The pandemic has caused an emergence of multiple face mask options on the market. The most common options are disposable surgical masks and cloth masks. But are these masks really protecting you against the virus? 

Cloth masks are categorised as a fashion item, and thus they do not have to undergo any testing before being sold. While they have been accepted as an option when it comes to complying with Government regulations around mandatory mask wearing, there is limited knowledge of how much they can actually protect you from getting the virus. 

Unlike AMD P2 masks, which are required to undergo rigorous testing before being sold to ensure that they have a PFE (Particle Filtration Efficiency) of over 94%, cloth masks are not tested for PFE, so it’s hard to know how much protection they really offer you.

Particle Filtration Efficiency refers to a mask’s ability to filter out particles so that you are breathing air that is free of particles of the virus that may remain in the air. This has become increasingly important with the Delta strain, as it is so contagious you can contract the virus by simply breathing the same air as someone who is infected. With Delta Plus and other new mutations popping up around the world, having a mask that has high PFE is of utmost importance.

A recent scientific study discovered that particles of the virus can remain in the air for more than 16 hours, due to the virus’s high aerosol efficiency. And while AMD P2 masks protect against these particles by offering a PFE of 99.66%, cloth masks offer significantly less protection.

Don’t just take our word for it – the Australian Government has released a fact sheet outlining the different levels of protection offered by various masks. And as you can see from the table below, fabric face coverings have limited evidence for protection, meaning that there is no guarantee that it offers protection against fluid or airborne transmission.

Source: Face Masks: How they protect you and when to use them

Even surgical masks were determined to have limited protection against airborne diseases when compared with P2 masks, as they are mainly used for protection against fluid transmission. 

Reusable cloth masks vs. disposable masks

As we re-enter the community, it is still mandatory to wear masks in crowded places such as shopping centres and public transport. There are still hundreds of active cases being announced everyday, and while there are Government regulations in place around being fully vaccinated and self-isolation after testing positive, these measures are hard to enforce.

Because of this, it is recommended that you stay masked up and continue to socially distance. But if you are using a reusable cloth mask rather than a P2 mask, as much as it’s better for the environment, it requires a lot of maintenance to provide proper protection against the virus.

The Government fact sheet about face masks states that the effectiveness of reusable face masks requires proper cleaning. This involves washing your mask after every use – either by hand or in a washing machine – and drying it in fresh air or in the clothes dryer. Additionally, after handling your used face mask, you should clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser. 

Let’s be honest, you probably don’t wash your cloth masks after every time you use them. The maintenance involved with ensuring that your cloth mask is properly disinfected in between uses isn’t very practical for everyday usage compared with P2 masks, unless you have multiple cloth masks, and even then, washing and drying your mask can be a time consuming process. 

But failing to properly clean your mask can significantly decrease its effectiveness against the virus, and the water and electricity generated by constantly cleaning your reusable cloth mask isn’t so great for the environment either. 

The Infection Control Expert Group (ICEG) compiled this fact sheet about whether cloth face masks were likely to provide protection against the virus. They found there was limited, indirect, experimental evidence that cloth masks could reduce transmission of respiratory droplets, and they are significantly less efficient than P2 masks. 

A study of 1600 healthcare workers that they randomised to wear cloth, medical, or no masks found there was a higher rate of clinical respiratory infection, influenza-like illness, and laboratory-confirmed viral infections among the cloth mask wearers than those wearing medical masks.

Cloth vs. P2 masks

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also weighed in on this topic. In their paper, Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19, they found that the lower filtration and breathability standardised requirements, and overall expected performance, indicated the use of cloth masks should only be considered for source control – meaning used only by infected individuals – and not for prevention against the virus. 

This means that cloth masks are only really recommended to prevent people with the virus from infecting others. And considering that infected persons are mandated to self-isolate from the community, how useful are they really?

Unlike AMD P2 masks, which are fit-tested to ensure they can provide an airtight seal around the mouth and nose, cloth masks do not offer the same security. They are not required to undergo the same testing as AMD P2 masks, and have limited evidence for protection against the virus. And any studies that have been conducted have determined that they offer significantly less protection than medical masks such as our AMD masks 

Health and safety has become paramount in the context of the pandemic. With four layers of protection and a Particle Filtration Efficiency of 99.66%, AMD P2 masks provide the assurance that every time you put on your mask to head out into the community, you are taking the right measures to protect you and your family. 

Our AMD P2 respirators have been tested by VICLAB (BSI) 17.7.20 to ensure they offer a PFE of 99.66% as well as a BFE of 99.92%. You can learn more about our testing standards here

Eschewing the science and the protection levels for a second, in a direct head to head comparison, the fact that AMD P2 respirators utilise nanofiber technology that has been proven to retain less heat and humidity, will be far more comfortable and breathable.

A good thing to remember is that these are Australian made P2 masks. AMD manufacture locally and kept the Australian climate in mind. As we head into summer and try our best not to burn ourselves on the unfathomably hot car seats and seatbelts, ask yourself – would you rather have a mask that’s light, breathable and keeps you safe, or a heat trapping, soggy piece of cloth?

Purchase a box of 50 AMD P2 respirators here