Now that we’re at least nine months into continual mask wearing (at least when we’re out of the house), many of us are ready to explore different mask options. There are so many different styles and types available, there’s no reason to settle for a mask that isn’t comfortable.
At the same time, we want to make sure our mask choices are still effective, so that we are certain we are doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by protecting ourselves and one another. As such, many people have considered whether or not it’s a good idea to wear a face mask with a carbon filter.
We’ve got everything you need to know about masks with carbon filters, and whether or not they’re necessary to keep you safe during the pandemic.
What is a Carbon Filter?
Carbon is popularly used as a filter for air and water purifiers. Activated carbon adsorbs impurities from air and water. Adsorption is not the same as absorption. Adsorption occurs when a substance (like activated carbon) draws impurities to itself by means of chemical attraction.
A carbon mask filter is a disposable filter, usually rectangular in shape, that contains activated carbon. These filters are placed inside of a filter-pocket style mask, usually between the two layers of mask fabric. As the wearer of the mask breathes, the carbon filter is thought to adsorb particles from the air and keep the wearer better protected.
Carbon filters are disposable; they cannot be reused. It’s important that they are replaced immediately once they’ve been soiled, damped, or at the end of wearing the mask (at least once daily).
However, there’s a serious catch.
There is conflicting evidence as to whether or not a carbon filter mask is actually effective, or potentially hazardous. Inhaling carbon particles directly into your nose and mouth has not been studied, so we don’t know it’s safe for a wearer to use these types of filters in their masks.
Are Face Masks with Carbon Filters Necessary?
No. You don’t need to have a mask with a carbon filter (or any filter) for it to be effective. You only need to wear a mask that meets the CDC mask buying and wearing guidelines.
There are five things your mask needs in order to be effective:
Proper fit. Your mask should fit snugly and securely. There should be no gaps in your mask on the side of your face, under your chin, or above your nose. Your mask should lie flat across your cheeks, snuggly under your chin, and clasp securely over the bridge of your nose.
Security. Your mask should be secured to your face. This means your mask should fit with either elastic loops around your ears, or with a tie behind your head. If your mask fits with loops around the ears and it becomes uncomfortable for you, try using an ear saver, which keeps the loops from resting behind your ears, and instead secures them gently behind your head.
Construction. Your mask should be constructed of multiple layers of fabric. Your mask needs to be at least 2-ply for it to be considered effective. A single layer mask is not effective and won’t keep you and others protected as well.
Fabric. The fabric of your mask should be breathable, but not made from a material that isn’t tightly woven. In other words, you will want to avoid materials like leather and vinyl, because they aren’t breathable and make it difficult for the wearer to breathe freely.
At the same time, you should also avoid knitted masks, which are too loosely woven to prevent the passage of respiratory particles.
Clean. If you choose a reusable face mask, they must be able to retain their shape and integrity once they’ve been washed. Additionally, you must clean your mask or replace it when it is soiled or has been worn.
If you decide to wear a disposable mask, your mask should be disposed of after a few hours of use, or at the most, by the end of day.
Those are the only requirements for wearing an effective, protective face mask.
Your mask does not need to have a carbon filter. In fact, it doesn’t need to have a filter at all. The lack of research on inhalation of the particles contained in a carbon filter makes wearing a carbon filter mask unappealing.
You can, however, choose a mask that filters more than a traditional 2-ply cloth mask. While 2-ply cloth face coverings are acceptable in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and offer some protection to the wearer, the KN95 mask is more effective at filtering particles in the air you breathe.
What Kind of Mask Works Best?
All masks that meet CDC guidelines are effective and acceptable, however the KN95 mask is able to filter up to 95% of non-oily suspended particles of 0.3 micron levels. This means you’ll get more filtration from a KN95 mask than you will from a cloth mask.
The KN95 is similar to the N95 mask, which should be reserved for use by medical personnel and frontline responders. The KN95 makes it possible to get a higher level of filtration without using masks that are most needed in the healthcare industry during the pandemic.
Other mask options include non-medical disposable masks. These are great options for people who prefer disposable masks. They’re also handy for people who typically wear reusable masks.
Having a few disposable masks on hand can help out when your reusable masks are in the wash or if you leave home without them. A few disposable masks stashed in your car can save you from having to turn around.
Where Should I Buy A Mask?
At Hope Health Supply, we know you have options when it comes to purchasing masks. You can even buy them from your favorite clothing retailer.
We offer masks, including KN95 masks, that are all acceptable under CDC guidelines. Our KN95 masks are registered with the FDA and constructed under the strictest industry standards. When you purchase a mask from us, you not only get protection for yourself and your loved ones, you get peace of mind.
We don’t just offer masks. We’re your headquarters for personal protective equipment, and you can count on us to always keep our prices fair; we never price gouge. We offer products to keep you safe, and products to help you monitor yourself and stay aware. Helping you protect yourself and others is our main goal.
Cloth masks with carbon filters may seem like they offer a higher level of protection, which can make them seem like a good choice. The CDC has not deemed carbon filter masks any more effective than traditional cloth masks. It is not necessary to wear a mask with a carbon filter.
As long as your mask fits properly and is constructed from the proper materials, you can feel good knowing that your mask is helping you do your part. We’re all in this together, and wearing a mask can help slow the spread.