The Differences Between N95s, Surgical Masks, and Cloth Masks

The Differences Between N95s, Surgical Masks, and Cloth Masks

After examining research on the coronavirus, the CDC concluded that many people infected with the virus lack symptoms but can still spread the virus. Any form of close contact runs the risk of transmission.

However, close contact doesn’t mean you need to physically touch someone to spread the virus. The virus spreads through aerosol particles and droplets. Aerosol particles are small enough to be carried through the air, such as through speaking or breathing. Droplets are larger liquid particles that don’t travel far, and are produced by coughing or sneezing.

To counter this, the CDC recommends wearing face coverings when other social distancing measures can’t be practiced. Amidst the pandemic, a face cover is an essential piece of personal protective equipment for everyone. However, all masks are not equally effective at confining the coronavirus. Generally speaking, there are three common types of face covers, but they all have their pros and cons.


The Differences Between N95s, Surgical Masks, and Cloth Masks

These masks are essentially respirators. They filter out 95% of the particles (aerosol and droplets) in the environment while you breathe, speak, etc. These are the most effective form of face wear, as, other than filtering the air you breathe, they’re fitted to minimize leaks of unfiltered air.

Despite this, the CDC does not recommend using them. These masks are designed for very infectious environments, which many people will likely avoid. Doctors and other healthcare workers, however, work in these environments, so the masks should be reserved for them. Other kinds of masks are easily available and provide adequate safety for the general public.


These masks are more common than N95 masks. They’re disposable and do not have to snugly fit your face to be effective. These masks are effective protection against droplets produced by coughing, sneezing, etc. However, they do not protect against aerosol particles, produced by speaking, breathing, etc. That being said, if you expect to be in close contact with a coronavirus patient, then a surgical mask will not suffice.


These masks are the recommended kind for the public. They offer protection from droplets, though not aerosols, and are disposable. However, these masks need to be used in tandem with other social distancing measures. If you’ve minimized the time you spend outside the house and maintain sufficient distance from other people, a cloth mask is enough.

These masks offer sufficient protection from droplets. You don’t have to worry too much about contracting the virus through aerosols. Generally, air-borne transmissions are very unlikely in open environments. If, however, you are in an infectious environment, consider buying an N95 mask. For the average person, however, a cloth mask will suffice.

During the pandemic, we understand if you’re hesitant to go outside and look for personal protective equipment. Even if you aren’t, many people want this equipment, and the virus can quickly spread through a crowd. Instead of risking your health looking in crowded shops, check out Safety 1st PPE to buy face masks and any personal protective equipment online.

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