Surgical Masks: Function, Fit & Effectiveness
What You Need to Know When Selecting a Face Mask

There’s been plenty of confusion—and learning—about masks over the past several months, and it’s understandable. When the general public started hearing about PPE, it seemed like masks were labeled in some sort of secret code: N95, FFP2, FFP2, Surgical, Respirator, etc. Most people in the private sector had no idea what to buy or where to turn.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the U.S., the World Health Organization (WHO), and a majority of public health officials have recommended the use of face masks to prevent spread of the disease. But a variety of factors left consumers confused about which PPE to purchase—if it was even available when they needed it.

Things have started to level out, and personal protective equipment is more readily available, but there is still confusion and misinformation about types and functions of masks. Not all PPE is made the same—and not all PPE is made for every scenario.

The Science Behind the Masks

The FDA regulates PPE that is marketed for medical purposes in the United States. This includes face masks used to combat COVID-19. And all those not-so-secret codes that seemed so perplexing when we first started learning about masks? They are classifications that have been determined after scientifically evaluating capabilities, thresholds, and subsequently, expectations for each piece of PPE.

In other words, masks must meet very specific requirements in order to be approved as PPE in various categories.

All About Surgical Masks

Probably the most easily recognized mask on the market, surgical masks are flat and rectangular in appearance, often with pleats that expand on the face when worn.


Arguably one of the most comfortable masks available, surgical masks are typically lightweight, loose-fitting, and designed to be discarded after a single use. Often labeled as isolation, medical procedure, or dental masks, they often appear paper-like and have earloops on either side for ease of donning.

Functionality of Surgical Masks

Surgical masks function as a barrier to block large particles, splatters, slashes, or sprays. They also serve to protect patients and others being cared for from saliva and respiratory secretions of caregivers.

Not designed specifically to filter small airborne particulate, these masks have proven to be effective in preventing coronavirus, especially in conjunction with other virus-prevention measures, like social distancing, proper handwashing, avoiding large crowds, and steering clear of areas of low ventilation.

The Bottom Line

There are a lot of masks on the market, so be sure to do your research when you’re ready to buy. When properly worn, cared for, and replaced, surgical masks can aid in blocking contaminants that cause coronavirus. Here’s what to look for when you’re investing in masks for yourself and your team:

1.     Meet testing standards. Companies that produce PPE under rigorous testing situations mean business. They are dedicated to providing top quality masks that meet the high standards needed to protect frontline workers, caregivers, and individuals as we work through this pandemic.

2.     Durable. Materials used in masks are varied and broad. Look around and be sure to select PPE that’s made from the highest quality materials—like meltblown, nonwoven fabric that delivers improved filtration, and thermally-bonded stitching for strong, wear-all-day functionality.


3.     Multiple layers, with an activated bamboo carbon layer. Multiple layers deliver more protection, and if you couple that with activated bamboo carbon, you’ll get up to 10X greater filtration and odor control. Plus, by supporting the use of bamboo in your products, you’ll be using a renewable resource and reducing your carbon footprint.

4.     Pleated styling for comfortable, adjustable fit. Don’t settle for a flat mask that doesn’t give you room to breathe! Look for comfortable pleats that expand to fit your face and give you the comfort you need for workday wear.

5.     Elastic earloops, rather than ties. Some surgical masks have static ties, which are time consuming, a hassle to adjust, and get stuck in your hair. Plus, they are just downright uncomfortable because they slip and fall as you move. Look for soft, elastic earloops that prevent chafing and stay in place for comfort you don’t even have to think about.

6.     Adjustable nosepiece. Even though surgical masks fit more loosely than other PPE masks, they can still be personalized to fit your face with an adjustable nosepiece. By adjusting the nosepiece, you can conform the mask to fit loosely, yet in a shaped fashion, for even more protection.

7.     Antibacterial & sterilized. Don’t settle for masks that are simply thrown into giant case-count boxes together. Look for masks that are packed together in small quantities and treated with medical-grade disinfection and sterilization processes to further protect you and your team.

Sound like a lot? It shouldn’t, because PPE manufacturers who have been focused on protecting the private and public sectors—even before the pandemic struck—have worked hard to ensure we’re properly protecting frontline workers, caregivers, and everyone who relies on quality equipment to keep them safe while they protect all of us.

Want to learn more about sourcing high-quality, durable surgical masks? Visit Green Resources Consulting for more information and to discover PPE that’s made right here in the USA!

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