The potential benefits of double masking during COVID-19

Whether you’ve chosen a disposable medical mask or opted for a patterned cloth mask, face masks continue to be one of the best ways to help slow the spread of COVID-19 — even as more people are vaccinated. Scientific evidence shows masks create a barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets ­from reaching others, while offering some protection to you. In fact, beyond slowing the spread of COVID-19, the use of masks has helped contribute to a lower than usual flu season.

But some masks work better than others, especially when combined with efforts to improve fit and filtration.

A man with glasses puts on a second face mask A man with glasses puts on a second face mask

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently tested the effectiveness of different masks, depending on use. The study found the protection level of a mask is dependent on three key factors: the material of the mask, the mask fit and the number of layers.

Through the CDC’s experiment, experts found double masking may provide additional protection, as it helps improve the fit of the mask. For example, wearing a cloth mask over a medical procedure mask to help improve the fit was found to increase the amount of particles blocked (92.5%) and increase filtration efficiency (95%).

Other effective options to help improve the fit and prevent gaps include:

  • Wearing a mask with a nose wire
  • Adding a mask fitter or brace on top of your mask
  • Layering a nylon covering over your medical mask
  • Knotting the ear loops and tucking in the sides of a medical mask

The CDC does not recommend wearing two masks if you wear a KN95 mask or if your mask already has multiple layers of cloth and fits tightly. You should also avoid combining two disposable masks, as they are not designed to fit tightly — so doubling up will not improve the fit. 

Remember to keep your mask over your mouth and nose whenever you’re in a public setting or when around others not in your household. Test your masks at home to help ensure breathing is not too difficult and your vision is not obstructed.

Correct and consistent use of masks help keep everyone protected and safe, while slowing the spread of COVID-19. Keeping a distance of 6 feet from others and frequently washing your hands will help, too.

For more information about COVID-19, click here.

For tips on how to wear your mask comfortably, click here