Does ‘double masking’ offer more protection?

In the weeks following the US presidential inauguration and the recent report by the US Center for Disease Control, talk and speculation about whether wearing two masks offers better protection than a single mask has been rife. The idea of ‘double masking’ – wearing a disposable, medical mask underneath a fabric one – speaks to the discrepancies in quality and standards in face coverings available to the public. 

Inconsistency breeds confusion which, as we know, can lead to fear and knee-jerk reactions. The question you should be asking is not really about how many masks you wear, but whether or not the face covering you wear is as effective as it should be.

First and foremost, a good fit is essential for any face covering to be effective in stopping the spread of COVID. No matter what type of face covering you wear, it should fit snugly around your face, fully protecting your nose, mouth and chin. It needs to:

  • Fit over your nose, ideally held securely in place at the bridge with a nose clip.
  • Cup under your chin, tight enough to stay in place when you smile or speak.
  • Be as tight as possible on the sides to avoid gaping.
  • Be held in place with loops around your ears or elastic around the back of your head, which need to be tight enough to keep the mask in place, but not so tight as to bend your ears forward or cause pain or discomfort.

As disposable surgical and respirator masks tend to be one size fits all, it’s easy to see why some people have taken to putting an additional cloth mask over the top to help compensate for unwanted gaps or an uncomfortable fit. While double masking can offer better protection than wearing a single, ill-fitting mask, it is not ideal. 

Whether you’re wearing one or two masks, a poor fit means you’ll likely be fidgeting with your mask(s) more often – touching them with unclean hands or wearing them incorrectly, both of which will lead to a higher likelihood of spreading the virus. Our reusable and washable face coverings come in small, medium and large sizes. They are designed to fit adults as well as children, so you can make sure you’re minimizing your fidgeting and maximizing the protection of others by wearing a mask that fits properly. 

In addition to the right fit, effective masks are all about filtration and breathability. ISKO Vital+ face masks have been tested and certified to provide 95% filtration efficiency. This is higher or on par with what you can achieve with double masking, according to the CDC’s recent report  – and the single fabric layer of an ISKO Vital+ mask means it’s much easier to breathe through and more effective to wear for longer periods of time than wearing two masks at once. 

Trivial as it might seem, it’s also worth noting that aesthetics are a factor when it comes to double masking. There is no doubt that the US inauguration party looked much smarter wearing face coverings that matched their outfits (some were even emblazoned with the American flag) than if they had simply worn disposable surgical masks alone. Certified reusable masks like ours align with international standards, fit well and look great too!