, we have cloth face masks that are not required to meet any official regulations. Many people are making their own at home. They offer some help in catching water droplets from the wearer’s breath or coughing, but they have no specialised filtration properties to filter out harmful particles.

From the 15th of June, it will be compulsory in the UK to wear a face covering on public transport. The government currently suggests that a scarf would be enough but the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends wearing a face mask with at least 3 layers of fabric.

It’s important to remember that cloth face masks should not be worn for a long time. If they become wet or dirty in anyway, they should be changed. These masks may be reusable but they must be washed between each use.

Respirators

  • Filters out harmful particles being breathed in
  • For workers in unclean air environments

At the other end of the scale, we have Respirators – also known as Filtration Face Pieces.  Unlike the others in this list, respirators are designed to protect the wearer and are made to meet PPE standards. In Europe, this standard is EN149 and respirators are categorised as FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3 masks.

Their main function is to filter out harmful particles that a wearer might breathe in. Respirator masks may or may not include a valve but they will always be closely fitted to the wearer’s face. They need to create a seal between the mask and the wearer’s skin in order to offer the best protection.

While they do offer protection against harmful infections, respirators are also used by construction workers and people who work in environments where the air is generally unclean

Medical Grade Surgical Mask

  • For infection control
  • Disposable and single-use only
  • Made to meet international standards

Medical masks offer a middle-ground for people who need something more substantial without quite the need for a respirator. These masks have much higher filtration rates than a cloth mask and are subject to international standards to prove that they are fit for purpose. They are intended for health professionals and to aid infection control in the general population.

In Europe, medical masks must be made to meet EN 14683 standards. They are known as Type I, Type IR, Type II, and Type IIR masks. Type I masks have a Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE) of equal or greater than 95%, while Type II masks must reach a BFE of 98% or more. An ‘R’ indicates that these masks are also splash resistant. Here at Bluetree Mask Box, we offer Type IIR masks – splash resistant and a higher BFE.

Medical staff should obviously be prioritised for these mask supplies, however the WHO recommends that they should ideally be worn by others too. For example, they should be worn in crowded places where distancing isn’t possible, or by anyone over the age of 60 when they are out of their home. That’s why we have brought manufacturing of these masks into the UK – to tackle the shortage crisis and ensure that everyone who needs a medical mask has access to one.

If you fall into the Medical Face Mask category, we can help you with your next step. As the first manufacturers of medical grade face masks in the UK, we can offer unparalleled reliability in your supply chain. Get a regular supply of Type IIR masks every month with subscriptions starting from only £12.50 – find out more here.