Face Mask Review
To keep us safe in these weird times we bought three of the most popular face mask designs, wore them extensively while going about our daily routines and wrote up the results in case they are useful.
All of them got a big tick for being a mask but only one was comfy enough for all day wear and made us feel suitably protected.
- Masks with ear loops and a Velcro fastening at the back are all day comfortable
- Breathing valves let the hot air out, keeping the mask cool and your glasses not steamed up
- N95 standard filters can trap up to 95% of particles
- PM2.5 describes really small particles
- Read up on how to put them on safely - here's a handy video
What Is It?
It's a clever two layer system which costs roughly £20. The inside filter is the bit that does all the work, capturing small particles. Each filter has two large holes for attaching it to the outer mask with two twist together valves; the valves securely click into a locked position.
There are four filters in the pack and it takes seconds to switch over to a fresh one, meaning each filter can sit quietly in a corner for three days before being used again.
The two valves allow air out but not in. When you breath out the hot moist air is easily released, but when you breath in they clamp down and the new incoming air is forced through the filter. Like the outer layer the valves are easy to wash and dry quickly.
Directing customers at a garden centre front door - May 2020
Finally, the black outer layer is what makes the system work well. There is a pinch to fit nose clip for a tight seal, ear loops to keep the mask in place while active and an adjustable Velcro fastening at the back.
Most mask designs put all the load on the ears, which soon become sore, but this one distributes it evenly on the back of the neck.
The cover is a kind of woven plastic mesh which is soft, flexible, easy to wash and quick to dry. All of these attributes make it comfy to wear all day, easy to breath through and easy to clean overnight so it's ready for the next day.
- Loads of people ask about it and where to get one from
- The filter covers your whole mouth and nose
- Super breathable with two valves
- As comfy as a mask can be
- Really easy to clean
This design is slightly more expensive but oh so worth it for the all day comfort and easy breathing.
What Is It?
It's a fabric mask contoured to match your face for a good fit, held in place with two elastic ear loops. They are roughly £5 each and are usually purchased in packs of two.
Inside there's a sleeve to accommodate a rectangular filter which is larger than it looks in the photos.
Despite placing all the load on your ears this design is actually quite comfortable. Not all day comfortable, but totally fine for the odd trip.
- Comfortable for short periods
- Loads of designs available
- Adjustable ear loops
- Cheap filters
Compared to a home made face mask we would go with this all day long and it's good value. There's a downside though and that's how easy it is to breath through it.
Short periods were absolutely fine but extended periods or trying to do heavy lifting with it soon highlighted the issue.
What Is It?
It's an N95 standard filter with a couple of elasticated ear loops and an adjustable nose clip. They are usually sold in packs of 5 to 10 and cost roughly £1-£2 each.
- The nose clip gives a really tight fit
- Reassuring level of filtration
- Cheap to purchase
We use it for the weekly shop with roughly an hour of wear at a time and felt reasonably safe with it on. The only issue we encountered was fogging up our glasses when entering a hot supermarket from the cold Scottish weather outside.
What Is An N95 Filter
The N95 standard means that the filter traps 95% of particles in the air passing through it, ranging from really small particles like pathogens to larger particles like dust. Think of it like firing arrows through a wood - a few might make it through but 95% will hit something and end up stuck in the wood.
N95 filters are usually constructed from a number of different layers sandwiched together, with a skin friendly layer last. Each layer attempts to trap different sized particles in different ways while still allowing enough air flow for you to breathe easily.
Check out this interesting tear down video of a premium 3M N95 respirator mask, complete with a microscope view of each layer.
What Does PM2.5 Mean
PM stands for Particulate Matter and 2.5 refers to the size of the particles. They are so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye and are 25 to 100 times thinner than a human hair.
Larger particles like dust, mould and pollen are refereed to as PM10 but there are plenty of smaller particles floating around in the air we breathe like viruses and nasty exhaust emissions.