Face masks have become a must in daily life since the outbreak of COVID-19. A well-fitted face mask plays a vital role in reducing the transmission of microbes into your respiratory system and preventing diseases. However, you may wonder if a non-sterile face mask is safe to use and if it can effectively block airborne particles.
Non-sterile face masks are safe to use. A three-layered, non-sterile face mask can effectively protect you against pollutants and microbes in the air. More importantly, they prevent the spread of viral particles from the wearer to others, which is essential in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Read on to learn more about non-sterile face masks and their effectiveness. Here’s what you need to know!
Sterile vs. Non-Sterile Face Masks
Before the pandemic, not many people wore face masks in public places. We limited face masks to medical practices where professionals wear sterile surgical masks. However, most face masks we see and buy on the market are non-sterile. Here’s how they differ from sterile masks:
Sterile Face Masks
Sterile face masks go through different processes during and after production to kill bacteria, fungi, and other agents. Therefore, they better protect you against agents that cause diseases and infections. These masks are more expensive than non-sterile masks. Medical staff mainly use them, especially in the operating room where you don’t want any bacteria.
Non-Sterile Face Masks
Non-sterile face masks aren’t disinfected after production. You can find them in two forms:
- Reusable non-medical masks.
- Disposable medical masks.
Non-sterile masks are cheaper than sterile masks, and you can use them in public and in daily life.
You can use a three-layered mask for maximum protection. These masks have:
- An absorbent inner layer, mainly consisting of cotton
- A non-woven, non-absorbent middle layer, such as polypropylene
- A non-absorbent outer layer, such as a polyester or polyester blend
Disposable medical masks have three layers with different filtration and fluid-resistance levels.
There may be small amounts of bacterial or fungal contamination, but they don’t cause any disease or infection. They also protect you against particles and microbes in the air, especially against the coronavirus.
Several studies have proved the efficacy of these face masks in protecting the wearer and others by reducing the viral load.
Claims About Non-Sterile Face Masks
With the worldwide growth of face mask use during the pandemic, more and more people became concerned that wearing face masks can cause other diseases. For example, some people claim that face masks could cause lung cancer. However, studies have found no evidence linking wearing face masks and lung cancer.
Others are concerned that non-sterile masks can lead to diseases caused by bacteria, such as bacterial pneumonia. However, studies have debunked this claim and haven’t found evidence that wearing masks can cause bacterial infections.
What Mask Should I Buy?
You will want to buy a mask that fits all your needs. Non-sterilized face masks suit more people in a general setting and do an excellent job of protecting you and others. Sterilized masks also offer protection but are best in medical (or sterile) environments.
With the broad selection of masks on the market, you may have difficulties choosing the best one to keep you protected. A non-sterile mask is safe and will suffice in most public settings. However, you should consider some tips when choosing an effective face mask.
Considering the filtration level, breathability, and fit would be best when buying a face mask. A face mask should have three layers: an absorbent inner layer and two non-absorbent layers in the middle and outer surface.
A mask should fit your face well and cover your cheeks, nose, and chin with no gap in the sides. It’s better not to buy a face mask with exhalation valves and vents since they allow the unfiltered droplets to come out of the face mask.
How To Wear a Face Mask
Follow the steps below when you want to wear a face mask to minimize the risk of infection and maximize protection:
- Wash your hands before touching the mask. Soap and warm water or rubbing alcohol will do.
- Check the mask for any damage. Don’t use it if there’s any tear or hole.
- Put the mask on and adjust it on your face to cover your nose, cheeks, and chin, making sure there’s no gap in the sides. If the mask has a metal strip on your nose area, pinch it until it gets your nose shape.
- Place the straps behind your ear or head.
You should wear a non-sterile face mask during the pandemic in the following settings:
- You’re in a place with poor ventilation
- Crowded indoor environments where at least one meter of physical distancing is impossible
- When interacting with people with who you don’t live with
Please don’t touch your mask while wearing it. Change your mask when it’s wet or dirty.
Tip: Don’t cross the straps as it may cause gaps on the side of your face.
How To Take Off a Face Mask
Follow these steps to take your mask off:
- Wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub before taking off your mask.
- Take the mask off by its ear loops. Don’t touch the front of your mask.
- Wash your hands after removing the mask.
How To Clean a Fabric Face Mask
Fabric non-sterile masks are reusable, provided that they’re not wet or dirty. Put the face mask in a clean bag and take the mask from its elastic loops when you want to use it again.
Wash your face mask with hot water and detergent at least once daily. Remember, the medical masks are just for single-use, so you can’t wash them. Instead, you dispose of them after you finish wearing them.
There are two types of face masks regarding sterilization level: sterile face masks and non-sterile face masks. Non-sterile face masks include reusable non-medical masks and disposable medical masks.
You can safely use non-sterile face masks to protect yourself against the inhalation of airborne microbes and particles. Select your mask based on:
- Filtration level
- Mask fit
You should learn how to wear your face mask properly. Fabric face masks are reusable, and you need to clean them every day.
If you’re on the hunt for quality face masks to keep on hand at your medical facility, check out our selection here at Allied USA! We’ve made it easier than ever to get everything you need to run a safe practice, from masks to gloves to bandages. Browse our selection today!
- Wecolor: The difference between non-sterile masks and sterile masks
- World Health Organization: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Masks
- Quora: What’s the difference between sterile and non-sterile face masks?
- World Health Organization: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: When and how to use masks
- Danish Medicines Agency: Sterile and non-sterile face masks
- University of Guelph: COVID-19: Using Non-Medical Masks
- NBC News: How to buy disposable face masks, according to medical experts
- Food and Drug Administration Philippines: FDA Advisory No.2020-1181-A || Updated List of FDA Notified Medical Face Masks
- USA Today: Fact check: Masks won’t give you lung cancer; some masks do include chemicals
- Springer Link: Masks Do More Than Protect Others During COVID-19: Reducing the Inoculum of SARS-CoV-2 to Protect the Wearer
- Moffitt Cancer Center: No, Long-term Face Mask Use Will Not Cause Lung Cancer
- FactCheck.org: Video Airs False, Misleading Claims About Face Masks