Surgical vs N95 P2 etc vs Cotton Facemasks:

Updated January 2022

N95, P2 face masks, and Chinese Equivalents

For all intents and purposes N95, and P2 are the same. And stop up to 94-95% of Particles.

N95 is a North American standard, P2 is AU/NZ. However the N95s back straps (not ear) mean a closer fit. Regardless of the standard the masks should fit snuggly and have a bendable nose bridge.

The only con with these masks is that they result in inhalation stress which over time can have adverse effects, whilst many people do work in these daily, it is advisable that you wear the mask only when needed – perfect for a trip into a store.

Surgical face masks

Pleated surgical face masks which are still the most commonly masks worn are reported to stop 38.5% of particles. Or up to 60% with loops tied to improve fit.

A lot of this owes to the large gaps often present around the sides. 38.5% is still a lot better than none. These are great for wearing where this is limited risk of contagion. They are easy to breath in and cheap – Though we should note you can wash these up to 10 times, so do not throw away immediately! 

Cotton face masks

Cotton Face masks come in a even greater range of designs, but can stop as low as 26.5% of particles without a filter.
Or up to 60 – 90% with a filter.

Single layer masks are extremely common, and many do not have adjustable loops or nose bridges.

As there are no current standards for Cotton Masks make sure when purchasing that:

The Mask is multiple layers
The Mask is adjustable (straps and nose)
The Mask has a filter pocket
The Mask is an Adult size (for adults and children’s for children)

Ensuring your mask can be fit properly will make a huge difference, and by fitting a pm2.5 filter will only improve performance.

pm2.5 filters themselves are fantastic, however as the material is only at the front of the mask and the design of the masks can vary so much there is very little research available to compare a Cloth Mask w/pm2.5 vs a KN95 Mask with the figure floating anywhere between 60-90% of particles. With significantly less inhalation stress. According to pureka. Who are a quality cotton mask supplier in America.

A poorly fitted mask with no nose adjustment will mean a large percentage of particulates will escape (or enter). As such the mileage with filters will depend on the quality of the mask how well you wear it.

In a pinch a surgical facemask can be cut up and used as a filter in a cloth mask, combining the best features of both.

Why chose Cotton Face masks

Firstly – Don’t unless it fits well and can fit a filter, or unless you are in a low risk situation. 

Something is better than nothing. 26.5% is not great, but it is better than 0%. When fitted well with a filter this number is 60-90% making them significantly better than a surgical mask and closer to p2, while putting less stress on inhalation.

Cloth Facemasks are popular as they often look nicer and from our clients perspective can be screen printed with your logo, making them look much more professional.

They are easier to breath in, and can be made significantly more efficient by using a pm2.5 Filter.

Or alternatively can be worn over a surgical mask, which would also improve it’s filtration if worn snuggly.

We custom print cotton face masks with pm2.5 filter slots and can provide filters, or you can cut up surgical masks.

Ultimately it depends on your situation, a cotton mask or surgical mask is better than nothing. A N95/P2 is recommended for high risk situations. And if you want a professional or branded mask, a cotton mask with a pm2.5 filter is going to be much better than a cotton or surgical mask alone.

The environment and cleaning

Disposable masks are awful for the environment, but you can help.

Disposable do not have to be, testing has shown good performance even after 10 washes! When you do dispose of them please do so responsibly. Reusable Cotton masks can be washed even more than this.

If you are reusing masks (disposable or cotton) you will build up bacteria, so you will need to wash them regularly.

Where to get p2/N95 Masks

For high risk situations these are a no brainer. Bunnings, Mitre10 etc as well as safety wear suppliers stock these.

Have you Made or do you have Cotton Masks at home?
You can make some simple changes to improve to improve your mask.

pm2.5 cotton face mask printed | Custom Covid Face Masks

Hours: 9am – 5pm Mon-Fri by Appointment
74 Morrin Road, Saint Johns
Auckland 1072
PO Box 251166, Pakuranga, Auckland
09 358 1249

If you are requesting a quote or have a question please note we do not provide quotes over the phone. See pricing or submit a quote request here.