Effectiveness of Masks


Photo provided by: Ashley Weston

These six masks were variables in an experiment to find which masks would work best, done by a Duke study. The N62927 and surgical mask worked the best just as any masks with 2-3 layers of cloth.

Ashley Weston, Staff Reporter

Due to  the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is obligated to wear masks. The factors that make masks the best and the worst are  important to know. The Center of Disease Control (CDC) has recommendations and guidelines for masks so people can choose the masks that guarantee everyone’s safety.

Research done on different materials and layers of masks have shown that the amount of layers can determine how well the mask works and how many times it can be worn before needing to be changed or cleaned. While research is still being done, current data shows the benefits of each mask and proves which masks actually work. The ideal amount of layers a mask should have according to the CDC is two or more, and both should be washable and breathable. Materials that make it hard to breathe such as vinyl or non-disposable masks and cannot be washed are discouraged. 

“Having multiple layers on a mask does ensure safety of an individual, so yes,” sophomore Alyzandra Liston said. “Not having enough layers does not feel right and does make me think I can catch the virus easily. But if I had a one layered mask, the layer would have to be thick.” 

There are multiple tricks that can be done to see if a mask is effective. Trying to blow out a candle is a good method to test a mask. While wearing a mask and blowing onto the candle, the candle should not be extinguished but if it is then the test fails and testing a second mask put on top of the first may pass. If the second candle test makes it difficult to breathe, a new mask is recommended.

“I tried the candle trick,” junior Juliana Figueroa said. “I put my mask on, lit a candle and tried to blow it out. The candle flame was barely going out and that showed me that the mask was really good.”  

When washing cloth masks, there is a correct way to remove the mask, specifically by folding it with the outside in to avoid touching the part exposed to the air. Afterwards, the mask can be machine washed with heated water and dried at the highest temperature. Masks should be washed regularly, depending on the type of mask. 

“It is important to understand that temperatures of around 140°F to 150°F are enough to kill most viruses.” AP/Honors Chemistry Teacher Francis Moxie said. 

 “Since we know that COVID-19 represents a virus strain, making sure that we wash our items with hot water is a way to ensure we are sterilizing fully.