Homemade masks vs. medical-grade masks: what are the differences?

Certified masks have been tested and approved to provide proficient levels of protection. Picture: S

Certified masks have been tested and approved to provide proficient levels of protection. Picture: Sera Supplies - Credit: Archant

Do you know the difference between a homemade mask, surgical mask, and respirator mask?

There are two types of medical-grade masks - surgical masks and respirators. Picture: Sera Supplies

There are two types of medical-grade masks - surgical masks and respirators. Picture: Sera Supplies - Credit: Archant

Stephen Bignell from Sera Supplies explains what mask you should wear to help protect you.

Q: What face covering is best for me?

A: This depends entirely on where you are and what you’re doing. If you’re working in a professional environment, like a hospital or school, it’s important to choose a mask that offers a higher level of protection – like a surgical mask or respirator.

If you’re popping to the shops, you may not need the same level of protection, but it’s important to find a mask that can keep you and others safe. Be sure to choose a face covering that meets minimum EU standards.

Respirator masks are accurately fitted to prevent inhalation through gaps in the side of the mask. P

Respirator masks are accurately fitted to prevent inhalation through gaps in the side of the mask. Picture: Sera Supplies - Credit: Archant

Q: Are face coverings considered an item of PPE?

A: No, face coverings aren’t items of PPE.


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PPE is designed for specific purposes, such as for use in hospitals and building sites, and are manufactured to meet specific safety standards. The government defines a face covering as ‘something which safely covers the nose and mouth.’ It must fit securely around the side of your face but can be constructed using items of clothing - like a bandana or scarf.

Be sure to choose a face covering that meets minimum EU standards. Picture: Sera Supplies

Be sure to choose a face covering that meets minimum EU standards. Picture: Sera Supplies - Credit: Archant

This means that the quality of commercial face coverings can differ and may not always be regulated according to EU standards.

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In June, the EU issued minimum standard guidelines for face coverings, but a recent Which? magazine study found that masks available from major retailers scored between 35pc and 81pc bacterial filtration in their tests. This can affect how well the mask protects you.

Q: Why should I choose a certified mask?

A: They have been tested and certified to meet EU standards and minimum government requirements. This provides a proficient level of protection and performs reliably when re-used.

There are two types of Masks – surgical masks and respirators. They’re designed for use in different settings and before they can be sold, they must be tested and approved by an independent laboratory. They will then be sealed with the EU ‘CE’ mark of adherence – look for this when buying your mask. Surgical masks should be tested to the EN14683 standard and respirators to EN149 standards.

Q: What is a surgical mask?

A: Surgical masks are loose-fitting and designed to protect the wearer against large airborne particles, produced when coughing or sneezing. They can also help protect others from being infected by the wearer.

You can choose between a Type I and Type II/IIR surgical mask. A Type IIR Mask has a better bacterial filtration efficiency, scoring 98pc, and is splash resistant.

Our washable facemasks are available for adults and children and surpass EU standards. When washed, they offer the equivalent bacterial filtrations as a Type 1 disposable medical mask. After 50 washes at 40 degrees, they still meet the new standard of more than 90pc bacterial filtration.

Q: What is a respirator mask?

Respirator masks are accurately fitted to prevent inhalation through gaps in the mask’s side and intended to protect the wearer against infection from others. They provide additional protection against bodily fluids – coughing and sneezing – and smaller airborne particles.

Respirator masks are graded FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 in the UK. FFP3 being the highest filtration.

Q: Can I still use a home-made mask?

A: Yes. However, it’s hard to know what level of protection a homemade mask provides. It can often vary and isn’t likely to protect you against smaller particles or bacteria.

Q: How can I access the masks I need during lockdown?

A: You can order online via our website. We can deliver directly to your door.

Providing face coverings and PPE has grown to be a significant part of what we do. We’ve built a network of high-quality suppliers, stock only the best PPE, and have established an efficient supply chain that enables us to deliver resources quickly.

Visit serasupplies.com to view the full range of face masks and PPE.

Call 01727 600 102 or email sales@seratechnologies.com.

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