How to test the effectiveness of your face mask at home?
Are you looking for an easy and affordable way to test whether or not a face mask is working? Look no further! Once you’re done reading this article, you’ll know at least 6 simple tests to see if a disposable face mask is keeping out harmful viruses, bacteria, or other nasties.
1. The Candle Test
This is also referred to as The Breath Test or The Flame Test. Put your mask on and hold up a lit candle, match or lighter. Give it a good blow and see if the flame goes out. If it does, it probably means that your mask is not filtering air particles as well as it should. Make sure you get a different brand of face masks the next time around.
2. The Water Test
A good 3-ply/4-ply surgical mask must shield you against cough and sneeze droplets - and hence should use a hydrophobic fabric (one that repels water) on the outer layer. To test this, cup the mask with your hands and pour some water onto it. If the water does not permeate and the layer facing down remains dry, you can rest assured with the knowledge that your mask will shield you against harmful droplets.
3. Layer Count
Simply cut open your face mask with a scissor and count the filter layers. A 3-ply mask should have 1 inner filter layer while a 4-ply mask should have 2 inner filter layers. Many masks on the market have been found to be lacking the middle filter layer(s). These should be avoided.
4. Flame Test for Melt-blown Filter
The middle filter layer is what determines the quality of a mask. The best masks use an ultra-fine melt-blown fabric. Once you've cut open the mask, try to set fire to the middle filter layer using a lighter. If it melts (without catching fire and burining) and disintegrates slowly, it's melt-blown fabric. However, if it catches fire and burns, it indicates that the filter is made of a poor quality fabric.
5. Light Transmission Test
Another way to check if your mask uses an ultra-fine melt-blown fabric is to hold it up against a powerful source of light (torch/bulb/sun). Since the melt-blown fabric comprises of an extremely fine mesh of synthetic polymer fibers (polypropylene), the light should get diffused and minimal light will be able to pass through.
6. Electrostatically Charged Filter
Cut a sheet of paper into small pieces and let your mask lie flat on these pieces before lifting it. If a few pieces of paper cling on to your mask, it indicates that the mask uses an electrostatically charged filter (that allows it to achieve superior sub-micron filtration). The "cling" traps incoming and outgoing particles. Surgical masks are made from polypropylene - a fabric that can hold its electrostatic charge even in humid conditions like the one created by your breath.