This Study Shows Which Face Masks Work The Best

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So, you are starting to amass quite a collection of face masks to wear out in public.

Courtesy of Duke Health

You have some that are cotton, some that are 3-ply dust masks, you have cool bandanas, and you even have a couple fleece neck gaiters.

BUT, which face masks work the best? Which are going to protect you AND the people around you from spreading the virus — which is kind of the whole point of wearing a face mask, right?

There was a study done out of Duke University that tested the 14 most common types of masks, using a laser and a cell phone to perform a simple test that will show which masks block those pesky virus causing droplets.

Courtesy of Science Advances

The results were rather interesting, and a bit eye opening.

They tested everything from N95 masks, to cotton masks, to poly blend masks, and of course, that popular neck gaiter.

Courtesy of Science Advances

They had one of the researchers wear each mask, and repeat the phrase, “Stay healthy, people” 5 times into a speaker hole, across a laser beam that was going through a box. They recorded the results with a standard phone camera.

Each mask was tested 10 times, so there weren’t any flukes or errors. They also did a round with NO mask, so they would have a baseline to go from.

Courtesy of Science Advances

The BEST mask? The N95 of course. BUT, three-layer masks — both surgical masks and cotton masks — also tested very well in keeping spittle from getting outside of the face mask.

What is surprising to me — those fleece neck gaiters — which I see SO many people wearing — actually tested WORSE than not wearing a mask at all.

Why is this? Something about the fleece material broke up the big droplets, making them smaller, and dispersing them in large numbers through the mask.


We were extremely surprised to find that the number of particles measured with the fleece actually exceeded the number of particles measured without wearing any mask. We want to emphasize that we really encourage people to wear masks, but we want them to wear masks that actually work.

Martin Fischer, one of the authors of the study, to CNN. 

Also on the low efficacy end of the spectrum were knitted masks and bandanas.


So, I know they are hot and can be claustrophobic, but if you want that great protection, you might just want to go with a 3-ply cotton homemade or store bought mask (if you can’t get an N95 masks, which should be reserved for health care settings).

Stay safe out there, and as Tom Hanks, Jennifer Aniston, and even my daughter say — WEAR THAT MASK!!

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