So, you are wondering about wearing a face mask. See our other news entries for expert opinions on whether it's worthwhile doing so. The reasons can be plenty, but we're not here to convince you. If you decide to purchase a mask, we would love for you to purchase it at frugear.com. But even more so, we would like you to be well informed and make the right choice .
But what to look at when acquiring a face mask? Here's the long and short of it.
No time to read all of it and just want the best on the market? This is our best respirator providing all the benefits and ensuring long-lasting protection.
We'll be looking at different characteristics. Class, filter, certification, material and usage. Each entry will include a long and short version allowing you to digest the information you need. Please note that any face mask or respirator will only work as well as your adherence to the usage guidelines. Most importantly, make sure you wash your hands properly before handling any filtering components and refrain from touching the parts which can come into contact with your orifices.
Before we begin, a call on what not to buy.
Do NOT buy surgical masks
- Meant for healthcare workers
- Not suitable for extended wear
- Bad for the environment
Surgical masks and all associated health care components are for health professionals. As this pandemic spreads they are starting to get in short supply. Buying these will decrease the stock needed for the people trying to help all affected.
Additionally, they are intended for short use, not daily extended use. Using these for long periods can severely affect your heating the nasal canal, weakening nasal mucosa and cavity over time.
And, they are intended to be disposable after one-time-use. This means you will need to stock up if you intend to use them daily, as you cannot wear the same mask twice. Not only is this bad for your budget, it's bad for the environment.
So, over all, help your health, wallet, planet, and health care professionals. DO NOT buy surgical masks!
Alright, so we know what to buy. But when we check what to buy, we should know about how we want to use it.
- Commute (and any short-term close vincinity)
- Extended exposure (office, meeting, social gathering)
So, the categories of intended uses are based upon how we interact with others and how long we have to wear the mask. Note these are based on averages and general assumptions. Always think for yourself if your experience is the same as that of the general public. For instance, someone using public transport for half an hour is more common than travelling around the country by train. If you sit for a long time in public transport you should not go for a short-term commute mask.
Talking about commuting, this is our first category. Anyone travelling by public transport will have some short moments of high-density contact with the rest of the commuting population. For these moments, a mask without a breathing valve or replacable filter will suffice. It will not give an optimal breathing experience, but it will make sure you protect (and are protected from) those around you to a reasonable degree. Having a washable mask is recommended to ensure you can use it for your commute every day.
Should you be in close vincinity to others for an extended period of time, it's good to get more comfort. For those days where you have a family event, long meeting or important gathering, you should not feel suffocated half way through. Get something that will get you through the day, but make sure you still take a break from the mask. It is strongly recommended to wear the mask for a maximum of 2 hours and then take a 30 minutes break to let the respiratory system recover. The more fresh air the mask provides, the longer you should be able to wear it.
Now, you would like to run, cycle, go to the gym or perform another sport without endangering yourself or others. This requires different specifications. The material should not loose it's fit based on sweat yet should be able to absorb it or pass it through. You should be able to get enough oxygen during your activities. To have this you really need something with a breathing valve and filter in order to be able to perform. As will all masks though, observe and respect the 2 hour maximum limit. You're heating up your body enough with your activities, do not take it too far.
Of course you would like to look your best as well. We always strive to get stylish looking products in our collection, but we know style is personal. For those willing to trade in a little protection for some extra style points, we have a face scarf as well. Please note this face scarf does not provide the certifications as all our other products do, and as such we cannot vouch for the effectiveness of the product. Some is better than none though, and sometimes you just need to look your best. We get it.
And then there are the little ones. We want to protect them, but these masks are not meant for the young. They can become uncomfortable, or the social pressure makes them take the masks off. Even if they don't, fidgeting at the edges is enough to render much of the protection obsolete. Let alone the risks and dangers associated with putting anything not childproofed near their mouth.
All masks sold here are to be used under parental supervision at all times. But perhaps a more suitable system is more to the liking of the little bugger. Play into their fantasy world and tell them how this is the protection they need. We sell them in both a rugged washable cap-variation for the wild ones, and a non-washable version hat-variation for the kids that stay somewhat clean.
Class, filter and certification
So, that's all great. But what about all these numbers and all. How do I choose between them?
- Always make sure it's GB2626-2006 certified
- PM2.5 is better than PM10
- KN95 is better than K95
- K99 creates a lot of breathing resistance
- It's better to have a disposable filter
GB2626-2006 is the approved particulate respirator to help reduce exposures to airborne particulate, including PM 2.5 and PM 10. It specifies the test methods needed to pass and the technical requirements needed to call itself a particulate respirator (the correct term for a protective face mask). Without this certification, it could be a great working face mask. It could also be a blatant rip-off. No one knows, it has not been tested and approved for the market.
PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which is about 3% the diameter of a human hair. Commonly written as PM2.5, particles in this category are so small that they can only be detected with an electron microscope. PM10 refers to the same as PM2.5 but with a diameter of less than 10 micrometers instead.
PM2.5 is a lot more than just a particle diameter reference. The small particles coming from pollution and nature itself (volcano's for instance) can cause havoc on the human body. It is seen as the main cause of death for millions of people worldwide. Let the short movie below explain.
And then we have N95, KN95 and N99 designations. The 'N95' designation means that when subjected to careful testing, the respirator blocks at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) test particles as per the FDA guidelines. KN95 respirators are the same as N95 masks but also protect against particles which contain oil. Please note the difference.
If, for instance, someone just ate some fish. The fat of the fish is on their tongue. The person coughs, and some virus travelled on the fat, an N95 mask would not be very efficient for preventing the fatbased droplets of coming through.
KN99 respirators will filter out slightly more (4% to be precise) polluted particles but N95 mask offers 50% lesser breathing resistance than N99. It means you can wear the N95 mask for longer duration without feeling suffocated. As such we only offer N95 and KN95 masks.
Some masks have a disposable filter, and some masks only have static filters. As will all filters in all applications, they do tend to get clogged up over time. This will limit the airflow significantly as you continue to wear them. Worse, it could slowly start to tear over time. And there's no way you will notice if PM2.5 particles are coming through at first, yet your protection just went down. Being able to apply new, fresh filters will allow you to get much more use out of the product and keep it in optimal condition. However, make sure you follow the guidelines on replacing the filter. Contaminating a filter whilst fitting it in the respirator will obviously greatly reduce the intended functionality.
So, now that you know all you need to know, have a look at our collection. Or stay tuned for our upcoming blog on the pro's and cons of each mask to put this new knowledge to use!