Navigating the Face Mask Maze

Some Useful information relating to the differences between Masks.

What's the Differences Between Mask Standards, Ratings, and Filtration Effectiveness? 

Mask standards can be confusing: N95, KN95, FFP1, P2, or surgical mask? This quick run-down covers mask types, mask ratings, and their effectiveness at filtering particles.First off, let’s start with mask types (or certification types). In general, there are 3 (or sometimes 4) types of commonly used, disposable masks. They are single-use face masks, surgical masks, and respirators.


Mask Standards and Effectiveness Bottom Line

Single use masks (normally one layer, very thin) are typically only effective at capturing larger dust particles, but can do so fairly well.

Surgical mask standards have higher requirements for capturing virus-sized (0.1 micron) particles, however they vary by region.Pollution masks (respirators) typically capture >90% of virus-sized particles.

You can use the rating system in the table above to see the exact proportion each certification requires. This includes ratings such as N95, KN95, FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3.

Mask Standards Vary by Country

Each country has their own certification standard for each mask type. For example, Europe uses the EN 14683 standard for surgical masks, whereas China uses the YY 0469 standard. Each standard varies a little by country, however they are broadly similar. For respirator masks, China uses the KN standard (e.g. KN95) and the US uses the N standard (e.g. N95).

Requirements Are Lowest for Single Use Face Masks

The standard with the lowest requirements on filtration effectiveness are the single use face masks (not to be confused with surgical masks). Surgical masks have higher requirements, and respirators have the highest requirements. Respirators also usually fit tighter around the face (data shows they score higher on fit effectiveness) than surgical masks and single-use face masks.

(Thanks to our colleagues at Smart Air Filers for the use of their diagram and some content


Covid-19 has a particle size of 0.1 Microns (?m). Any mask used for COVID protection should be able to filtrate to this level and be water repellant. EN14683 is a European standard of requirements and test methods for medical face masks. It is divided into Type 1, 2 and 2R respectively. However as you will note there is no requirement to test VFE (Viral Filtration Efficiency) for this standard.


EN 14683 Standard Type I Type II Type IIR
BFE (Bacterial Filtration Efficiency) ? 95% ? 98% ? 98%
Splash Resistant N/A N/A Y

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