CDC Says Double Masking is Better, Here’s How to Do It

Jalesa Campbell
Updated Feb 25, 2021
2 min read

Findings From CDC Study on Mask Effectiveness

The jury is in, and yes, double-masking is better and more effective than wearing a single surgical mask.

According to the CDC, lab tests using dummies have proven that wearing a tightly fitted mask can reduce your exposure to “potentially infectious aerosols…by about 95%.” The tests were conducted in January and revealed the effectiveness of modifications to medical masks — such as wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask and adding a knot to the ear loops of a surgical mask while tucking additional material in — this reduction can be achieved.

What Is Double Masking?

Double masking is essentially when you layer two masks together, such as a surgical mask and a cloth mask over the top. Wearing two masks is actually better than a single surgical mask because surgical masks tend to leave gaps on the sides for air particles to float in and out, putting you and others at greater risk for potentially contracting or spreading the virus.

According to CNBC, experiments have found that surgical masks block 42% of air particles compared to around 95% particle filtration you could achieve by double masking. N95 masks also offer 95% participle filtration.

You can help to remove these gaps by covering your surgical mask with a cloth mask for a better fit.

ABC News breaks down the new CDC recommendations:

 

 

Video by ABC News / YouTube

Dr. Anthony Fauci has also expressed that adding another protective layer can increase your safety, saying, “it just makes common sense that it would be more effective” (TODAY).

Mask Layers & Fit Are Key

Two important things to remember here with mask wearing are (1) layers and (2) fit.

Michelle Prickett shared with Rolling Stone that “the best options are probably a tighter fighting cloth mask over a disposable surgical mask that will serve as an additional filter.”

Basically, adding an additional layer of filtration is better than just a single one. However, if you don’t own a cloth or fabric mask, you can still take a surgical mask and add knots to the ear loops while tucking in the sides for more security. Other options you can look into include using a mask extendercord locks, or a 3D bracket.

Mask extenders tend to have “hooks” that allow you to attach your ear loops, while cord locks can be adjusted for a better fit. A 3D bracket will add structure to your mask while also giving you more space to breathe.

Another option is to wear an N95 mask, but the CDC does not recommend combining one with a surgical mask since the N95 alone can provide great filtration efficiency. Another mask that is growing in popularity is the KN95.

What’s the Difference Between an N95 Mask and a KN95 Mask?

The N95 mask is an approved mask by NIOSH, the U.S. mask-regulating agency. These masks are recommended for healthcare workers. A KN95 mask is a similar style of mask, but is not NIOSH-approved. A report by the Emergency Care Research Institute found that about 70% of KN95 masks imported from China did not offer the exact same filtration protection as an N95.

Whether you purchase an N95 or KN95 mask, consider buying from respected retailers like pharmacies to avoid fraudulent products.

Is It Still Safe to Wear a Single Mask?

Any covering is better than no covering. You can make a surgical mask more effective if you don’t have a cloth mask or an N95 or KN95. Products and additional solutions like the Mask Brace can help you create a tight and secure fit for better protection.

Photo by Bekker24 / Shutterstock


Safety and Security Reporter

Jalesa Campbell

Jalesa is one of Safety.com's staff experts on home security, natural disasters, public safety, and family safety. She's been featured on Today.com and elsewhere.

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