What are the most common masks or mask alternatives on the market?

With one of the deadliest flu seasons just past us, the continuing spread of coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people should be doing their best to stay at home and wearing face masks whenever you need to go in public.


Right now, N95 respirators are not available to the public as they are being prioritized for hospitals and first responders. If you’re wondering what kinds of masks and respirators you can still get to protect yourself, we’re here with some options. They all offer some level of protection, and with so many COVID-19 carriers being asymptomatic, wearing a mask is good for everyone.


So, what are the most common masks or mask alternatives on the market?


KN95 Masks – Per 3M Safety, these masks are made in China. They offer 95% filtration but not the tight fit of respirators.

FFP2 Masks – The European mask designation for looser fitting masks that offer 94% filtration.

N99 Masks – Masks that are very tight fitting and generally have replaceable filter media, but can offer 95% filtration of particulates.

Respirators – Both full and half-face respirators are tight-fitting over the nose and mouth and rely on various filter cartridges to provide filtration from external contaminants and can be up to 95% effective at protecting against viruses.

Face Shields – Used in conjunction with face masks, these clear shields can help protect against virus transmission according to the National Institutes of Health.

Cloth Face Masks – These are recommended by the CDC to help slow the spread of viruses. Filtration levels vary depending on whether or not filter materials are added to the layers of fabric.

Face Bandanas – These offer varying levels of protection but there’s no test information to indicate just how much. The consensus from health professionals says the thicker the fabric, the better the filtration.