With cases of the more contagious variants of the virus cropping up around the world, and even here in Singapore, infectious disease experts are recommending doubling up on your masks when you’re out in public. 

The simple logic behind this suggestion is that a single mask acts as a filter, therefore if you put a second mask on over the first, it will increase the strength of the filter and help prevent the virus from entering your airway. But how much protection you receive depends on the masks used, and the quality of each individual mask.

If you do consider double-masking, be responsible when disposing of your used mask, don’t slack on your personal hygiene, and be responsible and consider the environmental impact that the huge increase in disposed PPE is causing.

All Masks Are Not Created Equal

All masks are not created equal and as pretty and fashionable as certain masks are, they may not be doing much in terms of protecting you from airborne viruses. The best masks to date are the N95 or KN95 masks, which have been proven to be 95% effective at blocking small and large particles, both from escaping and from being inhaled by you.

Since both of these types of masks have the ability to prevent transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19, you wouldn’t need to double mask if you use one of these, says Michelle Barron, MD, UCHealth senior medical director of infection prevention and control in Denver. 

Cloth Masks Should Be Multi-Layered

Whether you use single-use surgical masks or cloth masks, you need to look for ones that offer multiple layers of filtration. This is because, depending on the type of fabric your mask is made of, it might not be able to contain all of the virus particles from getting through the mask.

The World Health Organization recommends masks with an inner layer of absorbent material like cotton, a middle layer of non-absorbent material like polypropylene, and an outer layer of polyester. 

Be cautious about double masking in situations where you’re exerting yourself, or if you have underlying respiratory problems. And remember that no amount of double-masking will be effective if you don’t maintain very good personal hygiene and dispose of, and store your mask correctly.\