Decoding myths around Face Masks

Decoding myths around Face Masks

By now we’ve heard plenty about face masks. Some people erroneously believe masks are useless in the fight against coronavirus, while others falsely think they’re the silver bullet solution to squashing the virus. The truth, however, lies somewhere in between.

Let’s discuss some of the prevailing myths about masks, some of which may risk our lives at this very moment.

Myth #1: The N95 respirator and a Surgical mask offer similar protection

Fact: They are meant for different purposes and hence provide different types of protection. N95 respirators are designed to be worn in a contaminated environment to reduce the wearer’s exposure to airborne contaminants such as micro- dust and fumes. They’re designed to filter out 95% of air-borne contaminants up to 3 microns.

On the other hand, Surgical masks are intended to be worn in a clean and sterile environment such as Operation Theatre, Clinical Labs etc. They protect the patient and the doctor from infections due to accidental exposure of saliva, respiratory secretions and body fluids. They have a loose fit, filter only large air-borne particles and have substantial inward leakage for particles and organisms.

Conclusion: N95 is the recommended mask for COVID protection.

Myth #2:  Masks with Valves are better

Fact:  The ‘Valve’ is actually meant for exhalation and not for filtration! A valve permits minimal inward leakage of air-borne contaminants during inhalation and provides low resistance during exhalation. Hence, masks with valve is recommended for use only by uninfected people for prolonged use e.g. in an industrial setting.

Masks with valve should not be used in public places as asymptomatic users will effortlessly breathe out COVID virus through the exhalation valve. For this reason, hospitals have banned entry of valve masks in the hospital premises.

Conclusion: Wear Valved mask ONLY if you’re confirmed COVID Negative to avoid accidently infecting others around you

Myth #3: Masks can be washed and reused

Fact: Only cloth masks can be washed and re-used. However, they’re effective for most industrial contaminants and only partially effective against COVID-19. N95 masks have a special lining to remove up to 95% of all industrial and biological contaminants. Washing these masks destroys the lining making them ineffective and uncomfortable to wear. So, these are not meant for washing and reuse.

Conclusion: Do not wash N95 masks. If they have been worn only for a short while, you may disinfect them with alcohol-based spray sanitiser.

Myth #4: Disposable masks must be thrown out after each use

Fact: Masks are hard to come by these days and must be used optimally until their recommended usable life. In general, disposable masks are meant for continuous use for 8 hours. So, if you wear a mask only for 2 hours while stepping out, do not throw it immediately afterwards. Remove your partially used mask by ear-loops and hang it at a safe place where it cannot accidentally contaminate others. You can re-use it during your next trip outside.

Conclusion: Do not throw away your mask after every use. Disinfect them between uses with alcohol-based spray sanitiser.

Myth #5: 4 Ply masks are better than 3 Ply

Fact:  The 3 Ply mask has three layers, of which the middle layer provides a high level of static filtration that effectively block micro-dust and bacteria.  A 4-ply face mask has an added layer of activated carbon filter which removes odours and organic vapours. It is generally used for special industrial situations. So, 3 Ply is suitable for general purposes of infection control.

Conclusion: A certified N95 mask 3-ply mask is all you need for general safety.


We hope that this article will assist you while selecting the correct mask for yourself and your family. Do spread the good word around so that everyone makes the right choice without spending unnecessarily.

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