Why 3-ply masks protect against COVID-19 Transmission

Why 3-ply masks protect against COVID-19 Transmission

COVID-19 Transmission

The most common mode of transmission of Covid-19 is person-to-person aerosolized particles or droplets.

When a person with a positive result of COVID-19 talks, coughs, or sneezes, tiny droplets or aerosols (suspensions of minuscule liquid or solid particles in the air) are thrust out of the carrier’s mouth. This creates an invisible cloud of particles that can expand up to six feet. If a person inhales the particles, it would very likely result in the transmission of COVID-19.

Researchers have found that once the aerosolized cloud is formed, the lethal virus can stay in the air for as long as 3 hours.

What are some different types of masks?

A face mask can is described as an instrument that shields the mouth and nose of the user from external particles. It can be accompanied by a transparent face shield as well. There are different kinds of face masks, some of which are not required to meet filtration efficiency regulations, while others are inspected closely to ensure they meet the regulations.
There are some significant differences between the effectiveness of simple face masks and surgical masks.

Simple Face Masks

A simple face mask is not bound by any regulations and may be made of one, two, or more layers of cotton fabric, paper, or layers of non-woven material. These face masks are not designed to be used as protective equipment against contagious diseases.

Surgical Masks

Surgical masks, however, are required to be at least 80% effective at filtering out bacteria. They achieve this by using at least a 3-ply layered material such as polypropylene.

N95 or KN95 Masks

An even better option than surgical masks are the N95 or KN95 mask, however, there is an extreme shortage and a large number of ineffective counterfeits of these. N95 and KN95 are the same style of mask. The letter "N" simply means the mask was produced in the USA and the letters "KN" denote that the mask was produced in China.

Due to low availability, N95 masks are recommended only for medical personnel, and not for the general public. An important point to be noted is that none of the above-mentioned masks can filter out 100% of microscopic particles such as viruses. While not all masks are created equal, most are intended for protection against particulate matter (or aerosols).

The SARS-COVID-2 virus, among others, is much too small to be filtered out by most face masks. To understand the minuteness of these virulent particles, it is useful to know that the average speck of dust that can be seen buoyant in a beam of sunlight is approximately 500x larger in size than the viruses that cause COVID-19.

So, which face masks are effective against Coronavirus?

In short, standard 3-ply masks work well against COVID-19. The issue is that the average particle size of a COVID-19 virus is 0.1mm in size (Bar-On et al., 2020). This is small enough to pass through cloth, 3-ply, and N95 masks.

Thankfully, the COVID-19 virus does not simply float in the air alone. The virus is usually found suspended in water droplets that can float in the air. While the average size of water droplets in the air can change depending on humidity and temperature, COVID-19 carrying water droplets are almost always large enough to be caught by 3-ply masks.

The average water droplet found floating in the air is around .5mm. Using 3-ply masks are effective in countering the aerosolized droplets in which Covid-virus is found as the masks can filter particulate larger than 0.3mm in size (Zayas et al., 2012). 

The N95 mask is undoubtedly the most effective protection against contracting this virus, however, due to availability concerns, it is not the best option. The standard 3-ply mask has been adopted in this pandemic as the most consistent layer of protection against the COVID-19 viruses.

3-ply masks like those found in the MagiCare Amazon Store are the best recommended product. They provide consistent protection from aerosolized particles that carry the smaller viruses.


  • Bar-On, Y. M., Flamholz, A., Phillips, R., & Milo, R. (2020). SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) by the numbers. ELife, 9. https://doi.org/10.7554/elife.57309
  • Zayas, G., Chiang, M. C., Wong, E., MacDonald, F., Lange, C. F., Senthilselvan, A., & King, M. (2012). Cough aerosol in healthy participants: fundamental knowledge to optimize droplet-spread infectious respiratory disease management. BMC Pulmonary Medicine, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2466-12-11
  • The Filtration Altercation: Are ASTM Level 3 Masks the New N95? (2021, January 20). Www.cleanairresources.com. https://www.cleanairresources.com/level3-surgical-vs-pm25-n95
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