New study shows which face masks are most effective in curbing COVID-19’s spread

August 13, 2020

At the top of the list are those that should be reserved for medical professionals, but nearly as effective were multi-layer fabric masks that may be found online, in a boutique, or even made at home.

By Regence

You’ve heard it from public health officials, government leaders and probably even your own doctor: One of the best ways to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to wear a face mask. As recently as mid-July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended this for all Americans over age 2.

COVID-19 is spread primarily through respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. The CDC now estimates about 40 percent of people infected with COVID-19 have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all – but they can still transmit the virus to others.

Masks of all types can be found everywhere: surgical masks, homemade masks, designer masks, athletic-inspired masks. It can be hard to know what to choose.

With so many to choose from, which mask is best?

Recent research by ScienceAdvances shows some masks are much more effective in filtering out these respiratory droplets.

At the top of the list are those that should be reserved for medical professionals – N95 and surgical masks. Nearly as effective were masks available to all of us: double-layer polypropylene masks (many disposable, non-medical masks are made from this material) and triple-layer fabric cotton-poly-cotton masks that may be found online, in a boutique, or even made at home.

What types of masks to avoid?

  • N95 masks with exhalation valves – these are designed to restrict air coming in, but not going out. These provide no protection for those around you.
  • Neck gaiters may be worse than not wearing a mask at all. The research showed they actually break up bigger respiratory droplets into smaller ones that are likely to hang in the air longer.
  • Bandanas and knitted masks – single-layer cotton, knitted masks, or masks made from thin, stretchy material.

New research shows wearing a mask may also protect you

And, it turns out wearing a mask may not just be an act of goodwill toward others. Recent research soon to be published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine suggests wearing a mask may protect you from a severe case of COVID-19 or from contracting the virus at all.

Wear a mask and remember the basics

You can also protect against COVID-19 and other viruses by doing what you’ve heard for months, but it works: wash your hands regularly, avoid close contact with those outside your household, and regularly disinfect household surfaces used frequently.  

Learn more about how to care for yourself and your family during this unprecedented time by visiting