COVID-19: Which masks most effectively prevent the spread

COVID-19: Which masks most effectively prevent the spread

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Protective masks to contain the corona pandemic?

What materials and designs are best for face masks to protect against COVID-19? Well-fitting, self-made masks with several layers of fabric and standard cone masks appear to be significantly more effective than loosely folded face masks and bandana-like covers.

A study by the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Florida Atlantic University investigated which readily available masks offer the greatest protection against the spread of COVID-19. The results were published in the English-language journal "Physics of Fluids".

Do masks offer effective protection?

To protect against COVID-19, the spread of droplets when coughing or sneezing must be minimized. There have already been studies dealing with masks of medical quality, but little data is available on the protective masks used in everyday life. So the question arises as to how effective self-made masks, scarves, folded face masks and commercially available cone masks are to protect against COVID-19.

Why do we use masks to protect against COVID-19?

By visualizing simulated coughing and sneezing, the researchers attempted to develop a method for evaluating the effectiveness of face masks. The basic idea behind the recommendation to use masks or other face covers is to reduce the risk of transmission of respiratory droplets from infected to healthy people

Droplet spreading was simulated using a doll

A mixture of distilled water and glycerin was used for visualization in a laboratory environment to create a synthetic mist that simulates droplet ejection. The researchers observed the droplets that were expelled from the mouth of a doll while simulating coughing and sneezing.

What masks have been examined?

Using the above method, masks were tested that are easily available to the general public. A single-layer bandana-like cover, a homemade mask that was sewn from two-layer cotton quilting fabric at 70 threads per inch, and a non-sterile cone mask, which is available in most pharmacies, were tested. During the use of these masks on the doll, the path of the droplets was recorded. So it was possible to estimate how high the protective effect of the tested masks is.

Which masks offer the best protection?

The results show that loosely pleated face masks and bandana-like covers only hold aerosolized breathing droplets to a relatively low degree. Well-fitting, self-made masks with several layers of quilting material and standard cone masks proved to be much more effective in reducing the spread of droplets. Although there was a certain amount of leakage due to the mask material and small gaps at the edges.

How much reduced masks the droplet ejection

Simulated cough without a mask caused droplets to be expelled more than 2.4 meters. With a bandana as a mask, the value was around 1.3 meters, with a folded cotton handkerchief around 0.4 meters, with the quilted cotton mask around 0.06 meters and with the conical mask around 0.2 meters.

Awareness of effective preventive measures needs to be promoted

"In addition to a first indication of the effectiveness of the protective equipment, the image material used in our study can help to convey to the general public the reasons for socially distant guidelines and recommendations for the use of face masks," emphasizes study author Dr. Siddhartha Verma of Florida Atlantic University in a press release. The promotion of a broad awareness of effective preventive measures is crucial at the present time. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Siddhartha Vermaa, Manhar Dhanakb, John Frankenfield: Visualizing the effectiveness of face masks in obstructing respiratory jets, in Physics of Fluids (published June 30, 2020), Physics of Fluids
  • Seeing is Believing: Effectiveness of Facemasks, Florida Atlantic University (Published June 30, 2020), FAU

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