Over the past few weeks it has been impossible to get away from hearing people talk about face masks and face coverings in the news and online. Where as previously the sight of someone in a mask was rare it has become more and more commonplace in the past weeks.

At the time of writing, the current guidelines recommend face coverings or masks to be used in enclosed public spaces and on public transport. This means that as we move further through this lockdown process we can expect to see more masks in use and more and more of us will need to think about face coverings when out and about.

But what are the different sort of masks available and what are the differences? We have put together this article to help explain the differences of the masks available to help you choose the right type of mask for you as well as advice on how to wear a dispsoable mask hygienically and effectively.

Surgical and Respirator Masks

There are two main different types of protective masks available and each of these are separated into different classes, each offering varying degrees of protection.

Medical Face Masks

These are your traditional style of medical face masks and those which you would be most used to seeing as they are usually worn by dentists, doctors and other professions where one would come into close contact with another person. They are usually blue in colour and are looped around the ears or tied at the back of the head.

These masks are designed to offer 'outgoing protection', this means that they will help capture bodily fluid and bacteria leaving the body.

These masks offer a basic yet effective level of protection from airborne bacteria and viruses which makes them ideal for wearing in situations of low-risk such as shops or public transport. They are available in 3 different classes.

  • Type I

    These are the lower end of the scale offering up to 95% bacterial filtration efficiency.

  • Type II

    When compared to the Type I masks, Type II's are very similar but offer up to 98% bacterial filtration efficiency. This increase gives you slightly more peace of mind when out and about about the effectiveness of your mask.

  • Type IIR

    Type IIR masks are the most effective of all Medical Face Masks available. As well as offering 98% bacterial filtration efficiency (the same as Type II masks), these masks also offer splash resistance which makes them more suited to enclosed inter-personal spaces.

Respirator Face Masks

These masks offer the most amount of protection available from a mask. Designed to be tight to fitting and create a facial seal, these masks provide two way protection by filtering both the inflow and outflow of air (unless it is a valved version which merely filters the intake). Unlike Medical Face Masks, Respirator Face Masks are designed to protect the wearer rather than just others. These masks are primarily designed for use within a medical or care environment due to their high filtration system and the close proximity within which the wearer will be getting with others. Again these masks are available in 3 standard classes.

  • FFP1/P1

    These masks have a filter capacity (i.e a filter which will remove a percentage of all particles that are 0.3 micros in diameter or larger) of at least 80%.

  • FFP2/P2

    The filter capacity for these masks must be at least 94%. These masks are the closest to the US equivalent of an N95.

  • FFP3

    The FFP3 offers at least 99% of filter capacity.

  • P3

    This is the highest rated mask standard in the UK and offers at least 99.95% filter capacity.

It should be noted that while the higher FFP and P rated masks offer a high level of filtration, they are not necessary for all users and not for the day to day lifestyle most of us enjoy. When looking at which type of mask to purchase it is wise to look at your day-to-day activities and purchase accordingly.

How to Wear a Medical Mask

When it comes to wearing a Medical Mask it is important to follow the correct procedure for putting on and taking off your mask safely and hygiencially. We have put together the following guide to help.

Purchasing Disposable Masks

It has become more and more difficult over the recent weeks to actually purchase these items for your own use and in particular at a reasonable price. The UK Government has recently announced that all PPE (including disposable masks, gloves and aprons) are now VAT exempt products for all members of the public until at least 31st July 2020.

At Clearwell we stock a range of disposable masks and other PPE for you to purchase and are able to offer VAT exemption on all applicable products to all of our customers. Our selection of Disposable Medical Masks range from Type I to Type IIR masks and we offer next working day delivery, direct to your door.

You can discover our range here