How to Choose the Right Face Masks | Categories of Face Masks

Selection the Right Face Mask:
Face mask is one type of tool or protective equipment which prevent to spread germs or virus from man to man. They may also be called medical, dental, isolation, laser, procedure, or surgical masks. Face masks may be disposable or reusable. It is the most used and important personal protective equipment (PPE). The first thing you need to know is that the masks differ in 2 macro categories: those to protect against viruses and those to protect people from chemical and dangerous substances present in some works. In this emergency situation both are used. Filtering masks against micro particles present in the air and toxic substances are very common in working environments and are divided into 3 protection classes: FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 where the abbreviation FFP stands for "Filtering Face Piece".

Different types of face masks
Fig: Different types of face masks

These masks are mandatory in environments where the limit value of the maximum contraction of dust, smoke and aerosol in the air is exceeded (OEL: Occupational Exposure Limit). Surgical masks and other models such as the N95 are often used in medical and hospital environments. We see below the characteristics of these masks and the categories of use.

Categories of Face Masks:

FFP1 Masks:
The masks of the protection class FFP1 filter at least 80% of the particles found in the air up to 0.6 microns (μm) in size and can be used when the occupational exposure limit value (OEL) is not exceeded by more than 4 times. In the construction sector or in the food industry, respiratory masks of the FFP1 class are almost always sufficient. Inhalation does not cause disease but can irritate the respiratory tract and represent pollution.

FFP1 Masks
Fig: FFP1 masks
FFP2 Masks:
The masks of the protection class FFP2 are used in environments where the air contains substances harmful to health and capable of causing genetic alterations. These must capture at least 94% of the particles found in the air up to 0.6 microns (μm) in size and can be used when the occupational exposure limit value (OEL) reaches a maximum concentration 10 times higher. Respiratory masks of protection class FFP2 are used for example in the metallurgical industry or in the mining industry. Here workers come into contact with substances that cause the development of respiratory diseases such as lung cancer and which increase the risk of tuberculosis.
FFP2 Masks
Fig: FFP2 masks
FFP3 Masks:
The masks of the protection class FFP3 offer maximum protection with a total loss of 5% max. and a necessary protection of at least 99% from particles up to 0.6 microns (μm) in size. They are also able to filter toxic, carcinogenic and radioactive particles. These respiratory masks can be used in work environments where the occupational exposure limit value (OEL) is exceeded up to 30 times. These are used for example in the chemical industry.
FFP3 Masks
Fig: FFP3 masks

Surgical Masks:
The most popular and cheaper masks are called surgical masks (or traditional face masks) that we usually see worn by doctors and dentists. These masks protect the respiratory tract (nose and mouth) from direct contact with secretions. For this reason, it seems that they are not adequate for the prevention of viruses and diseases easily transmitted by air. Furthermore, it seems that they do not adhere perfectly to the face, protecting the nose and mouth insufficiently. However, some experts claim that these masks protect others and not the wearer, so if they were all worn, they could be a good Personal Protective Equipment (PPE: Personal Protective Equipment)

Surgical Masks
Fig: Surgical masks

N95 Masks:
N95 masks filter 95% of the molecules in the air and are considered a better protective alternative than a surgical mask, as they offer greater filtering capacity and adapt better to the face. Some types may have an exhalation valve, which can help with breathing and the buildup of heat and humidity.

N95 Masks
Fig: N95 masks

Spread this information, thousands of people may be benefited in this coronavirus pandemic.


  1. Homemade Face Masks by Nicholas Mitchell
Sharing Knowledge: Students, teachers and professionals can publish your article here. It is a platform to express your knowledge throughout the world. For details: Submit Article

Founder and Editor:

Mazharul Islam Kiron is a textile consultant, entrepreneur, blogger and researcher on online business promotion. He is working as a consultant in several local and international companies. He is also a contributor of Wikipedia.

Let's Get Connected: LinkedIn | Facebook | Email:

Back To Top