A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems like we’re finally seeing that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccine distribution is on the rise, businesses are opening up, and families and friends are reuniting again.
Despite those positive advancements, medical experts and scientists still urge citizens to take precautions and continue to wear masks for the foreseeable future.
This brings up a new question: Is one mask enough, and does double masking help decrease the risk to you or those around you?
Since early 2020, masks have proven what scientists and medical experts have always known: best practices and guidance can shift as more research is reported.
Masks have been credited as being a reliable tool in the spread of COVID-19. By the start of 2021, news headlines left many of us wondering if we should double down and wear two masks.
Are two masks better than one?
Wearing a mask is reported to help prevent coronavirus transmission, and many factors affect efficiency. To answer the “two-mask” debate, we’re going to cover two of the most important indicators of effectiveness: fit and layers.
Masks are often sold as “one-size-fits-all” products, and if you’ve tried on more than one over the last year, then you know that’s likely not the case. Some are too large or too loose, while others may not be large enough to cover your mouth and nose without creating gaps.
Any mask you wear should fit snug against the side of your face, eliminating spacious openings that can draw in outside, un-filtered air. In some cases, two masks can provide such a fit.
In February 2021, the CDC released their Maximizing for Cloth and Medical Procedure Masks to Improve Performance and Reduce SARS-CoV-2 Transmission and Exposure report.
This report catalogs the results of several mask scenarios, including a single surgical mask, a single cloth mask, and both masks combined. It also looked at the impact of mask alterations, specifically knotting the ear loops and then tucking in extra material where gaps typically occur.
Here’s a highlight of the results:
- A surgical mask alone blocked 56.1% of particles, the cloth mask alone blocked 51.4% of cough particles
- A surgical mask that has been knotted at the ear loops and tucked in on the sides increases protection from 56.1% to 62.9%
- A cloth mask combined with a surgical mask that has been knotted and tucked can block up to 85% of cough particles
These findings suggest that if you’re wearing a basic cloth mask or a surgical mask, and you want to increase protection for yourself as well as those around you, double masking and/or the knotting and tucking method can help you increase protections.
There are other ways you can increase your protection without doubling down.
Other best practices to find the right mask for you:
- Look for masks with an adjustable nose wire, which can be snugly fitted to your nose to prevent unfiltered air from moving in or out of your mask.
- Consider a mask brace or fitter, which can be used to improve the fit of a loose surgical or cloth mask.
- Purchase masks that have adjustable straps or use the knot and tuck method discussed above.
- Consider the mask makeup. Some materials, like iconic silver and copper, offer antibacterial properties that can eliminate common mask concerns, like bacteria build-up or mask-related acne.
When officials say you shouldn’t double mask
There are a few times that health officials say you should avoid double masking.
If you’re wearing a KN95 or N95 mask, there’s no need to double up. Both offer significant protection, and wearing two isn’t necessary—it also may be harder to breathe. You should also avoid doubling up on surgical masks, as you won’t benefit from the snug fit that a cloth and a surgical mask combo provide.
Looking for a great mask to meet your needs? Here are our top TRU picks:
- Heavyweight Mesh Pleated: If you’ve considered double masking, this mask will save you the trouble. Two layers of 99.99% pure ionically-plated silver mesh and an additional layer of antimicrobial silver jersey material are combined to give you three layers of breathable protection.
- Pure Silver Cup: Secure and snug fit made from 99.99% ionically plated ripstop nylon that includes an adjustable and moldable nose-bridge to get a tight fit.
- Copper & Silver Face Mask: This mask includes a layer of 99.99% silver mesh as well and a 100% pure copper exterior. With the antimicrobial benefits of pure silver and the disinfectant properties of copper, this mask offers more than dual layers.
Check out our entire mask collection to find the right mask for you and your family.