How to Choose a Face Mask Filter

young female professionals wearing face masks at work

You’ve been diligently wearing your reusable face mask every time you leave the house to keep both yourself and others safe from the coronavirus. Now you’ve been hearing that you should add a face mask filter to your mask. So what exactly is a face mask filter, and should you wear one? Below, we explain why some people are advocating for face mask filters, explain how to choose one and break down the main types of face mask filters.

face mask filters with white background

Should I Add a Filter to My Face Mask?

Unless you’re a healthcare worker, you’re probably wearing a reusable mask made out of cotton or another fabric, or maybe you’ve been lucky enough to get a hold of a box of disposable surgical masks. Even if you are a healthcare worker, there are only enough N95 masks for you to wear at work. If you need one to run errands on your days off, you’re probably wearing a fabric mask like everyone else. These fabric masks help prevent you from spreading germs, especially via coughing, sneezing and other actions that can spread droplets. Ideally, you should wear masks with two layers of fabric to create a maximum barrier.

However, the looser weave of this fabric does let in smaller particles, potentially including the virus. Placing a disposable filter between the layer of fabric adds an additional barrier that can help filter out more particles, protecting both you and the people around you. While these filters won’t get a reusable mask up to the level of an N95, it will help make the face mask more effective.

How to Choose a Face Mask Filter

There are many types of face mask filters to choose from, which we’ll outline below. When shopping for face mask filters, you need to consider whether or not they fit your existing masks and how often they have to be replaced. Pretty much all face mask filters are disposable. Some are meant to be replaced after every use, while others can be worn multiple times up to a certain number of hours (for example, if you’re making shorter errand trips). Make sure that the filter isn’t so thick that it makes it hard to breathe; otherwise, you’ll be tempted to just take the mask off, which defeats the purpose.

If you choose to repurpose a household item into a face mask filter, make sure that the item that you’ve selected doesn’t include fiberglass or another substance that could be harmful to you if directly inhaled. For instance, HEPA vacuum bags are often cited as a popular DIY face mask filter, but some of them contain fiberglass, which should not be inhaled. When in doubt, try to choose a dedicated face mask filter that’s designed to be worn safely right up against the mouth and nose.

face mask filters with white background

Types of Face Mask Filters

PM2.5 filters

If you’ve shopped for face mask filters before, you’ve likely seen the designation PM2.5. This combination of letters and numbers means that the object filters out particles that are 2.5 microns and larger. On its own, the coronavirus is smaller than 2.5 microns, but it often hitches a ride on larger particles like saliva and proteins. Usually these filters last for about 12 hours of total wear, but you should check the manufacturer’s instructions for guidance on how long you can wear these filters.

Polypropylene filters

One of the reasons that N95 respirators are so effective is because they are made of polypropylene, a nonwoven fabric with no gaps between fibers. This lack of fibers is what blocks so many particles and makes the masks so good at keeping germs out. While N95 masks should be reserved for on-duty healthcare workers, you can find polypropylene mask filters for sale, including our Women's A159 Face Mask Filters by koi Accessories. Sold in a set of 10, these filters will help increase the efficacy of your homemade fabric masks.

face mask with floral pattern

DIY filter materials

If you can’t find either of these types of mask filters, you can DIY your own from various household objects, including paper towels, coffee filters, tissues and vacuum bags. Like we mentioned above, be sure that whatever object you choose doesn’t contain any particles that would be dangerous to inhale. You’ll also have to cut the material to fit your mask since it wasn’t originally intended to be worn as a filter.

If you’re regularly wearing reusable fabric face masks, adding a face mask filter can make it more effective and help keep both you and others safe from coronavirus, the flu, colds and other contagious diseases. Grab your face mask filters with your next allheart order today!