Little was known about the COVID-19 virus when the pandemic first hit, but health experts had reason to believe that masking up was one way to protect yourself and others. Wearing a mask in public soon became a government-mandated action, and second nature for most. There is now reason to believe that doubling up on your masks may provide more protection.
People started to entertain the idea of wearing two masks at once after Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, publicly stated that it would be “common sense” to do so.
There are certain types of masks, like surgical masks, that aren’t as form fitting and therefore may not be as effective in filtering out particles. Researchers say that double masking can help to improve the overall fit of the face covering for maximal protection.
Wearing two masks at once can also be helpful in situations where it may be more difficult to maintain social distance, like on an airplane or any other form of public transportation where you’re near a lot of people for an extended amount of time.
Increased filtration of respiratory droplets is another potential benefit of double masking, since it doubles the layers of material that infectious droplets must travel through before reaching your face or mouth.
Although double masking may have double the effectiveness, it is possible to do it incorrectly. For example, you won’t be doing much to increase the effectiveness of protecting yourself if you just layer two surgical masks over each other. The same can be said for layering two lower-quality masks over each other.
You should also avoid layering a mask over any sort of N95 or KN95 mask, as these masks are specifically made to properly fit your face. Layering another mask on top of them won’t make much of a difference and could potentially make it difficult to breathe.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggest that the best way to double mask is by wearing a disposable or surgical mask under a cloth mask that has multiple layers of fabric. The disposable mask will act as the primary filtration layer, while the cloth mask will help to improve the overall fit and push the edges of the disposable mask against your face.
Another mask method, in addition to double masking is the knot-and-tuck method, which involves knotting the loops of a surgical mask in order to tighten it around the edges. This is another effective way to protect those around you by reducing the amount of particles that escape your mask.
Most health experts would argue that it’s worth it to go the extra mile to further protect yourself and your peers. As long as we all continue to do our part through the rest of this pandemic, we may soon see the day when masks are no longer needed in public.