What Makes a Surgical Mask Different?

19/11/2020 Andy Liu

A surgical mask (also called a medical mask), is designed to be worn by healthcare professionals during surgery and nursing, to help prevent contamination of the surgical field or the patient by capturing liquid droplets that are expelled by the user.

Why does the general public also wear surgical masks?

Surgical masks are also popularly worn by the general public in East Asian countries to reduce the chance of spreading airborne diseases and to prevent breathing in the airborne dust particles created by air pollution. 

Now during a deadly global coronavirus outbreak, you never know if the people you encountered are infected or not, as an infected person might not show symptoms for up to 14 days after exposure to this dangerous virus. Therefore, surgical masks are must-haves for all human beings to protect themselves from the splashes of anyone who may be infected. 

In sum, wearing a surgical mask is vital in protecting yourself against influenza and the deadly novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Bear in mind, wear a face mask to avoid infecting others or being infected in public settings like supermarket, bus, taxi, and subway.

How to choose a surgical mask?

There are many kinds of fashion dust masks and ordinary hygiene masks on the market, and they are not effective for coronavirus prevention. Before placing an order, please make sure you purchase 3-ply surgical masks rather than fashion masks, ordinary disposable dust masks or 2-ply hygiene masks.

A proper surgical mask is usually made of three layers, including an outer hydrophobic non-woven layer, a middle melt-blown layer, and an inner soft absorbent non-woven layer. These three layers have their specific functions: the outer layer is intended to repel water, blood and body fluids; the middle melt-blown layer is the critical highlight of a surgical mask, it is designed as the filter to stop germs from entering or exiting the mask; and the inner layer is intended to absorb water, sweat and spit.

The 3-ply surgical mask is as effective as N95 respirators in preventing respiratory coronavirus disease like COVID-19 or viral infections like influenza. 


Differences between surgical masks, fashion masks, ordinary hygiene masks?

As mentioned above, a basic surgical mask is a disposable, 3-ply face mask with a fluid-resistant melt-blown layer. It is mainly intended for healthcare professionals during surgery and nursing and is proven to be as effective as an N95 respirator mask in preventing viral infections like influenza. An N95 surgical mask is an enhanced reusable face mask that combines N95 respirator and an ordinary surgical mask.

Most of the fashion masks made from washable cotton or sponge are reusable, they are mainly designed for air pollution or pollen allergy, but useless against viruses and bacteria.

An ordinary 2-ply hygiene mask made from fabric or non-woven material is also disposable but lacks a melt-blown filter layer, so these face masks are also useless against haze, viruses, and bacteria. 

Obviously, the biggest difference between surgical masks and ordinary face masks is the melt-blown layer in surgical masks.  

How to know if a surgical mask is real or fake?

The 3-ply design is not the distinct feature of surgical masks. There are also some disposable 3-ply non-woven face masks, which look the same as surgical masks although these facepieces have no melt-blown layer. How to tell if your surgical mask is real or fake?

Firstly, tear the face mask down to check if it has 3-ply layers. 

Secondly, check the layers of your mask to see if there is a melt-blown filter layer. 


What’s the difference between N95, KN95, FFP2 and KF94 mask rating?

The N95 mask has a full name of NIOSH-approved N95 respirator, which means these respirators are tested of 95% filtration and certified by the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). And the KN95, FFP2 and KF94 mask is as effective as NIOSH-certified N95 mask with the same filtration efficiency, but are tested by different nation criteria. The KN95 respirator is a particulate-filtering mask tested using the China criteria. The FFP2 is a filtering facepiece score of 94% filter capacity approved by Europe, and the KF94 is tested by Korea criteria.

To simply put, we could put these respirators into an equation as below:

N100 (99.97%) = FFP3 (99.95%) > N95 (95%) = KN95 (95%) = FFP2 (94%) = KF94 (94%) > KN90 (90%).


3 steps help you to identify a melt-blown layer:

1. The melt-blown layer looks very different from the other two transparent non-woven layers, it looks more like a white paper.

2. Different from a paper, the melt-blown layer melts in case of fire but does not flame with very low flammability. Instead, paper burns when it comes to fire. 

3. There is static electricity in the melt-blown layer. If you tear the melt-blown layer into strips, you will obviously feel the electrostatic adsorption effect, and you can also adsorb the melt-blown layer on stainless steel.


Can surgical mask protect you against coronavirus disease?

Many of you might question: how could a surgical mask block the virus with such a melt-blown layer of gaps? As we know, the novel coronavirus is super macro, about 100nm (0.1um), but the virus can not exist independently, it is transmitted mainly from close-contact, secretions, and droplets when sneezing. Since the size of droplets is about 5 microns, and the melt-blown layer is essentially a filter, the droplets containing viruses will be electrostatically adsorbed on the surface and cannot infiltrate the mask. If your mask is properly fitted, the surgical mask will create a basic barrier between your mouth and nose and the viruses.


Types of surgical masks?

According to its functions, the surgical masks includes the ordinary surgical mask and N95 surgical mask. When it comes to the ways to secure the masks, there are three types of surgical masks: ear loop, tie-on, and headband. With a string-like material attached to the mask and placed behind the ears, the earloop surgical mask is the most popular and the easiest to wear. The tie-on face mask features four non-woven straps, the user can adjust the length and tie the straps behind the head. The headband mask has an elastic strap that is secured behind the head so that the mask will not leave any discomfort around your ears.


How to wear a surgical mask properly?

1. Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

2. Cover the mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask (Most surgical masks feature pleats or folds, which are used to allow the user to expand the mask such that it covers the area from the nose to the chin).

3. Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

4. Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks.

5. To remove the mask: remove it from behind (do not touch the front of the mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.


Checkin successfully
Get bonus points:
My Points
Signed in 0Day
Checkin Record
Time Points Detailed description