The best kind of mask to wear

Whether we like it or not or agree or not with the guidelines, we’ve all been advised to wear masks in shops and other indoor areas. Most of us have invested in a homemade mask to brighten up the experience, but what kind of mask is most effective?

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There is lots of debate about whether the guidelines that we should wear masks are a total waste of time – and we’re not going to go into that! Our view, for the record, is that the measure is more to keep reminding the public to social distance and take care than any science that proves that mask wearing makes a jot of difference.

However, given that we are mandated to wear them, what kind of homemade mask works best? Researchers at the University of New South Wales, Australia looked at the effectiveness of single and double-layer cloth face coverings at reducing the spread of respiratory droplets that pass when an infected person speaks, coughs or sneezes. They then compared those results with that of a three-ply surgical face mask.

The researchers used LED lighting and a high-speed camera to film the dispersal of airborne droplets produced by a healthy person with no respiratory infection. The video for speaking was captured at 850 frames per second, while coughing and sneezing was captured at 1,000 frames per second due to the higher expulsion speeds, they said.

Their findings were as follows:

  • A three-ply surgical face mask was the most effective at reducing airborne droplet dispersal.
  • The single-layer covering reduced the droplet spread from speaking only.
  • The double-layer covering was better in reducing droplets from coughing and sneezing.


  • If your mask is homemade make sure it’s got a double layer of material, or even three layers.
  • The World Health Organisation guidelines also point out that if you adjust or move your mask you may be negating its effect, either by allowing emissions from your own nose and mouth to escape or by potentially transferring germs you have picked up from surfaces.
  • WHO also suggest that if you get your mask wet it will work less well.