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  • Zita Huang

Which Types of Masks Are Most Effective? An Article Based on a CBC Marketplace Study

Throughout this pandemic, one of the most essential practices used to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 is masking. Whether it is going to the doctor’s office, grocery shopping or attending school, masks are required everywhere. There are many types of masks and all were manufactured with different materials. But is there a difference in the performance of these masks? Are there certain masks better than others? Does material play a factor? This article will explain all that!

*NOTE, this article is written based on the studies conducted by CBC News and the University of Toronto. All data and images from this article reflects the ones from those institutions and as well as the Government of Canada website. Links are provided at the end of the article. The studies were conducted based on each mask’s seal, fit and material.

The Most Important Thing - The Fit!

Regardless of the mask type, if the mask does not fit, do not wear it and find another one. The purpose of a mask is to limit the amount of infectious particles travelling through or out of the mask. For instance, if the mask does not fit the nose area, particles can travel out of the mask from the opening.

Tip - if you wear glasses and they tend to fog when you wear a mask, your mask does not fit


Best Masks To Use

Blue Surgical Masks - (disposable surgical-type masks with non-woven polypropylene)

These blue surgical masks are incredibly effective at preventing

infectious particles from spreading in the air. In the studies conducted, the mask blocks particles from escaping, as it has no openings or pores.

Three Layer Masks with Non-Woven Polypropylene

& Cotton

This mask is also extremely effective at preventing particles from spreading in the air. This three-layer mask is made from two layers of cotton and a layer of non-woven polypropylene in between. Like the blue surgical masks, they block particles from travelling through the mask.

This mask almost works as well as a medical N95 mask.

Very Effective Masks

100% Cotton Masks (600+ Thread Count)

The effectiveness of cotton masks can vary based on their thread count. A higher thread count of the mask results in better quality because there are fewer pores in the fabric. Thread counts of 600 and above are effective at limiting particles travelling through the mask. Cotton masks with high thread count and multiple layers are the most effective cotton masks on the market!


Cotton Masks with Inner Layer of Polypropylene (non-woven filter)
Double Layer Polyester Masks + Layer of Polyurethane

Fairly Effective Masks

100% Double Layer Silk
100% Three Layer Cotton Masks (Pleated)

The Least Effective Masks

Single Layer Polyester Gaiter Masks

Gaiter masks are not effective at preventing the

spread of infectious particles in the air. The fabric has large pores which can lead to particles escaping through the mask. In addition, this type of mask is produced using extremely thin material. Gaiter masks are not fitted and secured to the head or ears. As a result, it is likely that the mask could slip out of place.

If you do not have any other mask, Health Canada recommends the gaiter should be folded into two layers and include a filter between the layers. The mask must cover the nose and mouth.


Bandana masks are one of the most ineffective masks on the market. Like the gaiter mask, bandanas are very ineffective at preventing tiny particles from spreading in the air. Bandanas are made out of extremely thin materials. Also, like the gaiter mask, bandanas do not

properly fit on the head and the ears.

If you do not have any other mask, Health Canada recommends the bandana should be folded into two layers and include a filter between the layers. In addition, it should also cover the nose and mouth.


100% Double Layer Rayon Masks
100% PET, 95% Cotton,
100% Polyester

Masks To Not Use

Valve Masks

This mask is extremely ineffective. Valve masks have visible

openings where infectious particles flow out in large quantities. This mask does not decrease the potential of viruses in the air and does not protect anyone from COVID-19. In addition, Health Canada does not recommend anyone to wear a valve/vent mask.

Face Shields - (when used alone)

These face shields cannot replace face masks, however they can only be worn with a face mask. The purpose of a face shield is to protect the eyes. Wearing it alone does not protect one from infectious respiratory particles.

Information used for this article:

CBC Marketplace (featuring the University of Toronto) YouTube Video:

CBC Marketplace Article:

Government of Canada Website - Non-medical masks;


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